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Australia national team

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Australia national team

Template:Use Australian English Template:Culture of Australia Sport is an important part of the culture in Australia, with a long history in the country dating back to the pre-colonial period. Early sports that were played included Cricket, Horse Racing, Australian rules football and Rugby union. Sport evolved with Australian national identity through events like Phar Lap, the Bodyline series and the America's Cup races,

There are a number of professional sport leagues in Australia, including the Australian Football League (Australian rules football), National Rugby League (rugby league), Super Rugby (rugby union), the A-League and W-League (soccer), ANZ Championship (netball), the National Basketball League, the Women's National Basketball League and the Australian Baseball League. Attendance for some of these leagues over the course of a single season tops six million spectators in leagues like the AFL, A-League and NRL.

The media plays an important part in Australia's sporting landscape. Many sporting events are televised or are covered by the radio. The government has anti-siphoning laws to protect free-to-air stations. Beyond televising live events, there are many sport television shows, sport talk shows on the radio, magazines dedicated to sport and extensive newspaper coverage. Australian sport has also been the subject of Australian made films such as The Club, Australian Rules, The Final Winter and Footy Legends.

As a nation, Australia has competed in many international events including the Olympics and Paralympics, and the Commonwealth Games. The country has a large number of national teams in sports such as cricket, rugby union, rugby league, basketball, hockey, netball, soccer, softball, water polo and wheelchair rugby. Sport is played by different populations in Australia including women, people with disabilities and Australia's indigenous people.

History of sport in Australia


Sport came to Australia in 1810 when the first athletics tournament was held, soon after cricket, horse racing & sailing clubs and competitions started. Australia's lower classes would play sports on public holidays, with the upper classes playing more regularly on Saturdays.[1] Sydney was the early hub of sport in the colony.[2] Early forms of football would be played there by 1829.[3] Early sport in Australia was played along class lines. In 1835, the British Parliament banned blood sports except fox hunting in a law that was implemented in Australia; this was not taken well in the country as it was seen as an attack on the working classes.[4] By the late 1830s, horse racing was established in New South Wales and other parts of the country, and enjoyed support across class lines. Gambling was part of sport from the time horse racing became an established sport in the colony.[4] Horse racing was also happening in Melbourne at Batman's Hill in 1838, with the first race meeting in Victoria taking place in 1840.[5] Cricket was also underway with the Melbourne Cricket Club founded in 1838.[5][6] Sport was being used during the 1830s, 1840s and 1850s as a form of social integration across classes.[7]

Regular sport competitions were organised in New South Wales by 1850 (an early form of Rugby), with organised competition being played in Queensland (Rugby) and Victoria (Victorian rules football) soon after. Victorian rules football (later known as Australian rules football) was codified in 1859.[8][9] Australian football clubs still around in the current Australian Football League were founded by 1858.[6][8][9] The Melbourne Cricket Ground Australia's largest sporting arena opened in 1853.[10]

The Melbourne Cup was first run in 1861.[11] A rugby union team was established at the University of Sydney in 1864.[11] Regular sport did not begin to be played in South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia until the late 1860s and early 1870s.[2] In the case of Western Australia, Rugby Union was initially the more popular sport, however it was later replaced by Australian Rules football.

The first Australian cricket team to go on tour internationally did so in 1868. The Australian side was an all Aboriginal one and toured England where they played 47 games, where they won 14 games, drew 19 and lost 14.[12]

Australia's adoption of sport as a national was pastime was so comprehensive that the Anthony Trollope remarked in his book, Australia, published in 1870, "The English passion for the amusements which are technically called 'sports', is not a national necessity with the Americans, whereas with the Australians it is almost as much so as home."[13]

Soccer was being played in Australia by the 1870s,[2] with the first team formally being organised in Sydney in 1880 that was named the Wanderers.[14][15] Sport was receiving coverage in Australian newspapers by 1876 when a sculling race in England was reported on in the Sydney Morning Herald.[2]

In 1877 Australia played in the first Test Cricket match against England. In 1882, The Ashes were started following the victory of the Australia national cricket team over England.[11][16] Field hockey teams for men and women were established by 1890.[17] The Sheffield Shield cricket competition was first held in 1891 with New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia participating in the inaugural competition. The remaining states would not participate until much later, with Queeensland first participating in 1926/1927, Western Australia in 1947/1948 and Tasmania in 1982/1983.[18][19]

In 1879 Interstate matches in Australian rules football began with a match between representative teams from then colonies Victoria and South Australia. Interstate matches were very important in Australian culture, with the lack of a national competition for most of the 20th century interstate matches were give great importances as it gave the opportunity to show which state produced the best player's, and as most players played in their states state league it gave the opportunity to show which league was the best. Every 5 year's a national carnival was played with the winners playing off in a final. Interstate matches ran from 1879 to 1999. In 1897 the Victorian Football League, which later became the AFL the Australian Football League, was founded[11][20] after breaking away from the Victorian Football Association.[20]


The first badminton competition in Australia was played in 1900.[21]

The first ice hockey game was played in Melbourne on 12 July 1906 between a local Melbourne team and a team from the crew of the visiting US warship USS Baltimore.[22]

In 1905, the first tennis Australasian Championships was held in Melbourne at Albert Cricket Ground.

