What would be Australia's official national sport?
What would be Australia's official national sport?
Australia has neither a de jure (written into law) nor a de facto (commonly assumed but not written
into law) official national sport. For a nation steeped in sporting tradition there is many sports in
contention to take the mantle, but which sports have made the biggest contribution to Australian
culture and identifies with Australian values and thus might be the most suitable candidate to be our
official national sport? Matt Hogan investigates.
Most countries that choose a de jure national sport do so to honour the tradition and heritage of the
nation. Quite often they are sports that are unique to or were at least were invented in the country
and thus are part of the nation's story. They are not always the most popular nor the most
participated in sports, for instance, in Argentina the de jure sport is pato, Mexico's is charreria and
Brazil's is capoeira.
Surf lifesaving's unique contribution to Australia makes it a contender for the national sport. Photo:
Dan Townsend / flickr / CC BY-NC
One such sport that is giving a lot back to the Australian community is surf lifesaving, a competitive
surf sport that officially began in 1907 in Bondi. The sport evolved from the training activities of
lifesavers and is seen as a unique Australian version of the Ironman events. Events in surf lifesaving
include ocean swimming, beach running and paddle boarding. There are also other events like the
surf boat races and mock rescues.
Bondi Surf Lifesaving spokesperson Maite Chusan says it would be "huge" for the sport to be
"The fact it's a volunteer organisation that provides an invaluable service to society and everyone
can feel safe at patrolled beaches because of the work that the lifeguards put in ... I actually don't
know why it isn't already Australia's national sport."
Surf lifesaving currently teaches beach awareness to school children in coastal communities and
runs programs to bring children from rural communities to the beach and train them in beach
protocols and basic surf skills.
In Canada, both a summer sport and winter sport are recognised as national sports - lacrosse and ice
hockey respectively - because it is seen as fair to recognise sports from the distinctively different
seasons. It is possible that Australia could recognise both a coastal and a rural sport to represent
different ways of life in the same land.
Campdrafting is a unique Australian rodeo-style sport involving a horse and rider working cattle.
The drover cuts out one beast from a heard of cattle and controls it around a type of obstacle course.
This sport was developed in Queensland among the stockmen and drovers but the first official event
was held in Tenterfield in 1885.
Campdraft is another uniquely Australian sport, and one that pays homage to our agricultural roots.
Photo: Ian Sanderson / flickr / CC BY-NC-ND
Australia holds its colonial heritage with much prestige and to honour Australia's own outback sport
could be fitting. It would draw attention and pride to rural Australia and it might encourage the city
slickers to learn more about the history and importance of Australia's agricultural roots.
Countries that have de facto national sports
such as the US (baseball), India (field
hockey), Japan (Sumo) and England
(cricket) have bestowed the title through
media and the natural course of custom in
their respective countries.
Australian rules football developed in the
late 1850s in Victoria. As the name
suggests, it is a game unique to our shores
and is immensely popular in most parts of
our beloved land. According to the
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Aussie rules
is more than twice as popular in
participation rates for men than any other
football code. It also is also the most
attended and highest revenue-earning sport. It qualifies as our nomination for a de facto national
sport over the other football codes for these reasons.
Despite its popularity, it would be controversial to pick one of the football codes out for special
consideration over the others and might possibly cause friction among the public and the different
codes. Aussie rules has always been popular in the southern and western states but it has only
recently infiltrated the hearts of New South Welshmen and Queenslanders who prefer other football
Cricket has been played in Australia for over two hundred years. The game was developed in
England and was played between the colonies as early as 1803, so its no surprise that cricket has
blossomed to be our premier summer sport. The first Australian tour to England was an all-
Indigenous team in 1868. In 1882, a famous victory by Australia began one of the most famous
sporting rivalries between Australia and England, the Ashes.
Cricket has also spawned some of Australia's greatest sporting heroes including Don Bradman,
Shane Warne and Dennis Lillee. Cricket mounts a strong case, but it is already the de facto national
sport of England and the West Indies.
There are many more sports in contention including swimming, cycling and surfing (to name a few)
and perhaps that's the problem, according to government spokesman Andrew Blow. "We are such a
multicultural and diverse country, the idea that any one sport could accurately represent all
Australians is a tough call."
However Mr Blow was unsure of the government's official stance and whether it would consider the
idea of discussing the topic.