Sport in Australia is a national obsession.
Every country has their own preferred sports, and Australia is no different, with several popular sports becoming definitively more ‘Aussie’. Whether you like footy, rugby, soccer, or cricket, here’s what fellow Aussies consider the best of ‘down under’.
Summer is considered as the season of sport around the country and especially the Grand Slam tennis tournament held in this session. Australia has lush, championship-designed golf courses across the country and this country has the record in hosting many premier golf events. Australia marathons attract thousands of runners from all over the world.
If nothing else, this list will provide more ammunition for those arguments around the office water cooler when the topic turns to the most popular sports in Australia.
Since being introduced to Australia in 1897, netball has been the most popular sport for women of all ages. Today 846,000 Australians play netball, made up of 503,000 children (20.5%) and 343,000 adults (1.8%).
On the international stage, the Australian team (Diamonds) has been the dominant force. Since winning the first world championships in 1963, the Diamonds have won 10 of the 14 tournaments. Australia’s most famous netballers include Liz Ellis, Sharelle McMahon, Catherine Cox, Natalie Medhurst and Vicki Wilson.
9) ATHLETICS/TRACK AND FIELD:
The importance Australia places on athletics is huge. For a small nation, Australia has hosted the Olympic Games twice (1956 and 200) and the Commonwealth Games four times (1938, 1962, 1982 and 2006). Australia will also host the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Australia’s most famous sporting names have been track and field athletes. These include Herb Elliott, Betty Cuthbert, Ron Clarke, Robert de Castella and Cathy Freeman. Children often get their start in athletics via Little Athletics, an organised modified athletics program. Events include running, jumping, throwing and walking, and are modified based on the age and ability of the participant.
In the summer months, Aussies enjoy a game of backyard cricket or watch some matches on TV. Between BBQs and beach trips, Australians all over the country like to play cricket – it’s kind of our thing. The sport has lost some steam in recent years, but the launch of the Big Bash League has become popular.
The Australian cricket team is one of the world’s top-ranking teams with their trademark baggy green caps. The Australian cricket team won the ICC world cup four times which is the biggest cricket world records.
Australia’s cricket heroes are Sir Donald Bradman (Greatest Cricketer Ever), Glen McGrath (one of Greatest Fast Bowler Ever), the Chappell brothers, Steve Waugh (Most Successful Captain Ever), Shane Warne (Greatest Spin Bowler, Mark Waugh, Ritchie Benaud, and Ricky Ponting (One Of Greatest Batsmen Ever).
Tennis has been a major part of the Australian sporting landscape since the late 1870s. The Australian Open was first played in Melbourne in 1905 and has been a mainstay of the Grand Slam tournaments. Since Normal Brookes won Wimbledon in 1907, Australians have excelled at Grand Slam events, especially the Australian Open.
Australia is also the second most successful Davis Cup nation of all time. Winning on 28 occasions, Australia only trails the United States who has 32 wins. However, Australia’s last victory in this prestigious tournament was 2003.
Of course, Rugby makes the list of the most popular sports in Australia, with mostly the eastern states of Australia play in the NRL or The National Rugby League – in fact, the majority of the 16 teams in the NRL are based in and around Sydney.
Australia also has the Rugby Union (the Wallabies are the most popular team). Each year the Wallabies compete against rivals South Africa and New Zealand in the Tri-Nations Series.
Basketball has become one of the most popular sports in the world and that includes Australia. Over 1.08 million Australians play basketball, a figure propped up by the huge number of children playing the game. Approximately 30.5% of all children play basketball.
Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills, Ben Simmons, and Andrew Dellavedova is the most recent in a long list of Australian players in the NBA. Luc Longley, Chris Anstey, Andrew Gaze and Lauren Jackson are other high profile basketballers who have kept the game in the national spotlight.
There are more than 1,500 golf courses across Australia. Golf is a popular leisure sport for Australians. Australia has both private and public courses. Some of the courses are champion-designed and many boasting spectacular views.
The best part of Golf courses is that many courses are connected with luxurious resorts. These luxurious resorts offer ‘stay and play’ packages. Some of the top resorts are situated in southern Queensland, but New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia also have acclaimed resorts. Australia’s world-class tennis stars are Greg Norman, Karrie Webb, Adam Scott, and Geoff Ogilvy.
While we’ll call it soccer to differentiate it from other sports, the fact many Australians call it football now shows how far the game has come. For children (6-13), soccer rivals swimming as the most popular sport in Australia with a 48.7% participation rate. This figure drops to 3.1% for adults (14+), but it’s still the number one team sport in this category.
On the international stage, the ‘Socceroos’ struggled with just one World Cup appearance in 1974. Since then Australia has played in three World Cups in a row, and players such as Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka and Tim Cahill are as famous as athletes from other football codes.
Australia has four major football bodies, with a professional league for each. They include the Australian Football League (AFL), Australian Rugby Union (ARU), National Rugby League (NRL) (more on these in a minute), and the Football Federation Australian (FFA).
As the third most popular sport for children, and the second most popular sport for adults (14+), cycling easily takes the second spot on the list. With 2.343 million participants, 10.8% of all Australians take part.
Australians have had a love affair with cycling from the moment the first bike was imported into Australia in the latter part of the 19th century. Today around 55% of all homes have a bicycle, and the average household has 1.5 bikes in working order.
In 2011 Cadel Evans became the first Australian to win cycling’s biggest event, the Tour De France. Then in 2012, Anna Meares won her second gold medal, beating hometown favorite and arch-rival Victoria Pendleton at the London Olympics. Both captured the hearts and minds of the nation and put cycling firmly on the sporting map in Australia.
With approximately 3.147 million taking part, swimming is clearly the most popular sport in Australia. Almost half (48.8%) of all children aged 6-13 take part, and while that participation figure drops to 10.1% for adults (14 years+), it still tops the list in that category as well. Parents are encouraged to teach their children to swim from an early age. That means most children take part in swim schools throughout their primary school years.
Australia also has a rich and proud history at the elite level. Only the United States has won more gold medals than Australia at the Olympics. Swimmers such as Ian Thorpe, Grant Hackett and Dawn Fraser are household names, and Australians draw inspiration from their achievements.
So these were the top 10 most popular sports in Australia. Feel free to share your opinions in the comments down below.