The 1907-1908 New Zealand All Golds rugby tour of Australia and Great Britain saw the All Golds contest three matches against a New South Wales side under Rugby Union rules. Because the matches made a £600 profit, the New Zealand Rugby Union issued life bans to the All Gold players. This was a direct cause of the foundation of the New South Wales Rugby League in 1907 by JJ Giltinan and legendary cricketer Victor Trumper. Australian player Dally Messenger joined the remainder of the All Golds tour to Great Britain in 1907, where they were introduced to the new rules of Rugby League by the English Rugby Football League. Players were discontent with the amateur New South Wales Rugby Union over rejection of compensation payments for injuries and lost wages, and many players decided to join the new rugby league competition in 1908.

When Messenger and the All Golds returned from Great Britain in 1908, they helped the new clubs adapt to the rules of rugby league prior to the inaugural 1908 NSWRFL season. The Queensland Rugby Football League also formed early in 1908 by seven rugby players who were dissatisfied with the administration of the Queensland Rugby Union.[23] Queensland quickly formed a team to compete against the returning All Golds, before competing in the first interstate match against New South Wales as a selection trial for the national team, nicknamed the Kangaroos. Club rugby league began in Brisbane in 1909.

The Australia national rugby union team had their first international test against New Zealand in 1903, and first international tour in 1908, earning their nickname of the Wallabies after two British journalist used it to refer to the team.[24] The team won gold at the 1908 London Olympics, however the majority of the squad joined rugby league clubs upon returning to Australia.[25]


In 1910, the Great Britain rugby league team went on their first tour of Australasia and defeated Australia to win the Ashes.

Women represented Australia for the first time at the Olympics in 1912.[11] Surfing came to Australia by 1915[11] with the first surf-life saving competition being held that year.[26]

Les Darcy began his boxing career in 1915, with some of his later fights taking place at Sydney Stadium. The following year, an American promoter encouraged Darcy to go to the United States at a time when Australia was actively recruiting young men for the armed services. Controversy resulted and Darcy died at the age of 21 in the United States. When his body was returned to Australia, 100,000 people attended his Sydney funeral.[27][28][29][30][31] Darcy would remain signifigant to Australians into the 2000s, when Kevin Rudd mentioned his story.[31]

Australian sport during the First World War was heavily affected as many athletes joined the First Australian Imperial Force. An example of this, the 1916 VFL season was contested by only 4 clubs. Patriotism ran so strongly that St Kilda changed their club colours because their traditional red, white and black colours were the same as the German Empire.


In 1922, a committee in Australia investigated the benefits of physical education for girls. They came up with several recommendations regarding what sports were and were not appropriate for girls to play based on the level of fitness required. It was determined that for some individual girls that for medical reasons, the girls should probably not be allowed to participate in tennis, netball, lacrosse, golf, hockey, and cricket. Football was completely medically inappropriate for girls to play. It was medically appropriate for all girls to be able to participate in, so long as they were not done in an overly competitive manner, swimming, rowing, cycling and horseback riding.[32] Dick Eve won Australia's first Olympic diving gold medal in 1924.[33]

In 1924 the Australian Rugby League Board of Control, later to be known as the Australian Rugby League, was formed to administer the national team (the Kangaroos), and later as the national governing body for the sport of Rugby League. In 1928 the team also adopted the national colours of green and gold for the first time, having previously used blue and maroon, making the Kangaroos the third national sporting body to do so after cricket (from 1899) and the Australian Olympic team (from 1908).[34]

In 1927, the tennis Australasian Championships were renamed as the Australian Championships, and was held at Kooyong Stadium Melbourne.

Netball Australia was founded in 1927 as the All Australia Women's Basket Ball Association.[11]


During the 1930s, the playing of sport on Sunday was banned in most country outside South Australia.[35] During the 1930s, rugby league, which had gone professional, began to overtake rugby union in popularity in Queensland, with the league being the dominant spectator code by 1937.[36]

The Bodyline cricket series between Australia and England took place in 1932-1933. The English side were very determined to win, using physical intimidation against Australia to ensure it.[37][38] The bowling style used by the team known body-line bowling was devised by Douglas Jardine with advice from E.R. Foster in England ahead of the series in order to defeat Australian batter Donald Bradman. Going into the start of the series, Bill Voce told the media "If we don't beat you, we'll knock your bloody heads off." The style of play was such that the Australians contemplated cancelling the series after the Adelaide test.[38][39]

Following a successful Australian racing career, the race horse Phar Lap went to the United States where he died. There were many conspiracy theories at the time and later that suggested people in the United States poisoned the horse to prevent him from winning.[37]


Australian women's sports had an advantage over many other women's sport organisations around the world in the period after World War II. Women's sport organisations had largely remained intact and were holding competitions during the war period. This structure survived in the post war period. Women's sport were not hurt because of food rationing, petrol rationing, population disbursement, and other issues facing post-war Europe.[40]

At noon on Boxing Day 1945, the inaugural Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race began, hosted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia. Rani won line honours from a fleet of 9 yachts in a time of 6 days, 14 hours and 22 minutes.

In September 1949, Australian Canoeing is founded as the Australian Canoe Federation.[41]


Australia won the Davis cup 8 times in the 1950's; 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1957 and 1959. It was Australia's most successful decade at the Davis Cup.

1956, Melbourne hosted the 1956 Summer Olympics. The Melbourne Cricket Ground served as the Olympic Stadium. Australia finished third on the medal tally, with 35 medals, 13 gold.

