If you're a sports nut, you've come to the right place. Not only is Melbourne the home of the Australian Football League (10 of the 18 teams are from the state of Victoria), it is also an important hub for cricket, horse racing, and sailing. Footie rules in winter, though.
The world stops in Melbourne for the Aussie Rules Football Grand Final every October, when the two leading teams enter battle at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Not many people outside Australia understand Australian Rules football, but it's not quite as complex as it seems. Invented in the the 1850s, it combines elements of rugby and Gaelic football to create a fast, robust, and uniquely Australian game.
Don't miss the opportunity to catch a game when you're visiting Melbourne, the birthplace of the Australian Football League. With 10 of the 18 teams in the league coming from the state of Victoria, there is nothing is more Melbournian that getting caught up in the (˜footy") madness. Pick your team from the following: Carlton Blues, Collingwood Magpies, Essendon Bombers, Geelong Cats, Hawthorn Hawks, Melbourne Demons, North Melbourne Kangaroos, Richmond Tigers, St. Kilda Saints, and Western Bulldogs.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground
Confusingly, the AFL play their finals at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), Australia's biggest, oldest, and most popular sporting venue. As well as hosting the first-ever Cricket Test and the 1992 World Cup final, countless VFL/AFL Grand Finals, the 1956 Olympic Games and 2006 Commonwealth Games, the MCG has accommodated FIFA World Cup soccer qualifiers, rugby league home and away matches, and State of Origin and international rugby union clashes. (Pope John Paul II even said Mass here). The 100,000-capacity stadium also houses the National Sports Museum, with its priceless Australian sporting memorabilia, so don't leave Melbourne without visiting. If you are taking the kids to a match, however, prepare for some colourful language among the spectators!
Since cricket was first played on the MCG in 1856, the ground has witnessed such historic firsts as the world's best first-class score (1107 - Victoria v NSW, 1926); the first Test match (Australia v England, 1877); and the first century in Test cricket (Charles Bannerman). The world's first one-day international cricket match was also held here in 1971. The modern Melbourne Cricket Club is an umbrella group for sports from baseball to croquet, lacrosse, and tennis - but cricket remains at its heart. Try to catch a game when you're in town.
Melbourne goes mad for horses during the Spring Racing Carnival, but horse racing has been a Melburnian obsession for years. Indeed, the first sporting event in the town was a race meeting held in March 1838 on land west of Spencer Street. Dating from 1861, the Melbourne Cup is Australia's most significant thoroughbred horse race, and one of the most highly anticipated race events in the international calendar. If you are in Melbourne on the first Tuesday of November, you'll know what the fuss is about! The richest and most prestigious "two-mile" handicap in the world, "the race that stops a nation" is a public holiday in metropolitan Melbourne.
With its stunning setting on the broad expanse of the Yarra River estuary, it's hardly surprising that Melbourne is a sucker for sailing. Yachting Victoria and Sail Melbourne recently secured the prestigious Oceanic Leg of the ISAF Sailing World Cup. Starting in 2013, at Melbourne's Sandringham Yacht Club, the event will be held in Melbourne for the next four years.