Australia has a rich sporting history that forms a significant part of the country’s identity. In recent years the sports landscape has become increasingly diverse, creating an environment characterized by much more competition for talent. So what, if any, has the impact on the nation’s sporting teams been?
Traditional Sporting Landscape
Australia is a Commonwealth nation and as a result the mix of sports played has historically been very British-centric. Cricket, rugby and rugby league were the most dominant sports, along with Australia’s own game, Australian Rules Football (AFL). The Australian cricket team has been the most dominant team in world cricket for the last three decades. After the West Indies’ dominance during the 70s and 80s ended, Australia took over the reins. Similarly in rugby league, Australia has remained unchallenged at the top of the international game for decades, while in rugby union, Australia has been one of the top three nations for a very long time.
The New Sporting Landscape
Nowadays, soccer and AFL constitute a huge part of the country’s sports industry. Australia’s A-League soccer competition is attracting marquee signings from European football in the twilight of their career and crowd numbers, viewership and sponsorship dollars are flooding in. AFL, the traditional mainstay of Victoria, now has an enormous national following, thanks to its enticing nature and excellent marketing of the sport as a family game that encourages greater female participation than the traditional winter sports.
With AFL and soccer booming, rugby and rugby league have suffered. Crowd attendance is lower in recent years and the national team’s performance is weaker. Australia lost its number 1 world ranking in rugby league while the Wallabies, Australia’s rugby side, are far from their best, exhibiting a concerning lack of player depth at the top level.
This changing landscape appears to be the new norm. With so many sports to choose from, Australian talent is spread thin. On the positive side more choices and options are great from a spectator’s perspective.