At the 1956 games, Betty Cuthbert won three track gold medals, the women's 100 metres, 200 metres and 4x100 m relay.

At the 1956 games, Murray Rose won three gold medals in the pool, the men's 400m freestyle, 1500m freestyle and 4x200m freestyle.

Between 1956 and 1966 the St. George Dragons set an Australian and world sporting record by winning eleven consecutive NSWRL premierships.


By the 1960s, Australia had an international identity as a sport obsessed country, an identity which was embraced inside the country. This was so well known that in a 1962 edition of Sports Illustrated, Australia was named the most sports obsessed country in the world.[42]

In 1962 Rod Laver became only the second Men's Tennis player to complete the Grand Slam and repeated the feat in 1969 (the only player to do so), winning the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open in a single calendar year. He also holds the record for the most number of singles titles won - between 1962 and 1976 he won 200 titles. The 1969 Australian Open was the first held under the name Australian Open.

In 1967, Australia hosted the second Netball World Championships in Perth.[43] That same year, South Australia became the last state to lift its ban on the playing of sports on Sunday.[35]


Starting in the early 1970s, Australian sport underwent a paradigm shift with sponsorship becoming one of the fundamental drivers of earnings for Australian sport on amateur and professional levels. By the mid-1980s, the need for the ability to acquire sponsorship dollars in sport was so great that job applicants for sport administrator positions were expected to be able to demonstrate an ability to get it.[44]

During the 1970s, Australia was being routinely defeated in major international competitions as Eastern Bloc countries enjoyed strong government support for sport. The Liberal governments at the time were opposed to similar intervention in Australia's sporting system as they felt it would be government intrusion into an important component of Australian life.[45] In the 1974 elections, several Australian sporting competitors endorsed the Liberal party in advertisements that ran on television. Competitors involved included Ron Barassi, NSWRL player Johnny Raper and horse trainer Tommie Smith.[46] That year, the Australian team qualified for the 1974 FIFA World Cup, the first successful qualification to the FIFA World Cup in the country's history after failing to qualify to the 1966 and 1970 tournaments. It would prove to be the only appearance for the Australian team for more than three decades.[14]


The regional football code divide in Australia was still present in the 1980s, with rugby league being the dominant code in Queensland and New South Wales while Australian rules football dominated in the rest of the country. When codes went outside of their traditional geographic home, they had little success in gaining new fans and participants.[18] The Australian Institute of Sport was founded in 1981.[47]

In 1980, the annual three match interstate rugby league series between New South Wales and Queensland adopted for the final match 'State of Origin' selection rules. Selection for interstate matches since 1908 had previously been based on state of residency. In 1982 Origin selection rules were adopted for all interstate matches, beginning the annual rugby league State of Origin series.

In the lead up to and during the 1982 Commonwealth Games, the police were called upon to stop protests by Aboriginal land rights activists who staged protests timed with the event in order to politicise the event.[48]

Australia had competitors in the America's Cup yacht race for a number of years. Going into the 1983 race, the Australian media was not that interested in the race as they expected a similar result and in the media lead up to the event, made it out to be a race for rich people. This lack of interest continued throughout the early races. Near the end, when Australia finally appeared poised to win it, millions of Australians turned on their television to watch the Australia II win the competition.[49] That year, the Liberals used Australian tennis star John Newcombe and race car drivers Peter Brock and Alan Jones in their political advertising.[50] Athletes would again be used, this time by the Labor Party, in the 1989 elections.[50]

During the 1980s, Australian soccer players began to start playing regularly in overseas professional leagues, with the most successful player of the decade being Craig Johnston who scored a goal in the 1986 F.A. Cup Final for Liverpool.[14]

During the 1980s, the federal government created a number of sport programs including Aussie Sports and Active Australia.[51]

The Australia women's national field hockey team began their run as one of the top teams in the world in 1985, a place they would hold until 2000.[17]

In 1989, the Victorian Football League decided to rebrand themselves as a national league and renamed the league the Australian Football League.[52] This followed the relocation of the South Melbourne Football Club to Sydney in 1982, and expansion in 1987 with the West Coast Eagles in Perth.


The major impact on Australian sport in the 1990s was the effect of media rights, and in particular pay television on sport funding. It also saw a draw down in funding from tobacco sponsorships.

During the 1990s, soccer in Australia faced a challenge in attracting youth players because of the ethnic nature of the sport at the highest levels of national competition. The sport's governing body made an effort to make the game less ethnically oriented. At the same time, rival football codes were intentionally trying to bring in ethnic participants in order to expand their youth playing base.[53]

Doping became a concern during the 1980s and more active steps were taken to combat in Australia in the early 1990s. In 1990, the Australian Sports Drug Agency Act 1990 was passed and took control of doping test away from the Australian Sport Commission and put it into the hands of an independent doping control agency as of 17 February 1991.[54]

Rugby League in the 90s was dominated by structural problems resulting in the Super League war. Following the success of interstate expansion clubs and the financial struggles of Sydney clubs in the 80s, the Bradley Report in 1992 outlined a reduction of Sydney clubs and restructure of the game as a 14 club "Super League", similar to the reforms in AFL. In 1995, the NSWRL was rebranded as the Australian Rugby League and expanded in North Queensland, South Queensland, Perth and Auckland, New Zealand. A media war between Channel 9 and News Limited over the Pay TV rights for the game exposed deep structural problems and resulted in two competitions - the ARL and break away Super League. The two entities formed the National Rugby League in 1998, with News Limited and the ARL sharing joint ownership. Due to funding pressures, the NRL cut a number of clubs from the competition and tried to address the underlying problems of the code.

