“The Wagga Effect” is renowned in Australian sport. In fact, so many successful Aussie sportspeople come from Wagga Wagga, it’s become known as the ‘City Of Good Sports’.
Mark Taylor, the former captain of the Australian cricket team, his ex-teammate and current Nine Network co-commentator Michael Slater, rugby league legend Peter Sterling, and AFL superstars Wayne Carey and Paul Kelly are just a few of the names who forged their sporting careers in the small city in New South Wales.
Add Joe Williams and Jamie Soward, Arthur Summons and Steve and Chris Mortimer to Sterling as NRL stars from Wagga Wagga, which has also produced no less than four players to play for the Wallabies, various Olympians, golfers, dancers, and professional soccer players.
The city, with barely 50,000 residents, has enjoyed such success from its sportsmen and women it had to open its own Hall Of Fame in 1993.
So, are there any other towns and cities to rival Wagga Wagga’s claim to being Australia’s ultimate ‘City Of Good Sports’..?
Canberra is certainly another that seems to punch above its weight. Brumbies ex-player and Head Coach Stephen Larkham, James Hird (AFL), NBA star Patty Mills, Socceroo Carl Valeri, athlete Lauren Boden, Adrian Barich, and tennis’s Nick Kyrgios, not to mention dozens of footballers of various codes, all grew up in the nation’s capital.
Then there’s Perth, which can lay claim to arguably the two most dominant and talented Australian sports star in the world currently in soccer player Sam Kerr and F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo. More commonly thought of as the starting point for cricketers, such as Dennis Lillee, Rodney Marsh, Kim Hughes, Justin Langer and Mitchell Johnson, Perth also has its successes in other fields, including tennis (Margaret Court), AFL (Nat Fyfe, Lance Franklin), boxing (Danny Green), racing (Damien Oliver), basketball (Damian Martin), golf, athletics and cycling (nine-time world champion Cameron Meyer).
Brisbane too, has a fine mix of talent. The list speaks for itself, a list that would be enough to satisfy most countries, let alone cities. Brissy has superstars from unsurprisingly both rugby codes, AFL, soccer, cricket and more. How’s this for size: Cooper Cronk, Mick Doohan, Jason Dunstall, John Eales, Ian Healy, Jeff Horn, Wally Lewis, Darren Lockyer, Michael Lynagh, Kieren Perkins, Stephanie Rice, Cameron Smith, Samantha Stosur, Jonathan Thurston, and Libby Trickett (who schooled in Brisbane, even if she was born in Townsville). Not bad, eh?
Brisbane isn’t the only place in Queensland to bring world sporting legends to the table. Cathy Freeman and Susie O’Neill from Mackay, Grant Hackett from Gold Coast, and Anna Meares from Rockhampton all fly the Queensland flag proudly.
Adelaide may not have as many stellar names to stake its sporting stake, and while Sir Don Bradman ended his career at the Adelaide Oval, it’s a stretch to claim him as an Adelaidian, there is still plenty of big sporting stars to claim for the SA capital. Ian and Greg Chappell both have stands named after them at that Oval, in recognition of their immeasurable contribution to the state and nation’s cricket team. Throw in another cricket icon in Clarrie Grimmett, AFL’s Malcolm Blight and Nathan Buckley (not to mention hundreds of brilliant Port Adelaide and Adelaide Crows players), tennis legends Lleyton Hewitt and Mark Woodforde, soccer’s John Kosmina, and golf former world number one Adam Scott, and Adelaide does pretty well for itself.
So, onto the big two. Surely the quest for Australia’s ultimate sporting starting point has to be between Melbourne and Sydney…
The latter first. And it’s almost impossible to trim down the list, but how’s this: Jack Brabham, Steven Bradbury, Sir Don Bradman, Tim Cahill, Bart Cummings, Mick Fanning, Dawn Fraser, Paul Gallen, Matt Giteau, Jarryd Hayne, Tim Horan, Aaron Mooy, John Newcombe, Sally Pearson, Ellyse Perry, Steve Smith…yeah, okay, you get the idea.
Now for Melbourne. The list of famous Melburnian sports stars in understandably dominated by AFL players; pretty much all the top stars you think of will be from the Victorian capital: Kevin Bartlett, Matthew Lloyd, Leigh Matthews, Stephen Silvagni, Norm Smith, Teddy Whitten, you name them, they’ll likely be from Melbourne.
But there’s more than just footy players. Andrew Bogut, Ben Simmons, Jamie Whincup, Dylan Alcott, Craig Lowndes, Glenn Maxwell, and Shane Warne all grew up and learned their craft in the city of Melbourne. A stronger list than Sydney…? It’s very good, but it’d be a brave man who claimed that in the presence of a New South Welshman.
We’ve been around Australia and the truth is, everywhere you go, you find world class sportspeople. But for a final word, how about the town of Mount Isa?
With fewer than 22,000 people living in the small Queensland town, it has still managed to give the world the talents of Greg Norman, Pat Rafter, and no less than four Olympians and one Paralympian.
Sure, it’s not such a long list as Sydney’s, but pound-for-pound it’s a fine effort.
Which just goes to prove. No matter where you are in Australia, you can make a success of yourself at sport on a global scale, just like others have.
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