The World Cup may be over, but hopefully, this spectacular summer of sport has whetted your appetite for your next travel destination. Russia was transformed by the massive event and tourists flooded in from across the world to revel in the party atmosphere that took over the country. The good news, though, is that there’s a stunning and utterly sport-mad country where spectacles like these are going on all year-round. If you’re in the mood for a sporting holiday, make Australia the spot you choose – there’s no shortage of events to take in.
The Australian Open
It’s no secret that Australia is a sport-mad nation, and if you’re in the country at the start of the year, the Australian Open should be top of your bucket list. One of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments, it will provide a rare opportunity to watch legends like Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray take to the court – and since we’re coming to the end of these incredible players’ careers, you might want to get down to Melbourne and watch them in the flesh as soon as possible. Aussie fans love to cheer on their own, as well, and with a group of talented young Australian players making waves on the world scene, now is the ideal time to enjoy this famous tournament. The Rod Laver Arena, which hosts the big games, is right by the city centre and is a rather impressive sight in itself, and walking around the smaller courts is a great way to spend an afternoon – you might even stumble upon Australia’s next big thing.
Aussie Rules Football
The good news is that Melbourne has plenty of other sports on offer if you want to get your money’s worth. Victoria might be the smallest state in the country, but it makes up for size with its diehard passion for the Australian Football League, or the AFL. The game may be a bit tricky for outsiders to understand at first – but once you’ve got an idea of the rules, it’s hard not to marvel at the incredible athleticism and stamina required for AFL players, who criss-cross a huge spherical field throughout their gruelling games. Make sure you see a game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, or ‘The G’ as locals call it – there’s no more impressive sight than seeing 100,000 fans fill this huge amphitheatre to watch some elite AFL action. Place a bet before you head to the ground – Oddschecker has a selection of the best offers from companies like Ladbrokes and Unibet – and enjoy one of the world’s most unique sports. The Grand Final to decide the season’s victor is the biggest event in Australia, with a pre-game show by a music superstar and some fast-paced on-field action to follow.
National Rugby League
The AFL might have the southern part of Australia caught on its hook, but if you find yourself in Queensland or elsewhere at the top of the country, it’s likely that the NRL will be all the rage. The league takes over the country every year, and it’s easy to see why; this is the most hardcore and skilled rugby league tournament on the planet. You can be sure that any Aussies you meet on your travels will know their stuff, too – so probably best to brush up on the rules and pick a team if you haven’t already. Melbourne Storm and the South Sydney Rabbitohs are the teams to beat right now, so get behind them if you fancy some success – but every team has a loyal fanbase, so you can be sure that whoever you watch, you’ll be singing with the supporters all night.
The Melbourne Cup
Ever wondered what the Southern Hemisphere’s answer to the Grand National is? Look no further than the Melbourne Cup, or, as it’s known in these parts, the race that stopped a nation. It’s an accurate slogan, too – this race, which takes place every December in the hot Australian summer, is played on every television set in the country. If you’re able to score tickets, it’s one of the best sporting days out in the world – get dressed in your best suit or dress and mingle with one of the most classy crowds you’ll find in sport. If you’re watching on TV, the race is still something to behold – put down a bet and cheer on your rider with 24 million Australians.
When people think of Australian sport, a lot of minds will immediately go to cricket – perhaps the game which Australia has mastered more than any other. There’s no shortage of options regarding how to get your cricket fix in the country, either. You could take in a game at the MCG, or enjoy the Big Bash League. The BBL has teams from just about all over the country and was most recently won by the Adelaide Strikers – wherever you end up in Australia, there’s a good chance that you’ll find a nearby cricket club which would welcome a few extra supporters. If international cricket is more your flavour, make sure to take in an Australian game – their ODI team may not be a vintage crop right now, but there’s always fireworks when Australia’s Test cricketers take to the field.
Many international travellers might have to get used to calling this sport ‘soccer’ when they arrive in Australia – the country’s first football love is the AFL. But this is a growing sport in Australia, and investment in the national league has seen fans flock to stadiums across the country to take in some action – so jump on the bandwagon and see some A-League games while you’re in town. The Western Sydney Wanderers play their big games in the 83,000 seater ANZ stadium, which provides a cracking atmosphere, while the Melbourne Victory and the Newcastle Jets have been blooding some young Australian talent and have exciting teams. The season runs from October to May, so it’s perfect if you’re in the country for the summer, and tickets to games can usually be bought relatively cheap.
Not many countries do sport quite as well as Australia. So when you’re not chilling on the beach or trekking through the Outback, the best way to take in the Australian way of life is by joining a group of fans and watching some live action – every city has something different to offer, and Australian sporting culture is unlike any other country’s.