Australians love sports, from the most famous ones like soccer or motor sports to their special ones, like Australian rules football or National Rugby League. Thanks to their great weather with lots of sunshine and several warm days, all outdoor sports are famous. But we find mostly team sports in the most popular sports in Australia.
Australia usually finishes in front of the medal table at the Olympic Games, always in the top 10 countries. The country hosts several great sporting events from the Australian Open to the Australian Formula 1 race. It also hosted the Olympic Games twice. In 1956 in Melbourne and in 2000 in Sydney. Swimming, field hockey, cycling, rowing and sailing are in the most successful Australian sports. But in our list we haven’t only checked the number of gold medals in the biggest sporting events, but also how popular they are within the people and how much attendance they can attract.
Tennis has gained popularity thanks to the major events hosted by the country. But it’s not only about the Australian Open which is of course the biggest tournament and the first Grand Slam of the season. The country holds other big tennis events as well. Like the Hopman Cup in January in Perth where top ranking doubles teams compete. Or the Brisbane International where top men and women players have taken part. At least until this year, when the men’s competition was dropped.
To demonstrate how popular tennis is in Australia, it’s enough to check the number of viewers in the Australian Open last year. Not less than 780,000 fans attended the 2-week tournament. In 2020 Novak Djokovic and American Sofia Kenin were the champions in Melbourne, we should see them next in the US Open in August.
Soccer is certainly one of the most popular sports in Australia as well just like in the rest of the world. But here it’s not the top sport, even if you check the number of players or fans. It might have to do something with the level of the national football league and the Australian national team. Neither of them belong to the top, for sure.
Australia is currently in 40th place on the FIFA world ranking, though they are regular participants of the world cups in recent years. In the first division of the Australian soccer league called A-league 11 teams are competing, with the champion qualifying to the Asian Football Confederation Champions League. There has been only one Australian team which has managed to win the tournament. In 2014 the Western Sydney Wanderers. Though the average attendance of the A-league is around 14,000, almost a 100,000 fans watched the friendly game between Real Madrid and Manchester United in 2015.
3. National Rugby League
The National Rugby League, the NRL has the same rules as normal Rugby league. It’s played by teams from Australia and New Zealand. It has clubs from the original Sydney club Rugby league which had been running since 1908. In 1998 the two parallel rugby league tournaments, the Australian Rugby League and the Super League merged together and made the new National Rugby League. The NRL Grand Final is one of the most popular sporting events in the country. In 1999 a record 107,999 fans watched the final in Stadium Australia, in Sydney. In 2017 6,5 million Australians watched the league. Sydney Roosters are the reigning premiers. They are also the favorites by online sportsbooks in Australia to defend their title in the 2020 NRL season.
There have been many arguments about which sport is more popular in Australia, cricket or Australian rules football. I put cricket in 2nd place based on the average attendance on the games and general popularity of the sport. Cricket is still one of the most popular sports, which dates back to 1803. More than a million Australians are practicing it, in the parks, beaches, and on any bigger green areas. The Australian cricket team is also one of the most successful teams in the world. It’s currently ranked first in the ICC Test Championship and 5th in the ICC ODI Championship. Online gambling sites in Australia are favoring the team to win this year’s ICC T20 World Cup as well, which will be also hosted by the Aussies.
1. Australian rules football
Australian rules football or as it’s often called, Footy is a special local sport, originated back to the 19th century. It is a contact sport played between two teams of 18 players in a large area with an oval ball. Players can run with the ball but they must bounce it frequently to the ground. They can also handball it and kick it. It is close to rugby and American football but more unique. 18 teams are playing in the AFL league, which is the most watched sport in Australia. Both with its attendance and television viewership. What’s more, the AFL Grand Final is the highest attended club championship event in the world. It is played by almost 1,4 million players in more than 25 thousand clubs around the country. So with these figures it definitely deserves the most popular sport in Australia title.