August 22, 2003, Newsletter Issue #133: Sport in Australia

Tip of the Week

Australia — sport

Australia is not seduced simply by faddish sports, like rollerblading and BASE jumping. It is not impressed only by traditional sports with passionate fans around the globe, like football (soccer). It is not limited to sports defined by the countryīs climate and environment, like swimming or surfing.In Australia, sports is all those things.
In the Australian sporting life, anything is possible. If it involves competition, Australians will compete in it. Or watch it. Or bet on it. It has been this way from the start.
As a nation of the British Commonwealth, Australia predictably maintains many sporting traditions borrowed from the British. Yet, besides cricket, rugby union and netball, Australia always contributed its own touch. A popular pastime that early European settlers reportedly enjoyed was called "greasy pig." The object was to release a pig — slicked with grease — from its enclosure, then try to catch and restrain it. Thankfully, Australian sport has come a long way since then.
Thatīs not to say some sporting events donīt border on the ridiculous even now. Naturally, most of the more eccentric ones began at the local pub. Patrons enjoying a few quiet drinks often have wound up involved in lizard races, keg-rolling contests and similar pursuits.
Still, only one race can bring the nation to a standstill. The Melbourne Cup, a handicap horse race over 3200 metres, runs each November. Across the country, Australians entered in sweepstakes will crowd around radios and televisions to hear the race call. The American writer Mark Twain once summed up the feeling.
"Nowhere in the world have I encountered a festival of people that has such a magnificent appeal to the whole nation," he remarked. "The Cup astonishes me."
The big race is far from Australiaīs only sporting obsession, though. Itīs just the opening leg.
Non-Olympic sports in Australian culture
Rugby union
Rugby union, a game with a long, proud tradition in the United Kingdom, has been embraced wholeheartedly ever since it first appeared in Australia in 1864. The Australian menīs team, known as the Wallabies, won gold in its first outing at the 1908 Olympic Games in London. Today, the Wallabies are locked in a constant battle for international dominance with South Africa and New Zealandīs All Blacks team.
The best Australian rugby-union players these days include Matthew Burke, Tim Horan, John Eales, Joe Roff and recently retired David Campese.
That was then and this is now:
These days, with the television coverage of the big games, the names are too numerous to mention. You only seem to know of their earnings.......


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