Every year is a big year for sport in Australia. In fact, Australia’s culture is synonymous with sport. The wide-open spaces, warm weather and sunshine lend itself to all manner of outdoor exploits.
You can have a flutter on the fillies during Melbourne’s spring racing carnival, watch the big men fly at the AFL Grand Final, rubberneck as the formula one cars whizz by at the Grand Prix or, if it floats your boat, watch as the yachts push off at the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
We’ve put together a list of the top eight, not to be missed sporting events, so you can start planning your annual sporting calendar now.
The first grand slam tennis tournament for the year (alongside Wimbledon, the US Open and the French Open), the Australian Open is held every January at Melbourne Park. All of tennis’ big name stars battle it out for the Norman Brookes Trophy and Daphne Akhurst Trophy. There are events on and off the court, with live entertainment and concerts throughout the two week event.
Formula One Australian Grand Prix
Each year, Melbourne’s Albert Park street track is closed to regular traffic to let the formula one cars whizz on by. The high-speed 5.3 km track has 16 turns and is unlike any other formula one race track.
The Grand Prix Race day is a spectacular series of entertaining feats; a jumbo jet lumbers low across the sky, while the RAAF Roulettes whirl overhead. The day is always topped off with a live concert by a local Aussie band.
NRL State of Origin
An annual best-out-of-three series, the State of Origin is a rugby competition between New South Wales (the Blues) and Queensland (the Maroons). Thought to be Australia’s biggest sporting rivalry, the events attract a huge television audience and always sell out the stadiums where the games are played.
Historically, the two states are fairly evenly matched. There have been 99 series played, with Queensland winning 53, New South Wales taking out 44 and two drawn.
The Bledisloe Cup
Part of the Tri-Nations Tournament, New Zealand and Australia meet three times a year (usually in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) to compete for the Bledisloe Cup; one of rugby’s biggest grudge matches.
The Wallabies and the All Blacks have competed for bragging rights since 1931. Australia has taken out rugby’s trans-Tasman top award on 12 occasions, with New Zealand winning 32 times.
AFL Grand Final
Traditionally held on the last Saturday in September, the AFL grand final is the culmination of the whole 22 round AFL season. Each year, 100,000 screaming fans pack the Melbourne Cricket Ground to cheer on their favourite team.
Pre-match entertainment can be hit and miss (do i dare bring up Meat Loaf…), but the atmosphere is always electric. The whole of Melbourne stops for the day; pubs are jam packed and BBQs work overtime.
Spring Racing Carnival
The annual highlight of Melbourne’s horse racing scene, the main races are held at Flemington racecourse. A veritable delight of fashion, betting and fillies, there are four big days.
Derby Day kicks off the Spring Racing Carnival, with racegoers wearing black and white on the first Saturday of November. All of Melbourne stops for Melbourne Cup on the first Tuesday of November. There is even a public holiday throughout Victoria to mark the occasion.
Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race
Another annual sporting classic, the Sydney to Hobart yacht race kicks off on Boxing Day. Hosted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, the race is approximately 630 nautical miles in length.
Now in its 70th year, no other annual yachting race attracts as much media attention or coverage as the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.
The Ashes Cricket
Australians love cricket – The Ashes being the penultimate cricketing competition. A fierce contest between Australia and England, the Ashes are held in Australia every two years (alternating between the UK and Australia).
The two teams compete for ‘the Ashes’, a six inch high terracotta urn thought to contain the burnt ashes of a cricket bail.