In 1995, rugby union became professional in Australia following an agreement between SANZAR countries and Rupert Murdoch regarding pay television rights for the game.[55] Australia won two world cups in the 90s, the 1991 Rugby World Cup defeating England in the final, and the 1999 Rugby World Cup defeating France in the final.


In 2000, Sydney hosted the Summer Olympic Games at a cost of $6.6 billion. Australia finished fourth on the medal tally with 58 medals, 26 of them gold.

In a moment of national pride, Cathy Freeman won the 400 metre final at the games.

Also at the olympics, Ian Thorpe won 3 gold in the 400 m freestyle, 4x 100m freestyle and 4x 200m freestyle, as well as 2 silver medals in the 200m freestyle and 4x 100m medley.

In 2000, Australia won the Rugby League World Cup for the sixth successive time.

In 2002, the Australian government again intervened in sport when Senator Rod Kemp, the Minister for Arts and Sport, announced that Soccer Australia was to be restructured by the Australian Sports Commission. At the time, the organisation had A$2.6 million in debt. National organisational problems were mirrored on the state level at the time of the take over. The Australian Sports Commission delivered back a report that recommended 53 changes to be made in four key areas. One suggestion involved separating the management of the national governing body from that of the national league.[56] Former Australian Rugby Union CEO John O'Neil was brought in to make these changes and the organisation changes its name in 2005 to Football Federation Australia as part of an effort to reposition the sport in the country.[57] The new national league, the A-League, had its inaugural season in 2004.

In 2003, Australia hosted the Rugby Union World Cup, the Wallabies lost to England 17-20 in the final.

Wild Oats XI set a record by winning line honours in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race four years in a row, from 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. She also won the treble in 2005 and 2012.

In 2006, Melbourne hosted the 2006 Commonwealth Games.[58] Later that year, the Australian team competed in the 2006 FIFA World Cup; their second FIFA World Cup appearance after 32 years of failing to qualify for the tournament.[59]

In 2008, Australia hosted the 2008 Rugby League World Cup, the Kangaroos lost to New Zealand 20-34 in the final at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.

2010s to present

In 2010, the rugby league club Melbourne Storm were found to have been systematically breaching the NRL salary cap rules over five years. The club was fined a record Australian sporting fine of $1,689,000, stripped of two premierships and three minor premierships, and prevented from accumulating any premiership points in the 2010 NRL season.[60]

The AFL became the first football code to establish two clubs in the 5 major metropolitan cities ( Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide) with expansion in 2011 Gold Coast Suns and in 2012 Greater Western Sydney Giants.

In 2012, the Australian Rugby League Commission was formed, bringing to an end the involvement of News Limited in the administration of Rugby League and the media companies conflict of interests in the sport, finally concluding the fall out from the Super League war in the 90s.[61]

From 2008 until 2013, the Australian thoroughbred mare Black Caviar was undefeated in 25 races, a record not equaled in over 100 years. [62] Notable wins include the 2012 Diamond Jubilee Stakes, as well as being named the top sprinter from 2010-12 in the World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings and entering the Australian Racing Hall of Fame.

In 2014, the Socceroos will compete in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. In 2015, Australia will host the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.

In 2018, Gold Coast will host the 2018 Commonwealth Games.


Main article: Organisation of sport in Australia

The organisation of sport in Australia has been largely determined by its Federal system of government – Australian Government and six states and two territories governments and local governments.[63]


The highest rates of participation for Australian sport and recreation are informal, non-organised sports with bike riding, skateboarding, rollerblading or riding a scooter topping the list of activities for children, with 66% of all boys bike riding and 55.9% of all boys skateboarding, rollerblading or riding a scooter in 2009 and 2010. Girls also participated in these activities at high rates with 54.4% of them doing bike riding and 42.4% skateboarding, rollerblading or riding a scooter. Other sports popular for Australian girls include dancing, which had 26.3% participation, swimming with 19.8% participation and netball at 17%. For boys, the other popular sports for participation included soccer with a rate of participation of 19.9%, swimming with a participation rate of 17.2%, Australian rules at 16%.[64]

Participation rates for adults in Australia were much lower than that of Australian children. For adult women in Australia, the number one sport activity they participate in is walking with 30% having done this in 2009 and 2010. The second most popular form of exercise and sport was Aerobics/fitness/gym with a rate of 16.7%. The third most popular for adult women was swimming and diving with 8.4%. For men, the most popular sport activity was also walking with a participation rate of 15.6%. This was followed by Aerobics/fitness/gym with 11.2%. The third most popular sport for adult males was cycling/BMXing with a participation rate of 8.2%.[64]

There are 34,000 athletes, officials and coaches currently registered with the Athletics Australia.[65] A 2007 estimate claimed that Australian football had 615,549 participants,[66] Basketball has become one of the most popular participation sports in Australia. In Victoria, and Melbourne, particularly, it has more participants than any other sport.[67][68][69]

Australia's warm climate and long coastline of sandy beaches and rolling waves provide ideal conditions for water sports such as swimming. The majority of Australians live in cities or towns on or near the coast, and so beaches are a place that millions of Australians visit regularly.[70]

