Aussies love their sports. Ever since the 1800s, when Australia saw its first athletics tournament, sport has shaped the Australian national identity, being an inseparable part of it.
Are you searching for some interesting facts about Australian sports?
Let’s explore the top 10 sports in Australia and some of the most relevant stats for each sport.
Fascinating Facts about the 10 Most Popular Sports in Australia
- The 2021 AFL Grand Final broadcast broke the record with 4.11 million viewers.
- Membership in AFL clubs reached 1.1 million in 2021.
- Netball is the most popular female sport in Australia.
- From 2002-2008 children’s participation in rugby league increased by 390%.
- The Kangaroos are the most successful rugby league team in the world.
- Over 3 million people are involved in soccer in Australia.
- The position of the cricket captain is almost as important as that of the Prime Minister.
- Lauren Jackson was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2020.
- Swimming is Aussies’ most popular summer activity.
- Around 10% of Australians participate in cycling at some level.
1. A record 4.11 million people tuned in to watch the AFL Grand Final in 2021.
According to market research, the AFL is only behind cricket as the most-watched sporting event in Australia. The 2021 Grand Final was the most-viewed AFL match in AFL history, with an average of 4.11 million viewers.
2. Melbourne Cricket Ground, which hosts the AFL Grand Final, is the 11th largest sports stadium in the world with 100,024 seats.
Aussie rules is great to watch live. The crowds are enthusiastic and friendly – men and women attend games, and parents happily take their young children to watch. Melbourne boasts a 100,000 seat stadium and a 55,000 seat stadium within walking distance of the city centre, which only adds to the appeal. Not to mention that the game has been around for 150 years and is positively embedded in Australian sporting culture. To sum it up, watching AFL live makes for a fantastic spectator experience.
3. The AFL set up a new club membership record in 2021, with over 1.1 million members.
[Australian Football League]
The Australian Football League currently has 18 teams. In 2021, memberships with the AFL clubs climbed to more than 1.1 million, setting up a new club membership record. West Coast and Richmond signed over 100,000 members, with ten other clubs also breaking the membership records.
4. Rugby League was ahead of AFL in viewership ratings in 2010.
[Sunday Morning Herald]
In 2010, Rugby League eclipsed even AFL as the most-watched sport on Australian television, garnering 120 million viewers.
5. The number of children participating in the sport has grown by 390% in 6 years.
Starting as a rebel football competition in defiance to the Rugby Union, Rugby league evolved into one of the most popular sports in Australia with the passionate support of its fans. As of 2014, half a million Australians make up a total player base. In 2008, 269.377 children played rugby league competitively in schools, a 390% increase from 2002. This makes soccer the fastest growing sport in Australia.
6. Since the first Rugby League World Cup in 1954, Australia has consistently finished in the top three.
[International Rugby League]
The Australian national rugby league team takes the world’s second spot based on their game results, behind New Zealand. The Kangaroos are the most successful in the history of the Rugby League World Cup, playing in every final but one and winning 11 out of 15 World Cups. James Tedesco, Cameron Muster and Jack Wighton are some of the top players at present.
7. Nearly one million Australians play soccer.
[Sunday Morning Herald]
A total of 970,728 Australians participated in the sport, according to FIFA’s Big Count in 2006. This number eclipses other popular sports in the Land Down Under, such as cricket, Aussie rules, rugby league, and rugby union. If we include coaches and referees, along with the fans of the sport, the involvement is about 3.1 million.
8. Australia has played in 3 Soccer World Cups since 2006.
Soccer has had a long history in Australia, but the country has struggled to make it on the world stage. All that changed in 2006, when John Aloisi led the team to victory in the qualifications, securing his team a spot at the 2006 FIFA World Cup. The Socceroos have since appeared in three world cups, with Jamie Maclaren and Connor Metcalfe being some of the sport’s shining stars currently.
9. With over 2 million viewers, the Australian A-league Women’s match against Sweden was the most viewed sporting event in tv history.
A-League Women is rising in popularity, with some predicting it will overtake the A-League within five years. The Matildas smashed tv ratings with 2.32 million viewers tuning in for their match against Sweden at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, breaking the record for the most-watched women’s sporting team in television history.
10. The position of Australian Test cricket Captain is second most important next to that of the Prime Minister.
Cricket is regarded as the national summer sport with a 210-year old history. It plays an important role in Australia’s national identity and is widely played across the country, with 1,558,821 registered players. This makes cricket the biggest sport in Australia in terms of participation. To be named the national cricket captain is deemed almost as important as becoming the Prime Minister.
