Sports bring entire nations together in fervent support of their teams, and many friendships at the local has blossomed over a shared favourite team. New Zealand and Australia have some long standing sporting rivalries, over rugby, cricket, netball, league… anything really. As a Kiwi moving to Australia, you need to be up with the Down-Under sporting scene.
While there are loads of similar sporting passions across both sides of the Tasman, Australia has local events- the Australian equivalents of the Ranfurly Shield. While your heart is still supporting the Kiwis, you might find yourself supporting your local team in Aussie competitions too.
Footy – Australia’s most popular sport
Australian Rules football or ‘footy’ as it is affectionately called Down Under, is the most popular sport in the country. It’s played under the Australian Football League (AFL). Played with a rugby ball, with 18 players a side, on an oval field (most likely a modified cricket pitch) this is a uniquely Aussie brand of sport. And New Zealand has no equivalent to this high energy contact sport. Ask those who follow, and who are purveyors of sports in general, and they will tell you that footy is an amalgam of rugby and soccer predominantly, with a wee flavour of basketball, football, volleyball, hockey and lacrosse thrown in for good measure. Rugby ball, cricket stadium, players kitted in basketball gear.
Aside from being played extensively in universities, schools, parks and such across the country, there is the Australian Football International Cup/AFL International Cup, begun with the idea of spreading love for this sport. This is the only international level tournament for footy, since it is played professionally solely within Australia. With cups for both men and women teams, all those competing are amateur players (with Aussie players being ineligible to compete given their unparalleled proficiency at a pro level). At the junior level there’s the Barassi Youth Tournament for players 16 and under from around the world.
Within Australia, there is the Australian Football League with 18 teams from across all of the country’s five states. An annual AFL grand finale is held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the winner gets the premier cup. Matches are usually played in Australia itself, though you won’t be wrong if you feel like you have seen/heard of this as a Kiwi, since some matches do get scheduled in the neighbouring country too.
Cricket, the sport of gentlemen… and Aussies
Cricket inspires passion in sports lovers across both New Zealand and Australia. Whether it’s the ICC Cricket World Cup or the ICC T20 World Cup, or when one of the two countries is touring and playing a tournament (Chappell-Hadlee Trophy or Trans-Tasman Trophy) in the other, there’s a long standing rivalry between the Kiwi and Aussie teams.
The love for the sport is high and whether or not you have played it as a kid or even competitively in school or uni, as a Kiwi you will most certainly be familiar with the basic rules of the game. Even non-sports lovers will be aware of the Black Caps heart breaking loss in the 2019 World Cup finale, when they came so close to scoring a maiden World Cup victory. There’s the local competitions for cricket with the most notable being the national T20 league, which Australia has had since 2011, with the tournament called the Big Bash League, akin to the New Zealand Super Smash.
Rugby mad Australia
Rugby is immensely popular in Australia, as it is in New Zealand. The tourneys both countries compete in include the Rugby World Cup, Bledisloe Cup, Tri Nations Series (with South Africa as the third participating nation), Women’s World Cup, and The Rugby Championship.
Australia also has a bunch of local team clubs which play competitively, like the Regional NSW and Sydney club teams for the Shute Shield, Sydney teams for the Tooheys New Cup, the Queensland Premier Rugby competition, and the New South Wales Suburban Rugby Union, a suburban rugby competition in Sydney.
Since 2014, Australia also has a National Rugby Championship, testament to the rising popularity of the sport. If you follow then you won’t be a stranger to the ANZAC Test, the annual test match played betweentwo of the greatest sporting rivalries.
Netball in Australia
Like amongst Kiwis, Aussies too are fond of netball and it is played competitively. There are four big netball competitions locally: the Netball World Cup, which is held every four years and the biggest competition for the sport and NZ’s primary involvement, the four-yearly Commonwealth Games, Fast5 Netball World Series, which has slightly different rules than traditional netball (it’s the T20 of the netball world) and Netball Quad Series. The Aussie national team is the Australian Diamonds and they have competed fiercely with the New Zealand Silver Ferns over the decades. There are also regional Australian competitions like the Australian Netball League and the National Netball Championships.
More similarities than differences
Because the two countries are so similar, you’ll find the sporting cross-over pretty easy to understand. Apart from Aussie Rules and the local tournaments for rugby, cricket and netball, there’s not a great deal of difference between our sporting seasons.
You might just have to learn to chant ‘Ozzy Ozzy Ozzy! Oi oi oi’!