Professional sport

Professional sport leagues in Australia include the Australian Football League, the National Rugby League and the National Basketball League.[71][52] Unlike in Europe and the United States, professional clubs tend to be member run organisations instead of single owner, for profit businesses.[72] Australian professional sport generates over A$10 billion dollars in revenue.[73] The major football codes and professional leagues in the country all watch what their competition does in order to improve their own strategic picture in the Australian sporting landscape.[52] Revenues for professional sport comes from three primary streams including sponsorship, and television rights.[74]

In 2007, the Australian Football League had the greatest financial stability of all the leagues in Australia with turnover of A$280 million, with the National Rugby League coming in second with A$120 million. At the same time, the AFL had highest level of corporate support with major national and international sponsors such as Air Emirates, Vodafone and Toyota. The AFL also beat the NRL in terms of geographic spread of their teams, with the AFL having teams in five states while the NRL had teams in three states in 2007. In 2007, the AFL was also spending A$30 million in youth player development compared to the NRL's A$15 million.[75]

The National Rugby League traces its roots back to the 1890s when rugby league split from rugby union as the code went professional. By 1908, the professional New South Wales Rugby League was created.[71] Collective player bargaining came to the professional game by 1982, with 95% of all played having joined the player union by 1991.[76] Media access to the sport was one of the main reasons for a split in the sport in the 1990s that resulted in the New South Wales Rugby League facing competition from the Rupert Murdoch backed Super League, and the "Super League war" in 1997, which ended with the founding of the National Rugby League which had become a national, not state based, professional competition.[77]

In contrast, the National Basketball League was formed in 1978 and is Australia's top professional basketball competition. In its most recently completed season in 2012–13, it had seven teams in the country, plus one team in New Zealand.[78] One of the purposes of the league is to provide a system to provide players to feed into the Australia men's national basketball team.[71]

The Australian Football League saw money pour into the sport during the 1990s and 2000s. In 1993, total player payments were A$24 million but reached A$95 million by 2003.[79]


Australian sport fans have historically attended events in large numbers, dating back to the country's early history. An early football game played in Melbourne in 1858 had 2,000 spectators.[80] By 1897, tens of thousands of spectators attended an early Australian rules football match at a time when top level soccer matches in England would draw six thousand fans. A finals match between the Carlton Football Club and Collingwood in 1938 drew 96,834 fans.[81] In 1909, at a time when rugby union had not yet become professionalised, 52,000 people in Sydney attended a game between New South Wales and New Zealand. The spectators accounted for 10% of the total population of Sydney at the time.[36] A world record was set for cricket attendance on 30 December 1932 when 63,993 fans watched England take on Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.[82]

Total average game attendance for the Australian Football League and the National Rugby League increased between 1970 and 2000, with the AFL going from an average attendance of 24,344 people per match in 1970 to 27,325 by 1980 to 25,238 in 1990 and 34,094 by 2000. The National Rugby League had an average per game attendance of 11,990 in 1970, saw a decrease in 1980 to 10,860 but increased to 12,073 by 1990 and improved on that to 14,043 by 2000. Founded later, the National Basketball League had an average per game attendance of 1,158 in 1985, increased this to 4,551 by 1990, and kept attendance steady with 4,636 average fans per game in 2000.[83]

In March 1999, 104,000 fans attended a double header match in the National Rugby League at Stadium Australia four days after the venue formally opened.[84] In the 2006/2007 season, the A-League Melbourne Victory averaged 27,728 people to their home matches throughout the season. The 2009-10 regular season was considerably lower.[85] In 2011, the Australian Football League had a cumulative attendance of 7,139,272, a record for the competition and an average attendance of 36,425.[86] In 2010, the National Rugby League's premiership set a record for regular season attendance to NRL matches.[87]

Leagues/Tournaments Total spectatorship Average match attendance Year Ref
A-League 1,772,133 12,707 2012/2013 [88]
Australian Football League 6,931,085 33,484 2013 [86]
Big Bash League 550,262 17,750 2011/2012 [78]
National Basketball League 547,021 4,031 2010/2011 [78]
National Rugby League 3,345,248 16,643 2013 [89]
Rugby League State of Origin 186,607 62,202 2011 [90]
Women's National Basketball League 77,944 2010/2011 [78]

Australian sport fans have behaved unruly at times, with police being required at Australian football games dating back to the 1860s.[80]

Amateur sport

Amateur sport in Australia follows a corporate management system, with the national tier composed of national sport organisations that support and fund elite sport development. These organisatons include the Australian Institute of Sport and the Australian Sports Commission. Below them is the state level, which includes state sporting organisations, state institute of sport and state departments of sport. The last level is district/regional associations and local clubs and community sports along with local government.[91] At the national level, the national sport organisations govern most sports in Australia, with over 120 different national sports organisation overseeing sport in Australia.[92][93] The role of government in this structure is important[91][94] as government funding for most sport in Australia comes from the national government, state and territory governments, and local governments. In the late 1990s, government support for sport was double that of public non-financial corporations.[94]

Amateur sport was transformed in Australia in the 1980s with the creation of the Australian Institute of Sport. The Institute, formally opened by Malcolm Fraser in 1981, was designed to make Australian amateur sport at major world competitions, like the Olympics, competitive with the rest of the world and increase the number of medals won by the country.[95] A few years later, in 1984, the Australian Sports Commission was created to better address the distribution of funds to support sport.[96] It had a budget of A$109 million in 200.[51] By 2009, the Australian Sports Commission had a budget of A$150 million, up from A$5 million when it first was created.[96]

