Australia’s hopes and histories are played out in sporting arenas. The National Museum of
Australia’s collection tells the stories of great sporting moments and what they reveal about our nation.
Introduced by English settlers, cricket quickly became an important test of Australian strength and character. The rivalry between the two nations reached a peak in the 1933–34 Bodyline series, when Australians accused the English of unsporting behaviour.
English women’s cricket team (1934)National Museum of Australia
Australians were the first native English speakers to ride in the Tour de France. In the late 1920s and 30s, Sir Hubert Opperman was feted by the French for his feats of endurance. In 2011, Cadel Evans became the first Australian to win the Tour.
Cadel Evans’s mountain bike Cadel Evans’s mountain bike (1998/1999)National Museum of Australia
Harry Clarke’s penny-farthing bicycle Harry Clarke’s penny-farthing bicycle (1884)National Museum of Australia
The introduction of the motor car was closely followed by sporting events designed to test the new machines. The first Australian Grand Prix was held at Phillip Island, Victoria in 1928 and women were welcome to compete. By the 1950s, men dominated the scene.
Jack Brabham in the BT23A-1 (1967)National Museum of Australia
Joan Richmond’s driving goggles (1930s)National Museum of Australia
Joan Richmond’s Monte Carlo Rally number plate Joan Richmond’s Monte Carlo Rally number plate (1932)National Museum of Australia
Joan Richmond’s Monte Carlo Rally number plate (1936)National Museum of Australia
The Melbourne Cup is Australia's most prestigious horseracing event and is known as the race that stops a nation. Legendary horse Phar Lap won the 1930 Melbourne Cup, and 36 other races, before his death in mysterious circumstances.
Michelle Payne’s riding breeches (2015)National Museum of Australia
Evonne Goolagong Cawley is one of Australia's most successful female tennis players. She won seven Grand Slam tournaments and was the first Aboriginal Australian to achieve success in tennis at an international level.
Evonne Goolagong Cawley’s Wimbledon trophy (1980)National Museum of Australia
Australians have competed at every Olympic Games in the modern era, and hosted the games in Melbourne in 1956 and Sydney in 2000. Every four years our athletes carry an image of our nation onto the international stage.
Peter Norman’s Olympic athletic singlet Peter Norman’s Olympic athletic singlet (1968)National Museum of Australia
John Konrads (2011)National Museum of Australia
Shirley Strickland’s Olympic athletic singlet Shirley Strickland’s Olympic athletic singlet (1956)National Museum of Australia
The New South Wales Rugby Football League was formed in 1907 after a split from Rugby Union following a dispute about whether players should be paid. Rugby League is one of the most popular spectator sports in New South Wales and Queensland.
Kangaroos Australian Rugby League team postcard (1908/1909)National Museum of Australia
Dally Messenger postcard (1910)National Museum of Australia
The history of association football, or soccer, in Australia is closely linked to immigration. Clubs were established as early as the 1880s and participation surged with each new wave of migrants. Australia first qualified for the World Cup in 1974.
Johnny Warren’s FIFA medal (2004)National Museum of Australia
Participation rates in netball continue to be among the highest of all sports played in Australia. Once called women’s basketball, it was renamed netball in 1975. Australia was a dominant international force under captain Liz Ellis.
Australian Rules football
Australian Rules football evolved in Melbourne in the mid-19th century, born of English football but shaped by colonial conditions and ambitions. The Victorian Football League (VFL) was established in 1896 and became the Australian Football League (AFL) in 1990, reflecting the competition's natural expansion.
Royce Hart’s Jack Dyer medal Royce Hart’s Jack Dyer medal (1972)National Museum of Australia
Royce Hart’s Richmond Football Club jumper Royce Hart’s Richmond Football Club jumper (1973)National Museum of Australia