11. The Australian men’s cricket team is the best in the world.
The Australian national team is one of the biggest teams in international cricket. Australia is the most successful team with seven World Cup final appearances and winning a record five times: in 1987, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2015, a feat no other team has accomplished. Naturally, cricket matches, both national and international, draw in huge audiences, with 93.6% of Aussies following at least some cricket on TV.
12. Sir Don Bradman has a Test batting average of 99.94.
Sir Don Bradman is widely considered to be the best cricketer that Australia has ever produced. His Test batting average of 99.94 is regarded as the greatest achievement by any sportsman in any major sport, making “The Don” one of the most famous Australian sports players.
13. One in three Australians are interested in basketball.
According to research, one in three persons has an interest in playing basketball. It is played by approximately one million adults and children across the country, making basketball the second most popular team sport in Australia in terms of participation.
14. Lauren Jackson is Australia’s most successful female basketball player.
The women’s national basketball team, nicknamed the Opals, has successfully won 9 medals at the Olympics and world championships. Lauren Jackson, who led Australia to four Olympic medals and guided the team to gold at the 2006 FIBA World Championship, was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2020.
15. Swimming competitions were held at a national level in 1894.
Given Australia’s climate as well as beautiful beaches, swimming is, unsurprisingly, the most popular summer activity in the country, with 6 million people of all ages engaging in it. While the country enjoys swimming as a hobby, the Australian Swim Team, the Dolphins, represent Australia internationally. They have been successful at major international championships and are historical rivals with the US Swimming Team.
16. There are 1,100 affiliated swimming clubs in Australia.
Swimming Australia is the highest body that governs competitive swimming. Swimmers, coaches, officials and volunteers together make up around 100,000 registered members nationally in 1,100 clubs. The precursor to the Swimming Australia was founded in 1909, with James Taylor as the foundation president, although the first national swimming championship was held in 1894.
17. Ian Thorpe was named Australian Swimmer of the Year five consecutive times.
Ian Thorpe is one of Australia’s most famous swimmers. Thorpe was the most successful athlete at the 2000 Olympics in his hometown of Sydney, taking five medals. Every year, from 1999-2003, he was named Australian Swimmer of the Year.
18. Around 10% of Australians participate in cycling at some level.
According to Australian sport participation statistics, more than 2.3 million Australians cycle, making cycling the fifth most popular outdoor activity amongst adults.
19. Cadel Evans is one of the three non-Europeans to win the Tour de France.
The four-time Olympian became the first Australian to win the Tour De France in 2011. Another famous Australian cyclist is Anna Meares, who won her second gold medal at the London Olympics in 2012.
20. One tennis player has nine Australian Open men’s singles titles.
Australia is home to the Australian Open, one of the four Grand Slam tennis events. Novak Djokovic holds the record for the most Grand Slam singles titles, winning nine, while Australia’s Margaret Court is the all-time record holder in women’s singles with 11 wins.
21. Rod Laver holds the record for winning the Grand Slam twice.
Australian tennis player Rod Laver is the only person ever to have won the Grand Slam twice, in 1962 and 1969.
22. Netball was previously known as “women’s basketball”.
The sport was officially named “netball” in 1970, having previously been called “women’s basketball”.
23. The Diamonds, the Australian national netball team, dominate the World Netball Rankings.
The Diamonds have rarely lost the champion title, winning 11 out of 15 World Cups.
24. More than 4% of Australians play netball.
Netball is the most popular women’s sport in Australia, with more than 1.2 million players nationwide (including adult men and children).
25. The first rugby union club was founded in 1863.
The first rugby union club in Australia was established in 1863 in Sydney. However, the first match was not played until 1869. Today, the sport counts almost 87,000 registered players.
26. The Australian national rugby union team has consistently been in the top 10 in the world.
[World Rugby] [Sunday Morning Herald]
The Wallabies have competed in all nine Rugby World Cups, getting to the finals four times and winning twice. As of October 2021, the Australian team is in third place on the World Rugby Ranking list. The lowest ranking they have achieved is seventh. James Slipper, Folau Fainga’a and Taniela Tupou are some of the players who guided the team to the No. 3 world ranking.
Now that you have learned the 10 most popular sports in Australia make sure to use these stats to impress your friends! Since sport participation in Australia is at an all-time high, it pays off to educate yourself on some amazing Australian sports facts and famous Australian sports stars.