To say that Australians love their sport is an understatement. Get an understanding of our culture by heading out to watch some Australian sport in Sydney.
Our huge country and balmy climate mean that Australians are out in the great outdoors watching and playing all different kinds of sports every day of the year. Here are eight of those that you can see on your next trip to Sydney, you can even have a go if you’re game enough!
- How to watch Eight of Australia’s Most Popular Sports
- AFL – Australian Rule Football
- Rugby Union
- Rugby League
How to watch Eight of Australia’s Most Popular Sports
Like almost every nation that was once part of the British Empire, Australians love cricket. A bat and ball game, cricket is played between two teams numbering eleven players each.
Much like baseball, one side attempts to score as many points (or runs) as possible while the other side tries to slow them down and get their players out. At the end of the innings these teams switch, and the side with the most points wins.
The first recorded match in Australia took place in Sydney in 1803 and today there are over 1.5 million registered cricket players in Australia, with even more avid fans watching from the sidelines.
Where to watch a cricket match in Sydney
Cricket is a summer game, and in if you’re in Australia between October and March it’s easy to catch a game.
- The Big Bash League (BBL), a national round-robin tournament in the short form of the game, attracts huge crowds during December and January. With a fast-paced carnival atmosphere, the BBL will be sure to thrill cricket diehards and rookies alike.
- One Day International Series – a short form of the game – 50 overs of first-class cricket
- Test Cricket – a 5-day match for the true fan – you can just go for one day but choose day 2 or 3 for guaranteed action. There are held around the country throughout the summer.
- Women’s Cricket – Australia is hosting this year the International Women’s T20 series.
Where: Sydney Cricket Ground
Cost: From $5 to $100 plus depending on the match and the seat. Find match and ticket info on the Cricket Australia site.
AFL – Australian Rule Football
AFL or Australian rules football is probably the most distinctly Australian sport on this list. Founded in Victoria in the mid-19th century it was designed to keep cricketers fit during the winter, but has since become one of Australia’s most popular sports in its own right.
With two teams numbering eighteen players, the aim of the game is to kick as many goals through the enemy’s four posts as possible, and of course, try and stop them doing the same. A fast-moving, highly physical and at time aerial game, AFL has the highest crowd attendance and highest television audience of any sport in the country.
The competition features 18 teams spread across the country with the bulk in Victoria. There are two Sydney based teams, the Sydney Swans and Greater Western Sydney Giants. Games are generally played on Friday nights, Saturdays and Sunday afternoons.
Where to watch an AFL game in Sydney
If you’re in Sydney between March and September, why not check out a home game for either the Sydney Swans or Great Western Sydney giants. Better still you can catch them together at the Sydney Derby, played twice a year at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Where: Sydney Cricket Ground or Stadium Australia
When: March to September
Cost: Approx $30 for adults depending on the match and the seat. Check ticket prices on Ticketmaster
Another very British sport, Rugby Union is a sport that perhaps is a little more widely known around the world. A tough and at times brutal game, rugby union sees fifteen players attempt to carry the ball over the line (or for less points through the posts) facing down fierce opposition from the other team.
Like AFL, rugby union is a game of the mid-19th century and has had a long history in Australia. Often associated with private schools and the middle class, union does not get as much attention in Australia as its salt-of-the-earth cousin rugby league. However, the game is still played and watched in great numbers across the country.
Where to watch Rugby Union in Sydney
Visitors to Sydney can watch a game of the city-wide semi-professional Shute Shield throughout the winter months or a game of the world popular Super Rugby competition, with the local Waratahs playing regular home games between February and July.
Where: Brookvale Oval and Win Stadium Wollongong and others
When: March to September
Cost: Approx $35-50 for adults depending on the match and the seat. Check ticket prices on Ticketmaster
As rugby developed in Australia, it became wildly popular among all classes of society. Still, by the 1890s, concerns over the pay and safety of working-class players lead to a split between the bottom and top ends of town. A newly reformed version of the game known as rugby league became the game of the working poor, while union became restricted to the relatively wealthy.
Today, league is far more popular than union, having evolved into a faster and more dynamic form of the old game. The great rival of AFL, League is most popular in the states of New South Wales and Queensland. Like AFL it is also played in the winter months, usually between March and October. Rugby League’s capital is undoubtedly the city of Sydney, which is home to eight of the league’s sixteen teams. Multiple top tier rugby league matches are played in Sydney every week on shown live on free-to-air television.
