Where is the Sporting Capital of Australia?

The Avenging Eagle and I have just spent a week in Brisbane on a mix of work, family and pleasure.  Sadly it was the first Eagles home game we have missed in 8 years, but distance offers perspective.


I found myself asking, which is the greatest sporting city in Australia?


Brisbane is a delightful city.  It’s over 20 years since I spent much time here, but the regeneration of the CBD and the riverside suburbs is spectacular.  Perth is a city for cars, too spread out for human connection.  Its inner city abandoned after dark to booze and drugs outside of the summer festival months.


Brisbane has the thriving shops, bars and restaurants in the inner city that keep it both safe and friendly.  We arrived just before State of Origin 3, so that no doubt contributed to the good humour of the locals over recent days.

Avenging Eagle

Brisbane honours the Avenging Eagle


Brisbane’s parks, ovals and golf courses looked lush and inviting in a way that parched Perth or arctic Melbourne rarely are.


Some rituals are different.  The southern “who do you barrack for?” has to be preceded by “what code do you follow?” or more simply “are you a league man?”  Wednesday night’s Origin triumph seemed to have made converts of even the ambivalent sports follower.


There were scattered Lions and Swans jumpers in the pubs on Sunday, but most wore the faded maroon jerseys with slogans that proclaimed they were all “XXXX” supporters.


Maybe that’s the thing about Queensland. It boasts a generous climate that encourages participation in an eclectic range of sports.  Little wonder that Greg Norman, Karrie Webb and Adam Scott all came from lush Queensland links.  That Rocket and Emo  perfected their forehands on neighbourhood grass courts until the sun set or mum called them in for supper. That Susie O’Neill and Kieren Perkins frolicked in its waves. That Cathy Freeman had the space to pursue her field of dreams. What Queensland kid wouldn’t want to spend most of their time hitting, kicking or chasing their dreams?


“XXXX” is just shorthand for “golf”, “rgby”, “leeg”, “futy”, “crkt”, “tnns” or “sfng” in this glorious State.


Melbourne of course prides itself on being the sporting capital of Australia/Asia/Southern Hemisphere/World/Known Universe/(Insert Hyperbole Here).


In fairness there is much to these boasts.  I have long been jealous of the Melbourne sports fans’ opportunities.  The MCG; Docklands; Tennis Centre; AAMI rectangular stadium; Royal Melbourne and the sandbelt golf links are clearly the greatest venues in Australia for watching and playing elite sport.


The economies of scale in Melbourne make going to games ridiculously affordable.  Eagles and Dockers fans pay $60 a game for crowded seats in an antiquated stadium that makes the Tom Hickey Stand look like a palace.  Perth games are all “Members Only” sellouts with waiting lists longer than the dole queues of suddenly unemployed FIFO’s.


Of course Victorians consider their sporting hegemony a natural birthright, and complain about having to pay or share anything.  They live by the robber baron motto of “if you want it, steal it”.


Polly Farmer, Sticks Kernahan, Darrel Baldock, Malcolm Blight and Barry Cable – most of the Victorian club icons were indentured labourers press-ganged in from the colonies.  The Formula One Grand Prix was stolen from under South Australia’s nose.  The Australian Tennis Open used to be rotated through White City, Milton and Memorial Drive.


So for participating in sport you can’t beat Brisbane.  For attending or playing elite sport – you can’t beat Melbourne.


But as I type this on the silver bird taking me back to my adoptive home, I am glad to be returning to the true sporting capital of Australia.


Not just because our teams are atop the AFL ladder. The port city has given us the Marauders of May; the Jitterers of June and the July Jellyfish. While my Eagles look more like the Attack of the Killer Bees each week with their swarming offensive waves.


I am glad to be going home to the sporting capital of the world because we sit in the prime time zone on the planet for watching sport.


Let’s face it, the digital age has transformed sport as much as it has other traditional industries. Who wants to venture into the chill of a Melbourne night to watch the Match of the Day? In Perth it’s on the box as soon as you walk through the door from work and knock the top off your first beer while dialing in dinner from Domino’s. If the game is shit there’s still time catch a movie before bed.


Same with the Ashes. In Perth you listen to the first hour in the car or train on your commute home. Watto has been trapped, hawkeyed and dismissed before you even get through the door.


Who wants to stay sober enough to remain awake until 11pm just to see the START of the Wimbledon finals? And bleary eyed and incoherent next day if you stayed up to the end of what were both gripping finals of the highest standard. I managed to the end of Serena and Muguruza but was asleep before the third set of Roger and Novak.


Same with the Tour de France. In Perth I toast the first break away from the peloton with bubbles at 8, honour the valiant climbers with chablis at 9, and crack open the claret for the descent (mine and theirs) and sprint to the finish line by 10. Wake up fresh as a daisy next day. Only reprobates are drinking after midnight.


Shift the Australian population to the Western Time Zone and we will get a 10% boost in National Productivity from everyone getting a good night’s sleep. There would be a significant reduction in crime from everyone being glued to the box at home, protecting them from burglary.


And don’t think it’s just European sport that benefits. Set the alarm for an hour earlier than normal and I can watch the last round of the Augusta Masters and still be at work on time. The poor wretches on the Eastern seaboard have to get up at 3am, before their teenage kids are even home from the night clubs.


