Sport in Victoria

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The state of Victoria, Australia, has a strong sporting culture and includes many popular sports.

The most popular sports played in the state are basketball, Australian rules football, cricket, shooting, soccer, and netball. Horse Racing joins that list as the most popular spectator sports.

Team Sports[edit]

Australian rules football[edit]

Australian rules football has a long history in Victoria, shown in this nineteenth-century junior football team from Geelong

In terms of both attendance and media coverage, Australian rules football is the most popular sport in the state. The participation rate of 4% is the third highest in the country with 223,999 players counted in 2004. Australian rules football originated in Melbourne in 1858. Ten of the eighteen Australian Football League clubs are based in Victoria, and the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is held by many to be the spiritual home of the game. Victoria hosted the 2002, 2005 and 2008 Australian Football International Cup competitions.


Basketball has the highest participation rate in the state.[1][2][3] Melbourne United (previously Melbourne Tigers) is Victoria's sole representative in the National Basketball League (Australia), following the withdrawal of the South Dragons. They have won the championship 4 times, in 1993, 1997, 2005-2006 and 2007-2008. They currently play at State Netball and Hockey Centre affectionately known as "the cage". It is experiencing a boom participation rate and has more players in the state than any other sport.[4][5][6] Former premier, John Brumby has called for a second Melbourne team to be added to the league.[7]


Cricket at the MCG

Cricket is also popular in Victoria. The governing body for the sport is Cricket Victoria which administers the 1,182 cricket clubs and 112,000 registered cricketers in Victoria, and 62,774 children involved in school-based competition. The Victorian Bushrangers are the men's state team which competes in the KFC T20 Big Bash, the Sheffield Shield and the Ford Ranger Cup. Following an extended period of low attendances at Bushrangers home games, the 2009/10 season saw a string of record crowds for T20 Big Bash games at the MCG. Whilst attendances for international cricket games in Victoria have dropped in the past season, crowds for Sheffield Shield and Ford Ranger Cup matches are steadily growing. The Victorian Spirit are the women's state team which competes in the Women's National Cricket League.


Soccer in Victoria is governed by the Football Federation Victoria. It is particularly popular among migrant communities and has one of the highest sporting participation level in the state (after basketball). Melbourne Victory FC and Melbourne City FC[8] (known until June 2014 as Melbourne Heart) are the state's A-League teams.

Rugby league[edit]

The predominantly Australian rules football-dominated state of Victoria didn't play host to much rugby league football, which was traditionally a New South Wales and Queensland-based game during the 20th century. Some representative games were played in Melbourne to gauge public interest in the sport in the early 1990s and the crowds were encouraging.

Travel back a few years and you find that, in rugby league circles, Melbourne was viewed as a great, succulent peach ready for picking. Almost 90,000 people had turned up to the MCG in 1994 to watch NSW play Queensland in a State of Origin match. In a period where the robust sport was focused on expansion, Melbourne loomed as the obvious next frontier. Then the code imploded.

— The Sunday Age, 1999[9]

When the newly formed National Rugby League re-emerged in 1998, Melbourne Storm was part of the lineup of clubs. They have since become one of the most successful teams in the League and gained a significant following in their home state.[10]

Rugby league participation (0% in 2005 according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics) has grown significantly since 2006. Melbourne's television audience for the 2006 NRL Grand Final was higher than Sydney's.[11] There are 13 amateur clubs in the entire state according to the Victorian Rugby League[12] and development officers and professional teams have visited schools.

Melbourne hosted a match between Australia and England during the 2008 Rugby League World Cup, as well as the 2010 ANZAC Test, which attracted a capacity crowd at AAMI Park. Melbourne hosted the Australia v England match in the 2010 Four Nations Series.[citation needed]


[citation needed]

Motor racing has its Australian roots in Melbourne. One of the earlier motor races was held on a horse racing venue in Melbourne, but organised motor racing as we know it today began with the first running of the Australian Grand Prix, held on a rectangular dirt road course on the streets of Phillip Island in 1928. The Grand Prix wandered across the country in subsequent decades but today is held as part of the Formula One World Drivers Championship on the streets of inner Melbourne around Albert Park Lake. A modern Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit hosts the Australian motorcycle Grand Prix. The state has more motor racing circuits than any other as well as providing the home base for more than half of the teams contesting the premier domestic motor racing series, V8 Supercar. Even New South Wales' signature motor race, the Bathurst 1000, has its roots in Victoria, having been first held as a 500-mile race at Phillip Island.


Netball is recognised as the largest female participation sport in Australia. In Victoria there are in excess of 105,000 registered participants, which does not include the tens of thousands of school children that participate in school netball programs annually.