Amateur sport has been able to draw large audiences. In the 1950s, 120,000 fans would go to the MCG to watch major athletics events.[97] In 2000, during the soccer gold medal match between Cameroon and Spain, 114,000 fans watched the game live inside Stadium Australia.[98]

Australian amateur sport has dealt with financial problems. In the 2000s, Athletics Australia was facing duel problems of financial problems and failure for the sport to consistently medal at major international sporting events compared to other sports and their representative organisations like Swimming Australia and Rowing Australia.[99]

Sports media

Media coverage of Australian sport and athletes predates 1876. The first all Australian sport publication, The Referee, was first published in 1886 in Sydney.[100] The major newspapers for sport coverage in the country include the Herald Sun and The West Australian.[100]

There is a long history of television coverage of sports in Australia. From 1957 to 2001, the Seven Network was the network for the Australian Football League. The only year that Seven was not the network for the league was in 1987 when the AFL was on the ABC. An exclusive deal was agreed upon by Seven in 1976 for a five-year deal worth A$3 million.[101] Not all sports have had favourable deals with network. The first television offer for the National Basketball League was worth A$1 in an offered made by Seven that the league accepted. The deal made by Ten Network to the New South Wales Rugby League was worth considerably more, worth A$48 million for a five-year deal that also included broadcasting rights for the State of Origin and the Australia national rugby league team. This deal was terminated early because the network could not afford to pay out.[102]

The 1967 NSWRFL season's grand final became the first football grand final of any code to be televised live in Australia. The Nine Network had paid $5,000 for the broadcasting rights.[103]

SBS and FoxSports are two of the most important television networks in Australia in terms of covering all Australian sports, not just the popular professional leagues.[100] Administrators for less popular spectator sports, such as basketball and netball, believe that getting additional television and newspaper coverage is fundamental for the growth and success of their sports going forward.[100]

Anti-siphoning laws in Australia regulate the media companies' access to significant sporting events. In 1992, when the country experienced growth in paid-subscription media, the Parliament of Australia enacted the Broadcasting Services Act that gave free-to-air broadcasters preferential access to acquire broadcasting rights to sporting events. The anti-siphoning list is a list of major sporting events that the Parliament of Australia has decided must be available for all Australians to see free of charge and cannot be "siphoned off" to pay TV where people are forced to pay to see them. The current anti-siphoning list came into effect in 2006 and expires 31 December 2010. The Minister for Communications can add or remove events from the list at his discretion. There are currently ten sports on the anti-siphoning list plus the Olympic and Commonwealth Games. Events on the anti-siphoning list are delisted 12 weeks before they start to ensure pay TV broadcasters have reasonable access to listed events, if free-to-air broadcasters decide not to purchase the broadcast rights for a particular event. Any rights to listed sporting events that are not acquired by free-to-air broadcasters are available to pay TV. For multi-round events where it is simply not possible for free-to-air networks to broadcast all matches within the event (e.g. the Australian Open) complementary coverage is available on pay television. The Federal Government is obliged by legislation to conduct a review of the list before the end of 2009. The current anti-siphoning list requires showing listed sports on the broadcaster's main channel.[104]

Rugby league, which includes NRL, State of Origin and national team matches, had the highest aggregate television ratings of any sport in 2009[105] and 2010.[106] Also, in a world first, the Nine Network broadcast free-to-air the first match of the 2010 State of Origin series live in 3D in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.[107][108]

There are a number of Australian sport films. They include The Club. The film was based on a play produced in 1977, in Melbourne. It has been in the senior English syllabi for four Australian states for many years.[109] The film was written by David Williamson, directed by Bruce Beresford and starring John Howard, Jack Thompson, Graham Kennedy and Frank Wilson.[110] Another Australian sport film is The Final Winter, released in 2007. It was directed by Brian Andrews and Jane Forrest and produced by Anthony Coffee, and Michelle Russell, while independently produced it is being distributed by Paramount Pictures. It was written by Matthew Nable who also starred as the lead role 'Grub' Henderson. The film, which earned praise from critics,[111] focuses around Grub who is the captain of the Newtown Jets football team in the early 1980s and his determination to stand for what rugby league traditionally stood for while dealing with his own identity crisis.[112] Other Australian sport films include Australian Rules and Footy Legends.[113][114]

Sport is popular on the radio. This Sporting Life was a culturally iconic Triple J radio comedy programme, created by award-winning actor-writer-comedians John Doyle and Greig Pickhaver, who performed as their characters Roy and HG. Broadcast from 1986 to 2008, it was one of the longest-running, most popular and most successful radio comedy programmes of the post-television era in Australia. It was the longest-running show in Triple J's programming history, and commanded a large and dedicated nationwide audience throughout its 22-year run.[115] 2KY is a commercial radio station based in Sydney, broadcasting throughout New South Wales and Canberra on a network of over 140 narrowcast transmitters as well as the main 1017 AM frequency in Sydney. 2KY broadcasts live commentary of thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing. Over 1500 races are covered each week, including the pre and post race form and TAB betting information.[116]

There are a number of Australian sport magazines. One is the AFL Record. The magazine is published in a sports magazine style format. Eight different versions, one for each game, are published for each weekly round, 60,000 copies in total, and Roy Morgan Research estimates that the Record has a weekly readership of over 200,000.[117] As of 2009, the week's records are published and are able to be viewed in an online magazine format.[118] Another Australian sporting magazine is Australia's Surfing Life, a monthly magazine about surfing published in Australia. It features articles about surf trips in Australia and overseas, surfing technique, board design and wetsuits. The magazine was founded in 1985.[119]

