6 biggest sporting events in Australia

Stadium in Melbourne Australia

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Australia is renowned for its rich sporting history and for consistently punching above their weight on a global scale. And boy does it.

Not only does Australia have its own schedule of national big name sporting events, it even plays host to a number of international sporting events drawing crowds from around the world to the land Down Under to experience how the Aussies do it.

Sport is a part of the Aussie culture, whether it is exposure through schools, family, local clubs or tv, everyone in the country has sport engrained in their life from an early age.

That is probably why Australian athletes are often very successful on a global scale and why Australia is an attractive destination to hold a top tier international sporting event.

We have compiled a list of the biggest sporting events that are hosted in Australia factoring in a number of metrics like attendance numbers, TV viewership, exclusivity and sporting power.

Australian Open Tennis

Where: Melbourne

When: January

The Australian Open tennis tournament is held every year at Melbourne Park, with Rod Laver Arena hosting the Men’s and Women’s finals. The Aus Open is one of the four Major Grand Slam tournaments and the first of the calendar year giving visitors a taste of the great summer weather.

The Australian Open has been played in some form or another 112 times since 1905 with Novak Djokovic holding the record for most number of titles at 10. The tournament includes 128 games of tennis in both the men’s and women’s draws as well as 32 in the doubles, all played over a two-week period culminating in the finals played in front of a packed house.

With tennis arenas being comparatively small it is the attendance numbers over the course of the tournament together with the TV viewership that makes this tournament a fan favourite. A huge 1.1 million people attended the Aus Open in 2024 while millions more watched games either on TV or through streaming.

Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix

Where: Melbourne

When: March

The Australian GP held at Melbourne’s Albert Park has been a mainstay on the Formula 1 calendar since the days of Lauda, Jones and Prost. For a number of years, it was the opening race of the F1 calendar but since expansion is now placed in the first quarter of the schedule. Albert Park is transformed over a number of weeks to a petrol paradise really bringing in the who’s who to see the Formula 1 machines zoom past at 350km/h down the main straight.

With Australia having a driver competing in F1 in almost every year since the 50s, and off the back of the Netflix series Drive to Survive, the popularity of the sport has grown around the country with more and more Australian’s attending the four-day event than ever before.

The 2024 GP saw the attendance record smashed with 452,000 people coming through the gates and millions more watching on from around the world.

Aussie Lex Davison holds the record for the most Australia GP race wins at four, while Ferrari are the constructor with the most victories at the track with 14.

Melbourne Cup

Where: Melbourne

When: November

They call it the “Race That Stops The Nation” and boy don’t you know it. It’s like time freezes in every office block, corner shop and building site for 3 minutes and 20 seconds on the first Tuesday of November as 24 horses run the 3200m track at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne.

The Melbourne Cup is no longer just a race, it is a carnival with fashion, music and celebrities entwined with having a punt and a beer. In fact it has become so popular that the day is now an official public holiday for everyone in the state of Victoria.

Around 100,000 people dressed to the nines stream through the gates of Flemington every year and then crawl out 9 hours later hopefully with a winning ticket in their hat. According to Bets.com.au, over $220 million is bet on the Melbourne Cup every year making it the single most betted sporting event on the Australian calendar.

AFL Grand Final

When: September

Where: Melbourne

Depending on what state you are from you either follow footy or footy. For the northern states footy automatically means NRL and for the southern and western states footy is AFL. But no matter which code you support there is no denying the atmosphere of the AFL Grand Final in front of a packed house at the MCG.

The AFL Grand Final is played on the last Saturday in September at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the spiritual home of the game.

While being an event predominantly attended by Australians or people living in Australia there is no doubt that the international appeal of the game is growing with leagues all over the world popping up with expats taking their love of the game with them overseas.

AFL has the fourth highest attendance average of any sport in the world with an average of 305,000 across their 9 games per week. The Grand Final sees over 100,000 pack into the MCG with the noise so loud it is hard to hear the umpires whistle.

Collingwood, Essendon and Carlton are the most successful AFL/VFL team throughout history all with 16 premierships to their name.

Boxing Day Test

When: December

Where: Melbourne

The Boxing Day Test is the highlight of the Christmas and New Year’s sporting schedule and is held every year between Australia and a visiting nation.

The formality of the Boxing Day test was recognised in 1980 but games have been played at the MCG on boxing day since 1865 making it one of the oldest sporting events in Australian history.

India are the only team to have beaten Australia in a Boxing Day test since 2011 and have done it on two occasions in 2018 and 2020.

The event is always well attended with the start of the test match on Boxing Day regularly attracting between 60-90,000 spectators. Over the course of the match 150-250,000 people flood into the MCG to witness Cricket at its full flight.

State of Origin

When: June/July

Where: Sydney/Brisbane

One of the most intense on field games in any sport is the State of Origin. It has long been known as Sports Greatest Rivalry pitting State against State and Mate against Mate.

Players who play their first representative footy in NSW or Queensland are eligible to compete in this game which means we see teams picked from all 17 NRL teams and in some rare cases even from the English Super League.

The three-game series has historically been split between Sydney and Brisbane with one of the hosts having two games every other year.

In more recent times the second game of the series has been played a neutral venue in another Australian state, widening the scope for attendance and delivering one of the best sporting products to every Australian doorstep.

The series is televised in 91 countries giving the sport a wide reach across the globe. At home the series is always a sell out with crowds jam packed into whichever stadium the games are played at.

Honourable Mentions

Camel Cup – Camels and community spirit make this event in the Northern Territory one of the most interesting you can attend.

Santos Tour Down Under – The 11-day cycling tour in South Australia is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and winds through some of the most breathtaking places in the country.

Bathurst 1000 – Mt Panorama is home to one of the most gruelling race tracks in the world and this endurance race is a sporting feat like no other

Sydney to Hobart – Another Boxing Day tradition sees this sailing race start in Sydney harbour as ocean yachts start their 1012km journey to Hobart.

World Surf League: Bells Beach – Bells is one of the most popular surfing spots in the world and as one of the three league events in Australia, one of the most beautiful too.

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