by Anthony Bianco
One thing you’ll notice about arriving in Australia is how sports mad the entire country is – whatever the season! There’s always some form of sport – both professional and amateur – that’s happening at a ground somewhere near you.
Cricket might seem a bit ‘slow’ when compared to other sports (comedian Robin Williams famously said that ‘cricket is like baseball on valium’), but it might just grow on you. There are three different game formats – test matches which can last up to five days, one day limited overs cricket, and Twenty20 cricket. The reality is that watching cricket is a good excuse to catch up with a few friends and relax in the warmer months.
The highlight of the cricket season is the annual Boxing Day Test Match (December 26) at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). Otherwise, the Twenty20 Big Bash League tournament is popular too throughout summer. If you happen to have great timing, try and catch a game between Australia and England (otherwise called ‘The Ashes’), or Australia and India for the best rivalries.
Tennis is played by many people and from kids to adults with all sorts of abilities. The highlight of the tennis calendar is the Australian Open which is held at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne every January. One of the tennis worlds four grand slams (which include Wimbledon, the French Open and U.S. Open), tennis fans around the world are fixated on who will win the championship in the men’s and women’s singles, doubles, and mixed doubles.
The National Basketball League (NBL) is made of up teams around the country from Cairns, down to Melbourne and west to Perth. See our professional basketballers catch some hoops at the various venues.
Since the rugby codes and Australian Rules are all referred to as ‘footy’, Australians often call English Football ‘Soccer’, like North Americans. The premier competition is known as the A-League. Local derbies between the two Melbourne teams and two Sydney teams are always popular. World Cup qualification matches that feature the national teams – the Socceroos (men’s) and Matildas (women’s) also draw big crowds.
Golf is popular in summer, with premier events like the Australian PGA and Australian Open occurring. Otherwise, you can learn golf at the many driving ranges and golf courses located around the country. There’s even one in the middle of nowhere at the Nullarbor Plain if you’re that desperate for a hit!
Played predominantly in the states of Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia, Australia Rules Football (or ‘Aussie Rules’) was originally invented as a sport for men to play on cricket grounds in winter to keep them fit. These days, the Australian Football League (AFL) has very popular men’s and women’s competitions that draw in massive crowds, especially in Melbourne. For the best rivalries in the AFL, try catching a game between Collingwood and Carlton, or the classic ANZAC Day match between Collingwood and Essendon at the MCG.
Rugby league is mainly played in the states of Queensland and New South Wales, with the national competition being the National Rugby League (NRL). The long season starts in March and finishes in early October. Popular matches include the Sydney derby of the Roosters versus the Rabbitohs, and the Queensland derby of the Broncos versus the Cowboys.
Don’t miss the annual State of Origin series between Queensland (Cane Toads) and New South Wales (Cockroaches) which consists of three games every year. The battles are usually so engrossing, a large part of the country watches even if they’re not emotionally involved!
Rugby union (what you might otherwise know simply as ‘rugby’) is once again mainly played in Queensland and New South Wales. State based teams are the Queensland Reds, New South Wales Waratahs, ACT Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels who play in the international Super Rugby competition. The national men’s team is called the Wallabies (or ‘Wobblies’, depending on how they are performing). Try and see a game between the Wallabies and the best rugby team in the world, New Zealand’s All Blacks.
Predominately played by women, netball is very popular both as a player and spectator sport. Australia is home to the world champion Diamonds team, plus there is a national league called Super Netball. While it may look like a version of basketball, netball has quite different rules and the fast passing manoeuvres are impressive!
Played by both men and women, field hockey is played on an artificial surface with two teams of 11 people. Like ice hockey, the aim is the hit the ball into the back of the oppositions net. The men’s national team is called the Kookaburras, and the Hockeyroos are the women’s team – both have won Olympic gold medals.
Motorsport takes on a number of forms and categories in Australia – from motorbikes, drag racing, car racing and even truck racing. The most popular series is the V8 Supercars which are held at racing tracks all around the country, with the showpiece event being the Bathurst 1000 in October. The most well-known event internationally is the Australian Formula One Grand Prix which is held every year in Melbourne.
Gymnastics clubs are located all around the country which include acrobatic, artistic and rhythmic gymnastics and cater for a range of interests and abilities.
Cycling in Australia includes track and road cycling. Track cycling occurs at velodromes around the country and each state has their own cycling road races. The highlight of the Australian cycling calendar is the Tour Down Under that takes place in South Australia in January.
There’s traditional hard court volleyball and beach volleyball around with amateur and professional competitions held everywhere.
Martial arts such as Karate, Kung Fu and Tae Kwon Do are popular throughout Australia. You’ll find a place to practice somewhere near you.
Considering that the top 5 most watched television programs for the year in Australia are the NRL Grand Final, AFL Grand Final and the three State of Origin games, sport is front and centre for most Australians.
We haven’t listed all of the sports played in Australia, and there is probably an association for a sport you play at home! Regardless, go and check these sports out and you’ll see a fascinating side of Australian culture.