International competitions

Australia has hosted a number of major international sporting events including the 1956 Summer Olympics, the 2000 Summer Olympics. The country also regularly hosts a major tennis Grand Slam event, a Formula 1 world championship round and motorcycle Moto-GP round, alongside major domestically created, internationally recognised events including the Melbourne Cup and the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.[37] Australia also hosted the 2003 Rugby World Cup, with the event generating around A$1 billion in economic activity while bringing in 2 million visitors to the country.[74]

Australians takes the Commonwealth Games very seriously as a nation because, on one level of national thinking, the event offers the country an opportunity to prove they are superior to the "original country", the United Kingdom.[17][120][121][122] By the 1938 British Empire Games, Australia's combined medal total was already greater than that of the Home Nations tallies combined. Australia would go on to beat England in total medals at the Commonwealth Games at the 1950, 1962, 1970, 1974 and 1982 Commonwealth Games.[17] This rivalry with England continues to be an important component of the Games for the country.[121][122]

By the 1938 British Empire Games, Australia's combined medal total was already greater than that of the Home Nations tallies combined. Australia would go on to beat England in total medals at the Commonwealth Games at the 1950, 1962, 1970, 1974 and 1982 Commonwealth Games.[17]

The Socceroos have appeared at the FIFA World Cup in 1974, 2006 and 2010. At the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the Socceroos surprised many by reaching the Round of 16, losing 1-0 in injury time to the eventual champions Italy.[123]


The Olympic movement in Australia started out during the 1900s and 1910s in Australia. The first organisations for the Olympics in Australia came out of the athletics governance system and resulted in the creation of state based Olympic committees. The first national governing body for Australian Olympics was created in 1914 and was a joint effort with New Zealand though New Zealand was a less than able partner. The movement in Australia then stagnated as a result of the Great War. The New Zealand and Australian organisation was disbanded and an Australian only national organisation was founded in 1920 called the Australian Olympic Federation. The early goals of the organisation were to ratify team selection and to fundraise to assist Olympians in paying for their travel to compete at the Games. By the 1980s, the organisation had issues on the international level as the IOC wanted them to re-structure; until this time, the organisation followed governance models similar to that of other Australian sporting organisations with a federated model of governance. Changes were made the organisation ended up with an executive board with a president, two vice presidents, a secretary general and a 14 member executive board which had 10 elected members, 4 IOC members and 2 members of the Athlete's Commission.[124]

Australia has hosted the Olympics twice, in 1956 in Melbourne and in 2000 in Sydney. These were the first Games hosted in the southern hemisphere.[125][126][127]

Australia has been active influential in the Olympic movement, with four Australian representatives who are members of the International Olympic Committee.[124]

The government has provided monetary support for the Olympics. In the lead up to the 1924 Games, they provided 3,000 pounds and in 1936 provided 2,000 pounds. This support was seen as a way of supporting national identity, but no formal system existed for the funding wider sport at the time.[128]

The 1956 Games were the first time Australia had an Equestrian competitor when Victorian Ernie Barker competed.[127] Australia has generally been a world power in Olympic swimming since the 1956 Melbourne Olympics: swimmers like Shane Gould, Dawn Fraser, Ian Thorpe and Kieren Perkins have taken multiple gold medals.[129]

Australia performed relatively poorly at the 1976 Summer Olympics. This upset the nation as it challenged a fundamental part of Australian identity. The following Olympics, the 1980 Summer Olympics, some Australian sports sat out as part of a boycott[47][130] and the country earned only nine medals, two of them gold, in Moscow.[131] To prevent a recurrence of this, the Australian Institute of Sport was created to help improve Australia's medal tally at the Games.[131][130]

Channel Seven had exclusive Australian free-to-air, pay television, online and mobile telephony broadcast rights to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The live telecast of the 2008 Summer Olympics was shared by the Seven Network and SBS Television. Seven broadcast the opening and closing ceremonies and mainstream sport's including swimming, athletics, rowing, cycling and gymnastics. In contrast, SBS TV provided complementary coverage focused on long-form events such as football, road cycling, volleyball, and table tennis.[132]

Olympic medal history

Summer Games

Games Athletes Gold Silver Bronze Total Rank
1896 Athens 1 2 0 0 2 8
1900 Paris 3 2 0 3 5 9
1904 St. Louis 2 0 0 0 0
1908 London as part of  Australasia (ANZ)
1912 Stockholm
1920 Antwerp 13 0 2 1 3 16
1924 Paris 37 3 1 2 6 11
1928 Amsterdam 18 1 2 1 4 19
1932 Los Angeles 12 3 1 1 5 10
1936 Berlin 33 0 0 1 1 30
1948 London 77 2 6 5 13 14
1952 Helsinki 85 6 2 3 11 9
1956 Melbourne (host nation) 314 13 8 14 35 3
1960 Rome 188 8 8 6 22 5
1964 Tokyo 234 6 2 10 18 8
1968 Mexico City 175 5 7 5 17 9
1972 Munich 173 8 7 2 17 6
1976 Montreal 184 0 1 4 5 32
1980 Moscow 123 2 2 5 9 15
1984 Los Angeles 240 4 8 12 24 14
1988 Seoul 270 3 6 5 14 15
1992 Barcelona 290 7 9 11 27 10
1996 Atlanta 424 9 9 23 41 7
2000 Sydney (host nation) 630 16 25 17 58 4
2004 Athens 482 17 16 17 50 4
2008 Beijing 433 14 15 17 46 6
2012 London 410 7 16 12 35 10
Total 138 153 177 468 11

