Australia has and always will be a sports mad country, with the giant landmass offering every imaginable climate and landscape required for any sport ever invented.
There are of course some sports which are more entrenched in the Aussie mindset and culture than others, and these are well known around the globe: Aussie Rules, cricket, rugby union and rugby league. But which are the sports that might not be quite so well known, and which are beginning to make serious inroads on the Australian sporting scene? Here are some of the most up and coming sporting activities in Australia today.
Horse racing and the well-connected sports betting markets that come with it have boomed in recent years, as Aussies get a taste for top notch thoroughbred racing
Going to watch the long noses has always been an Australian pastime, passed down by the European migrants who founded the country. However, it is only in recent times that horse racing has become a major attraction in cities like Melbourne and Sydney.
The appeal of horse racing to Aussies is clear with crowds flocking to sun drenched racecourses, all of which put on superb hospitality offerings. Those experiences have been given an extra edge thanks to the huge injection of prize money that has flooded the sport in the last few years. This is most evident in the country’s richest race, The Everest, where jockeys, steeds, trainers and owners all vie for the lion’s share of a $14m prize pot. Such high stakes races have also whet the appetites of local sports bettors who are enjoying the fact that online sports betting is legal at these sites in Australia. This allows them to bet easily from their phones whilst trackside or elsewhere.
The Everest is not the only new kid on the block when it comes to cash-rich races, because the wonderfully named Golden Eagle, which runs at the Rosehill Racecourse in Sydney, boasts an impressive $7.5m prize fund. The brakes were put on such races by the pandemic, but they can be expected to return with a vengeance in 2022 and beyond. Of course, there are also still the classic Aussie races to enjoy too, like the Melbourne Cup.
The sky is the limit for basketball in Australia with more people than ever before playing the game and the women’s game growing in popularity and visibility all the time
A 2019 survey carried out by AusPlay showed that a staggering 3.5% of the country’s total population had at some point in their life played basketball in one form or another. That may not sound like much, but for a sport that has only recently begun to seep into the mainstream that’s an impressive number.
The rise in basketball participation has been driven by two factors. The first of these is the Ben Simmons effect, with the Aussie NBA star having won over the hearts of sports fans who previously might never have watched or bet on an NBA game.
The second factor is the huge increase in the number women getting into the game. The rise of the WNBA in the States has undoubtedly had a similar effect to the one engendered by Simmons, showing women the world over that making a career of being a professional baller is a possibility. There are also some Aussie initiatives and competitions that have driven additional interest. These include things like the WNBL (Women’s National Basketball League) and the Australian national women’s team, who at the time of writing are ranked 3rd in the FIBA world rankings and gave a more than credible performance at the 2020 Olympics.
The same survey that showed basketball breaking into the top 10 of the most played sports Down Under also showed an interesting sub-section of sports sneak into the top 20, that being Martial Arts. Of course, this is a broad term that can cover a whole mix of different combat sports such as boxing, MMA, Judo, and Karate. It is however boxing and MMA which can probably be credited with this sudden rise in participation.
The country’s boxing stars have upped their games significantly in recent years, having pulled off some of the most impressive victories ever achieved by Aussie fighters. This culminated in George Kambosos Jr. winning the Lightweight WBA, WBO, and IBF world titles against the formidable Teófimo López. The UFC has also become a huge force in Australia with trailblazers like Jamie Mullarkey showing the way for future generations.