Approximately 240 associations/groups affiliate with Netball Victoria on an annual basis. Affiliation provides access to netball events, programs and services as well as a pathway to State, National and International representation. Associations are geographically grouped into one of the 20 Regions, and then Regions are grouped into one of six Zones. 96% of the Netball Victoria membership is female. 55% of the membership resides in regional Victoria with the remaining 45% in the metropolitan suburbs in and around Melbourne. 62% of the Netball Victoria membership is aged seventeen (17) and under, with the majority of the remaining participants aged between eighteen and fifty. Victoria has a team in the ANZ Championship, the Melbourne Vixens.

Rugby union[edit]

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2007), Victoria has very low rugby participation (less than 1%), dominated by amateur competition run by the Victorian Rugby Union, and participation in many private schools.[13] However, international rugby matches attract large attendances,[citation needed] (e.g. 2003 Rugby World Cup, and sevens at the 2006 Commonwealth Games).

The Melbourne Rebels represent Victoria in the professional Super Rugby competition. Their formation was long-awaited in the state, the Victorian Rugby Union having bid twice previously for a licence, the first time in 1995, losing to the ACT Brumbies, and the second time in 2005, losing to the Western Force. Their bid for the 15th licence was successful in 2010.

Open Water Swimming[edit]

Open water swimming is a popular sport throughout Victoria. There is an ever growing number of races right around Port Phillip Bay, Western Port Bay and Victoria's Ocean Coast. There are even a small number of races held in Rivers and Lakes.

The open water swim season in Victoria runs from early December to Mid-March of the following year. Several swims occur on Australia Day which also marks the "middle" of the season. The largest open water swim in Victoria (and As of 2009, the largest in the world) is the Lorne Pier to Pub. It attracts up to 4000 participants each year.

Some other well known swims include;

The standard distance of the majority of the swims on the open water swim calendar is between 1 km and 2 km with the most common distance used being 1.2 km. Other swims however, cover much longer distances, including the Bloody Big Swim which covers 11.2 km.

Many famous swimmers are known to have participated in these swims including Olympic Gold medalists Kieren Perkins and Michael Klim. It is also a popular hobby of many other famous people including many AFL footballers, Australian cricketers including Simon O'Donnell and politicians including former Premiers of Victoria Steve Bracks and Ted Baillieu.

Special events[edit]

Portrayal of Phar Lap winning the 1930 Melbourne Cup, from the 1983 movie "Phar Lap"

Annually, Melbourne hosts the Australian Open tennis tournament, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments; the famous Melbourne Cup horse race; the 'Boxing Day' cricket test match held each year from 26–30 December at the Melbourne Cricket Ground; and the Australian Masters golf tournament. The Wallabies, Australia's national rugby union team, usually also play at least one Test annually in Melbourne.

Rivalling the Open early in the year, the Formula One World Drivers' Championship visits the Albert Park street circuit to contest the Australian Grand Prix (which was originally hosted by Adelaide, South Australia). Also Phillip Island hosts the Australian motorcycle Grand Prix for MotoGP bikes as well as a round of the World Superbike Championship, and Stawell is the home of Australia's most prestigious foot race, the Stawell Gift.

The MCG was the site of the first ever cricket test match between Australia and England in 1877, and has been the main stadium for the 1956 Summer Olympics and 2006 Commonwealth Games.

As well as Olympic and Commonwealth Games, Melbourne has hosted numerous sporting events which rotate host cities. Melbourne co-hosted the 2003 Rugby World Cup, including many pool matches as well as a quarter final – all of which were played at the Telstra Dome; hosted the 1975, 1979, 2003, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2015 events of the basketball FIBA Oceania Championship; hosted the 2002 World Masters Games; the first city outside the United States to host the World Police and Fire Games in 1995, and the Presidents Cup golf tournament in 1999; and was the first city in the Southern Hemisphere to host the World Cup Polo Championship in 2001. The city has hosted FIFA World Cup qualifiers in both 1997 2001 and 2009

Major Sports Venues[edit]


Venue Capacity Main Sports
Flemington Racecourse 110,000 Horse racing
Albert Park 100,000+ Formula One
Melbourne Cricket Ground 100,024 Australian rules football, Cricket, Association football
Etihad Stadium 56,347 Australian rules football, Cricket, Association football, Rugby league
Caulfield Racecourse 50,000 Horse racing
Sandown Racecourse 50,000 Horse racing / Motorsport
Calder Park Raceway 44,000 Motorsport
Moonee Valley Racecourse 40,000 Horse racing
AAMI Park 30,050 Association football, Rugby league, rugby union
Ikon Park 22,000 Australian rules football
Knights Stadium 15,000 Association football
Victoria Park 15,000 Australian rules football
Whitten Oval 12,000 Australian rules football
Rod Laver Arena 14,820 Tennis
Lakeside Stadium 12,000 Association football, athletics, gridiron
Olympic Village 12,000 Association football
Hisense Arena 10,500 Tennis, Netball, Cycling, Gymnastics and Basketball
Epping Stadium 10,000 Association football
Green Gully Reserve 10,000 Association football
Junction Oval 10,000 Cricket
Kooyong Stadium 8,500 Tennis
Margaret Court Arena 7,500 Tennis, netball, basketball
Melbourne Ballpark 5,000 Baseball
State Netball and Hockey Centre 3,500 (1,000 for Hockey) Netball, hockey, basketball
State Basketball Centre 3,200 Basketball
Dandenong Stadium 2,500 Basketball
Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre 2,000 Swimming
O'Brien Group Arena 1,500 Ice Hockey
Darebin Velodrome 1,250 Cycling