We all know that Australians will bet on 2 flies crawling up a wall. Government budgets depend on the gambling dollar for taxes now that we have flogged off all the minerals to China. Only yesterday the Courier Mail had James Packer on the front page imploring the Queensland Government to give him the new casino licence “so he could do for Brisbane what Crown had done for Melbourne and Perth”. (He seemed a bit light on the details of the promised enhancements, but it certainly sounded exciting.)


Well in Perth you have even more options. By the time Sandgropers have had their toast and tea the TAB’s are open and they are off in the First at Flemington, or Cobram, or Quirindi. No waiting for lunch time to do the rent money – it can all be gone by elevenses.


That’s real sporting opportunity and participation for you.


Brisbane is all very well if you want flies and sunburn from playing sport. Melbourne if you want to go out in the freezing cold or blazing heat waiting in long queues to watch sport.


But Perth is the sporting capital of Australia/Known Universe if you want to watch it in comfort (and get a good night’s sleep).


You know it makes sense.




  1. Yeah, but Queenslanders… I mean, Queenslanders, but.

  2. I’ve been saying for years that all Test matches should be played in Perth so that we here in the civilized states can watch the cricket at a respectable hour.

  3. Cat from the Country says

    Nice story.
    We all live in the World’s best something; and I love Victoria because we gave Seasons.
    Summer is tennis and cricket; Autumn has the expectation of a winter season of football and in spring we thaw out ready for the sun.
    Glorious really!

  4. After perusing this article i just wanted to cross check the date of posting ; July 15 i noticed, though the way it winds up i could have sworn it was an April 1 posting .

    Brisbane might be the participation capital, we Melbournians are the elite sport capital, and more,as the author can note on his posting. Actually maybe i should have looked closer at the title rather than the date, it would then make more sense to read as : Where is the sporting capital of Auralia? In that case it is clearly Perth.

    For those readers who aren’t familiar withe land known as Auralia it was the name proposed by those from the West who resisted federation of the Australian colonies, wanting a little world of their own. Unfortunately that mentality remains to this day.


  5. Nice thesis PB.

    Much easier being a writer in Melbourne than in Brisbane. The weather is just too good up there, and the atmosphere too relaxed.

    What Melbourne has, though, is a public culture. It’s very much away-from-the-home. Sport adds to that.

    I can’t make up my mind. I’d love to spend time here and there. But my mind will eventually be made up for me.

  6. Dave Brown says

    This time of year as I crawl into bed each night after 1, having slept through the finish of the latest TDF stage on the couch, I consider the benefits of living in WA. Also, no pokies in pubs – bliss!

    Of course, if we want to talk sporting capitals, you need look no further than the state that has the highest average AFL crowds. Where the grand final of the state league can draw the best part of 40,000 and domestic cricket can draw 50,000+. Where you can get chicken salt on your chips and stand on a mound drinking Coopers while watching your boys go around. Try getting a black & tan in a Melbourne stadium or in WA for that matter, I’d wager.

  7. Tom Martin says

    Every silver lining has its cloud though Peter.

    At first I was thrilled at the Friday night footy coinciding with an after work drink in the Perth CBD. After a while I realised that it meant I could never remember what had happened after half time.

  8. John Butler says

    Good to see the six nations all putting their respective bids in (though no Tassie – whatever happened to Phantom?).

    I like your criteria for judgement PB. As we of the Ballarat tundra burn the last weatherboards on the house to keep warm, anywhere that gets at least 2 hours of sun per day looks like a good deal.

    Yours in vitamin D deficiency.

    Now where are the matches?

  9. PB- having shared your time zone I agree. Early starts and finishes for footy and cricket suited us and our young boys.

    Earlier this season we had Friday night footy on Australia. Plus in Singapore followed by Rake. Brilliant. And all done by half nine (sad I know).

    Great post and comments going beyond the usual Melbourne is amazing statement.

  10. E.regnans says

    It all makes sense.
    Though of course without that 2nd desalination plant for Perth, the desert would have encroached further west by now.
    Finger in the dyke.

    Environmental conditions are hugely underrated in a life’s tale. At all of the individual, the population and species level.
    It plays a dominant part in island biogeography and the filling of niches.

    Following this logic, Perth residents (assuming access to fresh water) could evolve greater cognitive capacities then us sleep-deprived of the east.

    “It’s the little differences.” – Vincent Vega.

  11. Bob Utber says

    I don,t no what all those pontification is about!

    Wagga Wagga is the spotting capital of Australia. Even a Queensland Uni research project on it.

  12. Malcolm Ashwood says

    While the question is open to so many different interpretations have the Vics become more particular re demanding entertainment or have they woken up before any 1 else that a lot of afl footy now days is crap.Or is it less options in sa re footy and cricket so we just go you can certainly mount a case re percentage of population re attendance that sa is the king ( Wagga Wagga is hard to go past re individual stars by using the same method ) thanks PB

  13. Malcolm Ashwood says

    PB yes time wise there are a lot of advantages re living in.wa and the after work drinks with,TM would be hugely entertaining

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