If you’re a sports nut, you may never want to leave Melbourne. Victoria’s capital is not just the home of the Australian Football League (10 of the 18 teams are from the state of Victoria), it is also an important centre for cricket, horse racing, motor sport, and sailing. Footie is king in winter, though.
Everything grinds to a halt in Melbourne for the Aussie Rules Football Grand Final every October, when the two leading teams face off at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Invented in the 1850s, Aussie Rules combines elements of rugby and Gaelic football to create a fast, physical, and uniquely Australian game. Don’t miss the opportunity to catch a game when you’re in Melbourne, the birthplace of the Australian Football League. With 10 of the 18 teams in the league coming from the state of Victoria, there is nothing is more Melburnian that getting caught up in the ‘footy’ madness.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground
Confusingly, the AFL play their finals at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), Australia’s biggest, oldest, and most popular sporting venue. As well as hosting the first-ever Cricket Test and the 1992 World Cup final, countless VFL/AFL Grand Finals, the 1956 Olympic Games and 2006 Commonwealth Games, the MCG has accommodated FIFA World Cup soccer qualifiers, rugby league home and away matches, and State of Origin and international rugby union clashes. (Pope John Paul II even said Mass here). See priceless Australian sporting memorabilia at the National Sports Museum. Bear in mind when bringing kids to a match that the language in the stands can get pretty colourful!
Since cricket was first played on the MCG in 1856, the ground has witnessed such historic firsts as the world’s best first-class score (1107 – Victoria v NSW, 1926); the first Test match (Australia v England, 1877); and the first century in Test cricket (Charles Bannerman). The world’s first one-day international cricket match was also held here in 1971. The modern Melbourne Cricket Club is an umbrella group for sports from baseball to croquet, lacrosse, and tennis – but cricket remains its first love. Try to catch a game when you’re in town.
Melbourne goes mad for horses during the Spring Racing Carnival, but horse racing has been a Melburnian obsession for years. Indeed, the first sporting event in the town was a race meeting held in March 1838 on land west of Spencer Street. Dating from 1861, the Melbourne Cup is Australia’s most significant thoroughbred horse race, and one of the most highly anticipated race events in the international calendar. If you are in Melbourne on the first Tuesday of November, you’ll know what the fuss is about! The richest and most prestigious “two-mile” handicap in the world, “the race that stops a nation” is a public holiday in metropolitan Melbourne.
The Melburnian obsession with racing extends from the four-legged to the four-wheeled variety. Sandown Raceway is a Melbourne landmark, a truly iconic Australian motor circuit that was established in March 1962. It has staged some of the most memorable events in motorsports history, involving some of the world’s greatest drivers. Legends including Fangio, Moss, Brabham, Brock, Skaife and Richards have all raced around the fast and famous circuit, which is the official ‘Heritage Round’ of the V8 Supercar Championship. Sandown is one of the world’s few remaining permanent circuits, but because of its proximity to residential areas, it is restricted to running just five major motorsport weekends during the year.
With its stunning setting on the broad expanse of the Yarra River estuary, it’s hardly surprising that Melbourne is a sucker for sailing. Yachting Victoria and Sail Melbourne recently secured the prestigious Oceanic Leg of the ISAF Sailing World Cup. Starting in 2013, at Melbourne’s Sandringham Yacht Club, the event will be held in Melbourne for the following four years.
- License: Image author owned
- License: Creative Commons image source
- License: Creative Commons image source
Aoife O’Carroll is a staff writer for Nova Car Hire, a convenient website for arranging car rental in 26,000 locations worldwide, including car hire from Melbourne Airport.