If you were to ask the average Australian what their national sport might be, chances are you would be met with a number of different answers. Unlike certain other countries across the world, there is no one single sport that unites the population like football does in many other nations.
Certain events are far more popular in certain areas of Australia but one thing is for sure, this is a sports mad country. So, what does your typical Aussie enjoy from a playing, spectating and betting point of view?
Australian Rules Football
They may not have one specific national sport but Aussie Rules is certainly a very idiosyncratic event and while it is played on a much smaller scale in other parts of the world, its hub is very much in Australia.
Australian Rules Football looks, from an outsider’s point of view, to be a strange hybrid of rugby, Gaelic Football and American Football. It’s more popular in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania but it is now played all across the country and is united by the official AFL League.
It’s been around longer than many of us expect with organised Aussie Rules being played way back in 1897 and the current AFL seasons begins in March and runs right through to the start of October when the remaining two teams battle it out in the Grand Final. In 2016, just under 100,000 spectators packed into the MCG to witness the Grand Final between Sydney and the Western Bulldogs and that just underlines how popular this sport is in Australia.
From a betting perspective, it’s a sport that has a good choice of side markets along with the straight result. Total points in the game, total points by quarter, winning margin and first scorer are just two examples of typical punts in any AFL game.
In certain parts of Australia, it would be argued that rugby league is the national sport and this might certainly be the case in New South Wales and Queensland. The National Rugby League, or NRL, is the premier competition in the country and this is an annual competition that features 15 teams from across Australia plus one representative from New Zealand.
Leagues had been set up around the country prior to that but as professionalism started to take its grip on the game, the need for a new structure became apparent. The season itself almost mirrors that of Australian Rules with the first league games taking place in March and everything leads up to the Grand Final at the beginning of October.
Options for betting are very similar too with the result sitting next to side options such as total points, winning margin and first try scorer.
While rugby league is the more popular of the two codes, Australians like their rugby union too and there is the domestic division, known as Super Rugby to enjoy and bet on. Both codes are also played by the separate Australian national teams with internationals played against all rugby playing nations, culminating in two distinct versions of the rugby world cup which come around every four years.
During the summer months, cricket takes over and, like other countries across the world, this is a sport where the growth of twenty / twenty has been extremely beneficial to the game. The focal point for many is the Big Bash which starts just before Christmas and extends right up until the end of January and this is a relatively new T20 competition which is attracting some of the best players across the world.
There is talk to extend this tournament from its current format which features just six teams so, we could see an even longer competition in the years that lie ahead.
Away from the shortest form of the game, the national cricket team host test matches across the country with the famous Ashes series against England attracting the most interest. India, South Africa, West Indies, New Zealand and Pakistan are among the other sides that play here on a rotational basis and, of course, the Australian test team will also travel abroad to play away from home when they are out of season.
One Day Internationals and T20s are also played across the country and there are domestic four day and one day matches too.
Anyone interested in betting on cricket can therefore find an excellent set of very diverse markets but like all sports, they start with the result. The list of side bets can then be very extensive with top batsman, top bowler, man of the match, first innings runs, total sixes and most sixes comprising just part of what is a very big overall list.
It’s not the national sport, but Aussies are fiercely proud of their cricket team which has been extremely successful in recent years.
Soccer is a sport where Australians can often take as much interest in leagues around the world as they do with their own domestic set up. As a result, English Premier League and Spanish La Liga matches in particular get strong TV coverage from the live broadcasters and that extended interest can be found among the betting community too.
Domestically, the focus falls on the A League and this is a competition that features nine Australian sides and, like the NRL in rugby, there is an extra team from New Zealand which helps to spice things up even more. The season will typically start in October and cross into the following year with the Grand Final completing the campaign in May.
At the end of the 2016/17 season, just over 41,000 people watched the final between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory so that underlines the relative popularity between soccer and Aussie Rules but there is still some interest.
The list of available markets for a typical Australian A League game can be just as extensive as it is for any match across the world. You have the result betting plus a possible handicap and then a whole host of side bets will drop in. For the bigger games such as the semis and the Grand Final itself, the list of available markets could reach up to 100 and overall, soccer is the sport with the most possibilities when it comes to side betting.
The focal point of the Australian horse racing season is the prestigious Melbourne Cup which is run at the historic Flemington racecourse in November each year. There is a growing prize fund for this Group One which was first run way back in 1861 and it’s an event that draws a top class field from all over the world.
While the whole of the horse racing season seems to build up to this one event, the sport is popular for most of the year in Australia with many other top quality group one renewals such as the Caulfield Cup to enjoy. Serious enthusiasts plus members of the betting community will also look to get involved in other races from other parts of the world so there is likely to be an increase in activity when the Cheltenham Festival, Royal Ascot, the Kentucky Derby or the Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe take place.
One of the reasons why horse racing has remained so popular from a betting point of view lies in its simplicity. While there are some side bets available, the main aim for any punter is to identify the winner of any race so, when they do their research on form and previous outings on the course in question, the quest is a very straightforward one.
Betting can extend to each way and place bets while there may also be some long term options such as top jockey or top trainer over a season but it’s essentially a simple sport and it’s one that’s enjoyed by the Australian sporting public along the length and breadth of this vast country.
Those are the five key sports for Aussies and while no single event dominates, these are the most popular with the sporting and betting communities. However, there are other good options too including golf which has the Australian Open as a big draw for the world’s top players.
Of course, it helps to build the interest if you have sportsmen or women who are excelling in their chosen discipline and Australians Adam Scott and Jason Day are among the world’s top ten golfers in the modern day.
Australians have also enjoyed some success in tennis too over the years and, of course, the Grand Slam season gets underway with the Australian Open in January. Australia also provides an important curtain raiser in the world of motor sports with the first Grand Prix of any season taking place at Melbourne every March.
All three of these sports attract great interest from a betting point of view too. Golf is one of the most unpredictable sports but, while it can be tougher to pick a winner, there are some very high prices available in both the straight win and the each way markets.
In contrast, formula one and tennis can be relatively easy to call and while the prices are inevitably shorter, this is one of the reasons why Australian bettors like to get involved.
So, those are your most popular options and they are the ones that receive most focus from the sportsbooks around Australia. If you want to keep things a bit niche, it’s certainly possible to bet on some really obscure sports too but these are the most popular and the ones that attract most support from Aussie bettors and the wider sporting community.