Australians have almost unlimited recreational choices. The mountains provide opportunities for hiking during the summer and alpine skiing during the winter. National parks and wildlife reserves attract nature lovers. Australia's beaches, including the famous Bondi Beach near Sydney and Surfer's Paradise, a resort near Brisbane, offer opportunities for "boogie boarding," surfing, swimming, sailing, scuba diving, fishing and sailing.
The country's national sport is Australian Rules football. This unique Australian sport is a combination of rugby, soccer and football. It is played with an oval ball on a huge oval field, almost three times the size of a Canadian football field. Each team has eighteen players and each end has four goal posts. "Aussie Rules" football attracts more spectators than any other sporting event in the country. Rugby is played during the winter months. The well-known Australian rugby team is called the Wallabies. Australia won the World Cup in rugby in 1999.
Cricket has been played in Australia since the 19th century and is a favourite summertime sport. Both men and women play cricket, and the Australian teams take part in international test matches. A modified form of the game, called "Kanga Cricket," is played by children, using plastic equipment.
Australians excel in international track and field and swimming competitions. They hosted the Summer 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Australians won 58 medals at the Sydney Games, including 16 gold medals. Cathy Freeman, an Aboriginal athlete, was named Australian of the Year in 1998. She won the gold medal in the 400-metre race at the Sydney Olympics. Kieran Perkins currently holds the world records for 400-, 800- and 1500-metre freestyle swimming. He has broken 12 world records and 40 Australian records.
Handball is a popular game among children: a tennis or rubber ball is bounced off the hand of one player into the court of the opponent. Many girls enjoy playing netball, which is similar to basketball, but with seven players on each side and its own rules. For example, dribbling or bouncing the ball is not permitted.
Among older Australians, lawn bowling is popular, and most cities have lawn bowling clubs. Golf courses and tennis courts are also found in most centres. Australia has produced many tennis stars, including Rod Laver and Lleyton Hewitt. It hosts the Australian Open tennis competition each year.
Australians enjoy games of chance. Unique betting games include "two-up," a game that involves spinning pennies and is legal on only one day of the year-ANZAC Day. Gambling on horse races is legal at Totalization Agency Boards and through race course bookmakers. During the Melbourne Cup horse race on the first Tuesday of November, work in Australia stops for a few minutes so that people can place their bets.