Australian national sports team nicknames

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In Australia, the national representative team of many sports has a nickname, used informally when referring to the team in the media or in conversation. These nicknames are typically derived from well-known symbols of Australia. Often the nickname is combined with that of a commercial sponsor, such as the "Qantas Wallabies" or the "Telstra Dolphins". Some names are a portmanteau word with second element -roo, from kangaroo; such as "Olyroos" for the Olympic association football team.


The oldest nicknames are Kangaroos and Wallabies for the rugby league football and rugby union teams. The other names are more recent, mostly invented to help publicise sports not traditionally popular in Australia.[1] Some journalists have criticised the practice as embarrassing,[2] gimmicky, or PR-driven.[3]

The name "Wallabies" was chosen by the 1908 rugby union side, making its first tour of the Northern Hemisphere.[4] British newspapers had already nicknamed the 1905 New Zealand touring team the "All Blacks" from their kit colour;[5] the 1906 South African tourists had adopted "Springboks".[6] "Rabbits" was first suggested for Australia, but rejected since rabbits there are notorious as pests.[4] Until the 1980s, only touring sides were "Wallabies"; players on the eight tours up to 1984 were "the First Wallabies" up to "the Eighth Wallabies".[4]

The rugby league tour side arrived in Britain later in 1908 with a live kangaroo as mascot and were nicknamed "Kangaroos".[7][8] "Kangaroos" originally referred only to teams on "Kangaroo Tours" to Britain and France.[8][9][10] In 1994 the Australian Rugby League extended the nickname to all internationals for sponsorship reasons, drawing criticism for the break with tradition.[8][9][10] The first such game was a 58–0 win over France at Parramatta Stadium on 6 July 1994.[10][11]

Among the longer-established sports, the test cricket and Davis Cup tennis teams have no common nickname. Harry Beitzel's 1967 Australian Football World Tour team was unofficially nicknamed the Galahs from their flashy uniform. Though this side was a precursor of subsequent Australian international rules football teams, the nickname has not been retained.

Australian Tennis magazine invited reader to suggest a nickname for the Davis Cup team in 1996.[12] The Australia Fed Cup team has been called the Cockatoos, first suggested by player Casey Dellacqua in a press conference at the April 2012 match against Germany. The name has been embraced by teammates and used on the website of governing body Tennis Australia.[13][14]

As part of a 1998 strategic business plan, Cricket Australia surveyed "stakeholders" in 1998 about a possible nickname, to enhance marketing opportunities.[15] State cricket teams in the Sheffield Shield had benefited from adopting nicknames in the 1990s.[15] 69% opposed a national nickname, partly from a sense of decorum[16] and partly because the best names were already taken by other teams.[16][17]

Athletics Australia held a competition for a nickname for its squad for the 2001 World Athletics Championships.[18] The winning entry was "the Diggers", from the nickname for ANZAC soldiers.[18] This was quickly abandoned[19] after criticism from the Returned and Services League of Australia and others that this was an inappropriate use of the term.[18] The team previously had a little-used[18] nickname, "the Blazers".[20]

In December 2004, the Australian Soccer Association renamed itself Football Federation Australia (FFA) and announced an effort to rebrand association football as "football" rather than "soccer" in Australia.[21] The national team had been nicknamed "the Socceroos" by journalist Tony Horstead on a 1967 tour to South Vietnam.[22] FFA chairman Frank Lowy commented "It has been commonly used and is a much loved name but we may see it fade out as evolution takes place", and suggested few national football teams had nicknames.[21] By 2016, the FFA announcement of Caltex as sponsors was titled "Caltex Australia with the Socceroos all the way".[23]


