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England versus Australia in sport, the winner is…

By Chris Lewis - posted Thursday, 16 December 2010

Should we care about recent sporting losses to England (and Great Britain)? Not really. While defeating the British is always preferable, sporting defeat can help to stimulate both interest and a better standard that enables sweet revenge.

Australia and Great Britain have longstanding rivalry in certain team sports, with both enjoying some success.

While England looks like retaining the Ashes, Australia held them from 1989 to 2005. England won the first 20-20 world championship (2010), yet Australia has won four World Cups in the 50 over format (1987, 1999, 2003, 2007) - a competition England is yet to win. In the female version, England won the last women's cricket World Cup (2009), yet Australia won in 1997 and 2005.


Australia continues its domination of Great Britain in rugby league since 1974, and Australia has won two rugby world cups (1991 and 1999) compared to England's one (2003).

At men's soccer, England is ranked 6th by FIFA compared to Australia 20th (November 17, 2010), although England has made the World Cup semi-finals just once (1990) since its only victory in 1966. I wish we could play England more times at soccer, a relatively less popular football code in Australia. It was both enjoyable and hilarious when Australia beat England 3-1 in 2003. In women's soccer, England ranks 10th and Australia 12th, although neither has made the semi-finals of the World Cup since its inception in 1991.

At netball, England is closing the gap against Australia and New Zealand, yet has never won a world championship or Commonwealth Games. Australia has won 11 of 16 such tournaments.

In men's golf, Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell won the 2010 US Open, with Geoff Ogilvy the last Australian to win one of the four majors (US Open 2006). Since 1990, Brits have won six golf majors compared to Australia's five, although both have won just one each since 2000. In female golf, Australian women have won seven majors with the Brits winning four.

Of tennis grand slam finals since 1990, Australia's men have won four and were runner-up six times compared to no victories for the Brits and three runner-ups. In female tennis, no Aussie or Brit has won since 1990, and only one Australian (Samantha Stosur) finished runner up (2010 French Open).

So what do the above sporting results indicate? Well outside rugby, cricket and netball, sports where there are few top-class rivals, it is extremely hard to win global sporting events.


Considerable attention should be given to global team sport success. While England has never won a hockey Olympic Games or World cup, although its men and women came fourth and second in 2010, Australia's men won in 2004 and 2010 while its women won in 2000. And, given that basketball is one of the biggest team sports in the world, Australia's women winning the 2006 world championship was a major achievement.

It is testimony to the competitive nature of Australians and Brits that both do so well in many sports. After all, the standard of world sport has come a long way since the 1950s when Australia and the US dominated tennis, and Australia came fourth in the medal count at the 1956 Olympic Games winning 13 gold medals (eight in swimming and four on the track).

Since 1990, Australians and/or Brits have won world championships or Olympic titles in various sports popular in both countries, including many major motor sports, running, snooker, swimming, cycling, surfing, and boxing (with its multitude of federations). In triathlon world championships alone, Australia's men and women have won 45 medals (18 gold) of a possible 126 compared to Great Britain with 15 (nine gold).

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About the Author

Chris Lewis, who completed a First Class Honours degree and PhD (Commonwealth scholarship) at Monash University, has an interest in all economic, social and environmental issues, but believes that the struggle for the ‘right’ policy mix remains an elusive goal in such a complex and competitive world.

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