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Our definitive ranking of the 10 best Australian sports documentaries ever made

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best australian sports documentaries

How many have you seen? Follow along, as we list the 10 best Australian sports documentaries ever made.

Australia is a sporting nation. Ask anyone who lives there and even those who don’t call the Land Down Under home, and they’ll unequivocally agree with that position. Think of just about any sport under the sun and you’ll find any Australian playing it.

Cricket, surfing, football, basketball, rugby league, Aussie rules, horse racing, sailing, motorsports. You name it, Australians play it. Chances are they’re pretty good at it.

Despite this sporting love spread right across Australia, there is a serious lack of quality documentaries chronicling the many, many great sporting achievements of Australian teams and athletes. Despite this dearth, the existing Australian sporting documentaries are of the highest calibre.

Here’s our definitive list of the 10 best Australian sports documentaries of all time.

best Australian sports documentaries
Where does Warnie’s documentary, Shane, rank in our list of Australia’s greatest documentaries?

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The 10 best Australian sports documentaries

Honourable mentions:

Australian Dream, Matildas: The World at Our Feet and Ride Like A Girl all just missed out on a place on our list of the 10 best Australian sports documentaries ever.

10. Corners of the Earth: Kamchatka, 2022

When you think of surfing you think of Hawai’i, Fiji, the Gold Coast or Nazare. But do you ever think of Russia? Probably not. Yet, on the nation’s far Eastern coast lies Kamchatka and some of the world’s coldest, and most extraordinary waves. Corners of the Earth: Kamchatka takes you there.

9. Salute, 2008

The 1968 Olympics Black Power Salute, when American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave the black power salute from the podium after the 200-metre final, was a defining moment in the American Civil Rights Movement.

In the middle of the moment was Australian Peter Norman. Salute tells Norman’s story from those Olympics, as well as his subsequent ostracisation by Australian Olympic authorities and the media.

8. The Billabong Odyssey, 2003

There may be no more frightening sporting feet than big wave surfing. 70-foot walls of water careening towards men riding eight-foot boards like a freight train. When man and wave collide, survival is paramount, shredding is optional. More of than not, both are achieved. In The Billabong Odyssey, big wave surfers travel for 18 months over six continents to chase the world’s greatest waves.

7. Year of the Dogs, 1997

What do you get when a filmmaker follows an Aussie rules football side and their fans for 12 months? Year of the Dogs. The film chronicles a horror 1996 season for Footscray, with the club’s many on-and-off field trials and tribulations on show for the world to see.

6. Nerves of Steel, 2006

Skeletoning at the Winter Olympics seems like a death wish. Athletes hurl themselves face-first down an iced track on a small bobsled, protected by only a helmet. It presents great risks, both during competition and after it, with significant brain trauma not uncommon amongst competitors.

Yet, the 2006 documentary, Nerves of Steel, follows four Australian females on their journey to become the first athletes to represent their nation in skeleton at the Olympics.

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5. The Final Quarter, 2019

Adam Goodes is undoubtedly one of the finest AFL players of his generation. A dual Premiership and Brownlow Medal winner, Goodes spent his entire career at the Sydney Swans, where he is considered one of their greatest-ever footballers.

Yet, a career laced with the highest of highs was marred by the racist abuse Goodes consistently copped, particularly towards its latter stages. The Final Quarter explores the final three years of Goodes’ career, which includes a disgusting incident during a 2013 match against Collingwood.

4. Untold: The Race of the Century, 2022

The Untold documentary series is typically reserved for American sporting stories. In reality, the Race of the Century is an American sporting story. Only, it’s not about American triumph, it’s about American failure. It tells the story of Australia II, the first vessel to beat the New York Yacht Club’s 132-year hold on the America’s Cup.

In our eyes, this victory is the third greatest moment in Australian sporting history. Such was the moment’s greatness, then-Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke stated any boss who sacked their employees for not turning up for work on the day of Australia II’s victory ‘is a bum.’

3. Shane, 2022

There is no single Australian athlete as exceptional as Shane Warne. On the pitch, there’s never been a bowler like him, and likely never will be. Off it, there will never be anyone like him. A true larrikin. Shane explores everything about Warnie; the excellence, the flaws, the spin and the wickets.

From getting flogged around the park on Test debut to bowling the Ball of the Century and taking his 700th wicket at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in front of his home crowd, few cricketing careers were littered with glory like Warnie’s.

Vale, King.

2. The Test, 2020-2024

There is no Australian side that captures the collective national pride quite like the Australian cricket team. It truly is Australia’s national team, beloved by everyone in every corner of the nation. The Test takes fans behind the scenes of the side as it progresses through different phases.

From the dark days of the ball-tampering scandal, the Justin Langer-led rebound, right through to the 2023 Ashes. The series has it all, providing fans with unprecedented access into the minds and lives of the world’s top cricketers, revealing everything; from how they deal with stress, to what life is like on tour, right through to some questionable eating habits.

It’s a must-watch.

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1. November 16, 2015

For Australian football fans November 16, 2005, means one thing: Mark Schwarzer saves and John Aloisi’s winning penalty in a tense shootout against Uruguay. After 32 years of heartbreak, a period where the Socceroos were consistently so close, yet so far, to a second appearance at the World Cup.

In Homebush, four years after heartbreak against the same opponents, the Aussies fought the Uruguayans to the death. Fortune turned in their favour consistently throughout the encounter. In the end, victory was secured, ending a generation of heartbreak, uniting a nation and kickstarting a run of five successive World Cup qualifications.

While it ranked as the eighth greatest moment in Australian sports history, the documentary about that special Sydney night tops our list as the greatest Australian sports documentaries of all time.

Picture of Kyle Robbins
Kyle Robbins
Kyle is a senior sports writer and producer at Only Sports who lives and breathes sport, with a particular burning passion for everything soccer, rugby league, and cricket. You’ll most commonly find him getting overly hopeful about the Bulldogs and Chelsea’s prospects. Find Kyle on LinkedIn.

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