Sport Team (link to team / event) Nickname (link for origin) Name sponsor
Rugby union Men's test Wallabies[4] Qantas[4]
Women's Wallaroos[24] Paper to Paper[25]
Under-21 side Junior Wallabies
Men's Sevens Thunderbolts
Women's Sevens Pearls
Rugby league football Men's test Kangaroos[26][27] Holden[28] (Previously VB[29][30])
Women's Jillaroos[31][32] Harvey Norman[33]
Under-20 side Junior Kangaroos Holden[28]
Wheelchair rugby Paralympic Steelers (official[34]) Wheelabies (unofficial[35][36])
Soccer [37] Men's Socceroos Caltex[38]
Women's (incl. Olympic) Matildas (from Waltzing Matilda) Westfield
Olympic men's Olyroos
Under-20 (men) Young Socceroos
Under-20 (women) Young Matildas Westfield
Under-17 (men) Joeys
Under-17 (women) Young Matildas U17s Westfield
World Medical Football Championships Docceroos[39]
Beach Handball Australian Women's National Team Aussie Beach Gliders
Futsal[40] National team Futsalroos
Goalball Australian women's national team Aussie Belles[41]
Gridiron (American football) National team Australian Outback – formerly Australian Cyclones (1999),[42] Australian Bushrangers (1997)[43]
Netball National team Diamonds[44][45] Australia and New Zealand Banking Group
Men's Sonix
Mixed Sonix
Under 23 (men's) Sparx
Athletics Australian Athletics Team Australian Flame
Cricket National team Baggy Greens (officially for the caps, metonymically for the players) Commonwealth Bank
Women's Southern Stars[46] Commonwealth Bank
Swimming Australian Swim Team (Olympic, Paralympic, and World Championships) Dolphins (dropped 2009, revived 2015)[47][48]
Softball Men's Aussie Steelers[49]
Women's (Olympic / World's) Aussie Spirit[50]
Women's U-19 Aussie Pride[51]
Water polo Men's Sharks[52]
Women's Stingers
Basketball[53] Men's Boomers Airbnb
Women's Opals Jayco
Under-21 (men) Crocs[54]
Under-21 (women) Sapphires
Under-19 (men) Emus
Under-19 (women) Gems
Intellectual disability (men) Boomerangs
Intellectual disability (women) Pearls
Deaf (men) Goannas
Men's wheelchair Rollers
U-23 wheelchair (men) Spinners
Women's wheelchair Gliders
Cycling World Championships/World Cup Cyclones[55] Toshiba
Field hockey Men's[56][57] Kookaburras
Women's[56][57] Hockeyroos None for 2007 (ANZ for 2004 Olympics)[58]
Under-21 (men)[57] Burras
Under-21 (women)[57] Jillaroos
Ice hockey Men's Mighty Roos[59] (after The Mighty Ducks)
Women's Mighty Jills
Para Hockey IceROOS
Lacrosse Men's Sharks [60]
Women's Lacrosseroos[citation needed]
Men's U23s Aussie Roos [61]
Women's U23s Team Koala [61]
Men's U19s Crocodiles[62]
Women's U19s Stars[citation needed] (after the Southern Cross)
Women's U17s Team Koala
Box lacrosse Men's Boxaroos[63]
Bowls Men's Jackaroos – a pun on jack, the target ball[64]
Women's Sapphires[65]
Orienteering National team Boomerangs[66]
Team handball Men's Crocodiles[67]
Women's Redbacks[67][68]
Ultimate frisbee[69] Open Dingos
Women's Firetails
Mixed Barramundis
Women Masters Taipans
Open Masters Wombats
Under-23s Open Goannas[70]
Under-23s Women Stingrays[70]
Under-19s Open Thunder
Under-19s Women Southern Terra
Tennis Fed Cup Cockatoos[14]
Roller derby Men Wizards of AUS[71]
Universiade National team Australian Uniroos[72]
Baseball Men's Southern Thunder[73]
Women's Emeralds[74]
Volleyball Men's and Women's Volleyroos.[75] 1988 - 1992 The Kookaburras. Under the management of the Australian Gridiron Football League.
Fistball Men's Wombats[76]
Women's Possums
Men's Masters Dugongs
Quidditch National team Drop bears