Outside Melbourne[edit]

Venue Capacity Main Sports
Kardinia Park 33,500 Australian rules football
Eureka Stadium 11,000 Australian rules football
Bendigo Stadium 2,000 Basketball
Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit 90,000 Motorcycle racing, touring car racing
Winton Motor Raceway 30,000 Motorsport

Current professional bodies in national competitions[edit]


Club League Venue Established Premierships
Carlton Football Club Australian Football League Etihad Stadium 1864 16
Charlie Schwerkolt Racing International V8 Supercars Championship Winton Motor Raceway 2013 0
Collingwood Football Club Australian Football League Melbourne Cricket Ground 1892 15
Essendon Football Club Australian Football League Etihad Stadium 1871 16
Prodrive Racing Australia International V8 Supercars Championship Winton Motor Raceway 1989 2
Hawthorn Football Club Australian Football League Melbourne Cricket Ground 1902 13
Holden Racing Team International V8 Supercars Championship Winton Motor Raceway 1988 6
Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport International V8 Supercars Championship Winton Motor Raceway 2010 0
Melbourne Aces Australian Baseball League Melbourne Ballpark 2010 0
Melbourne Football Club Australian Football League Melbourne Cricket Ground 1858 12
Melbourne City FC A-League AAMI Park 2009 0
Melbourne Rebels Super Rugby AAMI Park 2010 0
Melbourne Renegades KFC Twenty20 Big Bash League Docklands Stadium 2011 0
Melbourne Stars KFC Twenty20 Big Bash League Melbourne Cricket Ground 2011 0
Melbourne Storm National Rugby League AAMI Park 1998 3
Melbourne United National Basketball League Hisense Arena, Margaret Court Arena, State Netball and Hockey Centre 1931 5
Melbourne Victory A-League AAMI Park, Etihad Stadium 2004 4
Melbourne Vixens ANZ Championship State Netball and Hockey Centre, Hisense Arena 2008 2
Nissan Motorsport International V8 Supercars Championship Winton Motor Raceway 2009 0
North Melbourne Football Club Australian Football League Etihad Stadium 1869 4
Richmond Football Club Australian Football League Melbourne Cricket Ground 1885 11
Rod Nash Racing International V8 Supercars Championship Winton Motor Raceway 1998 0
St Kilda Football Club Australian Football League Etihad Stadium 1873 1
Victorian Bushrangers Ford Ranger Cup, Sheffield Shield Melbourne Cricket Ground / Junction Oval 1851 28 (SS), 4 (T20 Bash), 5 (Ryobi One Day Cup)
Garry Rogers Motorsport International V8 Supercars Championship Winton Motor Raceway 1989 0
Western Bulldogs Australian Football League Etihad Stadium 1883 2

Outside Melbourne[edit]

Club League Venue Established Premierships
Brad Jones Racing V8Supercar Championship Series Winton Motor Raceway 1986 Nil
Geelong Football Club Australian Football League Kardinia Park 1859 9

Notable sportsmen[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Basketball numbers are booming in Geelong - Local News - Geelong, VIC, Australia". 2010-07-01. Retrieved 2012-01-14. 
  2. ^ "Basketball popularity exploding across Melbourne's fringe". Herald Sun. 2010-06-28. Retrieved 2012-01-14. 
  3. ^ "World Cup soccer fans abandon reality for fantasy, says Neil Mitchell". Herald Sun. 2010-07-01. Retrieved 2012-01-14. 
  4. ^ "Basketball numbers are booming in Geelong - Local News - Geelong, VIC, Australia". 2010-07-01. Retrieved 2013-08-21. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ "News - The Official Website of the National Basketball League". Retrieved 2013-08-21. 
  8. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2012-07-12. Retrieved 2013-08-21. 
  9. ^ Cockerill, Ian (1999-10-03). "Eye of the Storm". The Sunday Age. p. 4. Retrieved 2009-10-06. 
  10. ^ Heming, Wayne (2009-10-30). "Brisbane Broncos voted Australia's most popular football team". AAP. Retrieved 2009-10-31. 
  11. ^ Stevenson, Andrew (2006-10-03). "Rugby league - the game they play in Melbourne". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Digital. Retrieved 2009-12-16. 
  12. ^ "Latest News - Victorian Rugby League". SportingPulse. Retrieved 2013-08-21. 
  13. ^ "1345.4 - SA Stats, Jul 2007". Retrieved 2013-08-21. 
  14. ^ Greg Chaplin. "Victorian Open Water Swimming Calendar". Retrieved 2013-08-21.