Winter Games

Games Athletes Gold Silver Bronze Total Rank
1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1 0 0 0 0
1948 St. Moritz did not participate
1952 Oslo 9 0 0 0 0
1956 Cortina d'Ampezzo 10 0 0 0 0
1960 Squaw Valley 31 0 0 0 0
1964 Innsbruck 6 0 0 0 0
1968 Grenoble 3 0 0 0 0
1972 Sapporo 4 0 0 0 0
1976 Innsbruck 8 0 0 0 0
1980 Lake Placid 10 0 0 0 0
1984 Sarajevo 10 0 0 0 0
1988 Calgary 18 0 0 0 0
1992 Albertville 23 0 0 0 0
1994 Lillehammer 25 0 0 1 1 22
1998 Nagano 24 0 0 1 1 22
2002 Salt Lake City 27 2 0 0 2 15
2006 Turin 40 1 0 1 2 17
2010 Vancouver 40 2 1 0 3 13
Total 5 1 3 9 21


Australia has attended every Summer Paralympics and hosted the 2000 Sydney Games.

National teams

Sport Team (link to team / event) Nickname (link for origin) Ref
Rugby union
Men's test Wallabies. [24]
Women's Wallaroos [133]
Rugby league Men's test Kangaroos [134][135][136]
Women's Jillaroos [137][138]
Wheelchair rugby Paralympic, Steelers (official) Wheelabies (unofficial) [139][140]
Soccer Men's Socceroos [141]
Men's Under-23 Olyroos
Men's Under-22 Olyroos
Men's Under-20 Young Socceroos
Men's Under-19 Young Socceroos
Men's Under-17 Joeys (from Joey (marsupial))
Men's Under-16 Joeys (from Joey (marsupial))
Women's (incl. Olympic) Matildas (from Waltzing Matilda)
Futsal[142] National team Futsalroos
Men's Gridiron (American football) National team [143][144]
Netball National team Diamonds [145]
Athletics Olympic, and World Championships Flame
Junior National Teams Spark
Swimming Olympic, Paralympic, and World Championships Dolphins [146]
Softball Men's Aussie Steelers [147]
Women's (Olympic / World's) Aussie Spirit [148]
Water polo Men's Sharks
Women's Stingers
Basketball Men's Boomers
Women's Opals
Intellectual disability (men) Boomerangs
Intellectual disability (women) Pearls
Wheelchair basketball Men's Rollers
Women's Gliders
Cycling World Championships/World Cup Cyclones [149]
Field hockey Men's Kookaburras [150][151]
Women's Hockeyroos [150][151][152]
Ice hockey Men's Mighty Roos (after The Mighty Ducks)
Lacrosse Men's Sharks
Box lacrosse Men's Boxaroos [153]
Bowls Men's Jackaroos — a pun on jack, the target ball
Women's Sapphires [154]
Orienteering National team Boomerangs
Handball Men's Crocodiles [155]
Women's Redbacks [155]
Ultimate Frisbee Open Dingos [156]
Women's Firetails
Mixed Barramundis

Sporting populations

Women's sport

During the 1980s and 1990s, Australian women excelled individually in sports like swimming, athletics and cycling. Their performances drew additional media attention but despite their successes, they did not earn the equivalent attention the media gave to individual male competitors.[157]

Australia's women have repeatedly won at the highest level. During the 1990s, the Australia national netball team, Australia women's national field hockey team and Australia women's national cricket team won world championships.[158]

While not being urged to avoid competition, women had few opportunities to compete in sport in Australia until the 1880s. After that date, new sporting facilities were being built around the country and many new sport clubs were created.[159]

Media representation of women's sport has historically been much less than men. In the period between 1980 and 1984, only 2% of the sport sections in capital newspapers featured women's sport.[160]

Netball is the most popular women's team participation sport in Australia.[161] Throughout most of Australia's netball history, the game has largely been a participation sport; it has not managed to become a large spectator sport.[162] Overall, 188,800 people attended netball matches, with 130,800 being female.[163]

In 1940, a study of 314 women in New Zealand and Australia was done. Most of the women in the study were middle class, conservative, Protestant and white. The study found that 183 of them participated in sport. [164]

Disability sport

The government created a programme called "Aussie Able" to encourage people with disabilities to become involved in sport.[165]

Australia sent a delegation of 170 athletes to compete at the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing,[166] and a team of 11 competitors to compete in two disciplines at the 2010 Winter Paralympics in Vancouver, Canada.[167] A team of 161 members was sent to the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London.[168]

Indigenous sport

In 1970, Harry Williams became the first Australian Aboriginal to play for the Australian national soccer team.[14]

The Australian Sports Commission created a program called the Indigenous Sport Program to provide additional sporting opportunities to Aboriginals in their local communities.[169]

Cathy Freeman's success at the 2000 Summer Olympics made her an unofficial spokesperson for Aboriginal sport in the country.[157][170][171]



External links

  • Australian Sports Commission
  • Australian Institute of Sport

Template:Sports governing bodies in Australia

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