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ Hedge, Mike (8 February 2001). "Sporting nicknames reach new low with Diggers". AAP.
  3. ^ McFarlane, Glenn; Damian Barrett (5 August 2001). "Stop the nickname nonsense". Sunday Herald Sun. p. 80.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Who are the Qantas Wallabies?". Australian Rugby Union. Archived from the original on 21 February 2009. Retrieved 28 March 2009.
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  9. ^ a b Masters, Roy (27 September 1994). "Critics question Hill selection". Sydney Morning Herald. p. 64.
  10. ^ a b c Heads, Ian (14 July 1994). "Hectic days that mirror changing face of the game". Sydney Morning Herald. p. 49.
  11. ^ Mascord, Steve (7 July 1994). "Meninga's farewell no fun for France". Sydney Morning Herald. p. 50.
  12. ^ Prentice, Tim (13 September 1996). "Aussie Aces serve it up for wider Davis Cup recognition". The Daily Telegraph. p. 100.
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  16. ^ a b Craddock, Robert (6 August 1998). "Test cricket men market talent alone". The Advertiser.
  17. ^ "There's one in every crowd..." AAFLA Sportsletter. Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles. October 2003. Archived from the original on 1 October 2008. Retrieved 23 November 2007.
  18. ^ a b c d Ede, Charisse; Darren Walton (4 August 2001). "Digger nickname could be buried". The Advertiser. p. 2.
  19. ^ "Aths: AA digs itself out of a hole over nickname". AAP. 4 August 2001.
  20. ^ "Olympic Review: The nickname game". The San Diego Union-Tribune. 17 September 2000. p. Special, p.2. The Aussie track team is the Blazers.
  21. ^ a b "Soccer to become football in Australia". Associated Press. 16 December 2004.
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  31. ^ ARL (2008). "Jillaroos gunning for a spot in World Cup final". Archived from the original on 16 August 2010. Retrieved 16 August 2010.
  32. ^ "Australian Women's Rugby League – the online home of the Jillaroos". Archived from the original on 18 April 2012. Retrieved 18 January 2008.
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  34. ^ Australian Athletes with a Disability (October–November 2007). "Australian Athletes with a Disability Newsletter" (Press release). Archived from the original on 26 December 2007. Retrieved 22 November 2007. The Steelers, Australia's National Wheelchair Rugby team, recently competed in the cross Tasman Chris Handy Cup challenge
  35. ^ AAP Sports News (15 September 2004). "Wheelabies challenged by disability rating change". Retrieved 22 November 2007. The Australian wheelchair rugby team's bid for gold in Athens has suffered a major blow [...]
  36. ^ Overington, Caroline (30 October 2000). "Paralympics 2000: Hero Hucks not enough". The Age. Australia (which calls itself the Steelers but for whom the popular name is the Wheelabies)
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  39. ^ "Docceroos". Australian Medical Association. Retrieved 21 August 2017.
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  41. ^ "Goalball Australia". Blind Sports Australia. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  42. ^ "Astros & the Outback". Astros Gridiron Football Club. Retrieved 21 January 2008.
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  46. ^ "Southern Stars". Women's Cricket in Australia. Cricket Australia. Archived from the original on 24 July 2002. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  47. ^ Newman, Beth (16 March 2015). "Swimming Australia brings back Dolphins". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  48. ^ "TELSTRA AUSTRALIAN DOLPHINS SQUADS" (PDF). Swimming Australia. 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 September 2007. Retrieved 23 November 2007.
  49. ^ "Australian Open Men's team". Softball Australia. 2008. Archived from the original on 19 July 2008. Retrieved 20 August 2008.
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  64. ^ "Jackaroos is a winner". Bowls Australia. August 2004. As a result, the Australian men's bowls team has a new nickname – the Jackaroos. [...] The jackaroo is symbolic of the Australian outback. And the first part of the word – jack – is the most common name for the small white ball that is the prime focus and target in a game of bowls.
  65. ^ "The shining Sapphires". Bowls Australia. 2004. Archived from the original on 30 August 2007. Retrieved 23 November 2007. After much deliberation the new nickname for the Australian women's bowls team is the Sapphires.
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