Apart from the NRL Grand Final, the biggest rugby league event in the country is the State of Origin. A series of three matches, the Origin is played from June to July every year between the two rugby league states New South Wales and Queensland.
Where to watch Rugby League in Sydney
This is probably one of the easiest sports to get tickets to with 8 or so games played in Sydney every weekend between March and the finals in September.
Where: Multiple venues around the city.
When: March to September
Cost: Approx $20-50 for adults depending on the match and the seat. Check ticket prices the official Rugby League website.
Soccer is a game so popular across the world that its rules barely need explaining. Called “football” by the rest of the world, soccer, of course, has eleven players, a round ball you can’t touch and a net guarded by a goalkeeper.
Yet despite its popularity in Great Britain, soccer wasn’t always popular in Australia. It took post-war migrants from the Mediterranean to properly reintroduce the sport into the country, and today the game has progressed to the level that it’s one of the widely played games in the country (if not the most-watched).
Given its size and relatively recent soccer heritage, Australia fights above its weight in the international competition, regularly qualifying for the World Cup.
Where to watch Soccer in Sydney
Soccer is a summer sport, and if you’re in the city between October and May, you should easily be able to catch a game. The domestic competition is known as the A-League in which Sydney fields two teams, Sydney FC and the Western Sydney Wanderers.
Where: Bankwest Stadium Parramatta or Netstrata Stadium Kogarah
When: October to May
Cost: $12-$25 – Tickets available on Ticketek
Netball wasn’t invented in Australia, but it has more players here than the rest of the world combined, with hundreds of thousands of registered players across the country. A limited contact game that developed out of and still closely resembles basketball, netball is played by seven players on a hard-rectangular court with the object being to put the ball through the net.
Generations of Australian girls have grown up playing the game, and it’s easily the most popular team sport amongst women in the country. Unlike many of the other sports on this list, professional netball is also dominated by women, with female leagues numbering far more players and attracting far greater audiences than their male counterparts in the sport, with players like Liz Ellis becoming household names.
Suncorp Super Netball is the country’s first-grade competition, with the local New South Wales Swifts representing Sydney.
How to watch a netball game in Sydney
Where: Ken Rosewell Arena
When: April to August – see the calendar of the draw here
How much: $10-$20
Australia’s hardly a small country and hardly a flat country, in fact, it couldn’t be more different from cycling-mad nations like the Netherlands; but that doesn’t stop millions of us hopping on our bikes for fitness, transportation and competition every day of the year.
It’s estimated that 14% of the population cycles at least once a week and it’s hard to find a child who can’t ride, typically bicycles have outsold cars for much of the last twenty years.
Cycling as a sport, like many individual-centred games, is not wildly popular in Australia, but that hasn’t stopped cyclists like Cadel Evans and Anna Meares from becoming household names and competitions like the Tour de France being played on free to air television, becoming a regular nighttime ritual for insomniacs nation-wide.
The main cycle racing event in Australia is the Tour Down Under which takes place in and around the city of Adelaide in South Australia. However, there are numerous great cycling tracks, both urban and natural, across the city of Sydney and many places to hire or borrow a bicycle.
Where to enjoy cycling in Sydney
Where: Dunc Gray Velodrome ( Home of the 2000 Sydney Olympics)
When: See Cycling Australia’s event calendar for upcoming meets.
How much: Various prices – some events are free
Tennis is a highly popular sport across Australia to both play and watch, and it’s one in which Australia has a long history of international excellence. Played on grass, clay and synthetic courts, tennis is unlike many others on this list, and individual sport, one that sees two players go head to head across the net with the aim of hitting shots that their opponent cannot return.
Played by over a million people across the country, tennis players from Rod Laver to Yvonne Goolagong to Lleyton Hewitt and now Ash Barty have become celebrities in their own right. The most prominent tennis tournament in Australia is the Australian Open; a Grand Slam played in Melbourne every January.
Where to watch Tennis in Sydney
Sydney is not without its own rival, the Sydney International, that has drawn top tier players from around the world since 1885. The Sydney International is controversially not being held in 2020, being partially replaced by the ATP Cup; still, avid tennis fans can be sure to catch a match in Sydney at the beginning of the year regardless of this dispute.
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You might also want to check out Nathan’s Guide to Drinking Beer in Oz – the two usually go hand in hand.
About the Author
Nathan Morgan-Hammer is a 25-year-old journalism student currently living in Newcastle, just north of Sydney. Between reading history, socialising with friends and exploring the great outdoors, he likes to write articles that help people better understand the world they live in.
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