WHERE WERE YOU on August 12th, 2023? That is the question Australian sporting fans will be asking themselves for years to come. Football fan or not, it’s impossible to go past the significance of the Matildas historic win, beating France in the quarter finals of the 2023 Women’s World Cup—the first Australian team to ever do so.
The historic moment saw over 4.9 million people tune in to watch the Matildas’ victory over France, one of the biggest audiences since Cathy Freeman’s gold medal-winning run at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Being such a pivotal moment in Australian sporting history, it had us thinking: what are the greatest Australian sporting moments that live on in our minds rent free? We’ve taken a stroll down memory lane to list the nine sporting moments that stopped this great nation.
1. Matildas Beat France in 2023 World Cup Quarter Finals
No matter what happens on Wednesday night when the Matildas take on England in the World Cup Semi-Finals, it won’t change a thing for how the public view their darling Matildas—nor what their success has, and will do, for a generation of young footballers to come. The tense quarter-final game, which was played in front of 50,000 spectators at Brisbane Stadium, saw a 0-0 score at the end of 90-minutes, as well as an extra 30 minutes of added time. The world watched on tenterhooks as a penalty shootout unraveled, one of the greatest in FIFA Women’s World Cup history, too—20 shots between both countries is what it took for Matilda’s newcomer Cortnee Vine to seal Australia’s fate with a strike into the back of the net.
2. Shane Warne’s “Ball of the Century”
The late, great Shane Warne will forever be remembered for his service to Australian cricket—the king of spin, the irreplaceable cricket giant who ushered in a new generation of spectator, and a figure that is now forever immortalised in Australia’s sporting history books.
Take Warne’s 1993 first-ever Ashes cricket appearance at Old Trafford in England, for example. It’s here, on his very first bowl that he would send the “ball of the century” curving out of his hand to not only startle batsman Mike Gatting but would take his stump in the same instance. This bowl—the quintessential Shane Warne spin and a singular moment that has received millions of YouTube views in the years since—would change the game of cricket forever.
3. Cathy Freeman Wins Gold at Sydney Olympics
One will never forget Cathy Freeman’s iconic gold medal-winning 400m race at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Everything about Freeman’s Sydney Olympics campaign was historic: from her lighting of the Olympic torch, her green and white bodysuit, her stance on discrimination, to her inevitable gold medal-winning race in front of an electric crowd at Sydney Olympic Stadium, and subsequently a moment that 8 million Aussies tuned in to watch.
4. Adam Scott’s 2013 Masters Win
“Come on, Aussie” were the roars from Australian golfers Adam Scott and Marc Leishman, after Scott sunk a birdie putt on the 18th hole at the 2013 Masters Tournament in Augusta. The moment was not lost on Scott, or any Australian sporting fan for that matter, as the significance of that putt—and his overall performance—would seal his fate as the first ever Aussie golfer to claim the green jacket in the tournament’s illustrious history.
5. Australia Wins the 1983 America’s Cup
Over forty years ago, one of the greatest sporting underdog tales would unfold with Australia II claiming the American’s Cup over the 132-year reigning champions, New York Yacht Club, ending what was the longest winning streak in sporting history. The historic win was celebrated all over the world, with then Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke remarking that, “Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum”.
6. Socceroos 2005 World Cup Qualifier
A moment that bares remarkable resemblance to the Matildas’ current World Cup campaign, on November 16, 2005, the Australian Socceroos would forever change the landscape of football in this country with their World Cup qualifier win over Uruguay. One of the greatest footballing tales from a team of underdogs, the moment marked what would become Australia’s first World Cup appearance in over 32 years. John Aloisi’s famous winning penalty will forever be ingrained in this nation’s mind, as over 3.5 million people watched the historic moment unfold.
7. Lleyton Hewitt Wins Wimbeldon
A match that would cement Lleyton Hewitt’s status as the gritty and gutsy Aussie with a ‘never quit’ mentality, Hewitt’s 2002 Wimbledon win over David Nalbandian was as good as it gets for Aussie tennis. Hewitt wouldn’t go on to win another Grand Slam, but his winning attitude would remain for the rest of his career.
8. Steven Bradbury’s Unforgettable Olympic Win
Steven Bradbury winning his first and only Olympic Gold medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games was a moment sporting fans around the world will never forget. The winning performance was so iconic, so unforgettable—and so unexpected— that the term, “doing a Bradbury”, was coined in the aftermath of Bradbury’s hilarious win. Coming dead last in the short track 1000m skating event, Bradbury decided to avoid the front group to minimise the risk of crashing; a foresight which came true, and saw Bradbury skate to the finish line in first place.
9. Leo Barry’s Premiership-Winning Mark
The longest premiership drought in football history—72 years to be precise—ended in 2005 when the Sydney Swans defeated the West Coast Eagles; a game which is as good as you’ll ever seen in the history books of the AFL. But, it was Leo Barry’s mark in the dying seconds of the game, just 4 points ahead of the Eagles, that not only solidified the Swans’ win, but would go on to become one of the greatest marks of the century (and one of the most-watched grand finals in AFL history, with almost 5 million people watching the spectacle at home). Since 2005, any kid who has ever taken a pack mark would have undoubtedly muttered “Leo Barry you star” under their breaths.