Who is Australia’s greatest sporting team of all time?
Australia’s women’s cricket team put their name into that discussion after adding another trophy to their overflowing cabinet with victory in the T20 World Cup last month.
The Aussies have had a golden 12 months, winning both the ODI and T20 World Cups along with gold at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
They’ve won the last three T20 World Cups and have won every ODI and T20 trophy since losing to India in the semi-finals of the 2017 ODI World Cup.
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But are they the best team, women’s or men’s, of the modern era?
That’s the debate Australian swimming star Cate Campbell has sparked after she argued our women’s 4x100m freestyle relay team are actually the best team of all time.
Campbell was asked on the Here If You Need podcast if our women’s cricket team are “the best team of the modern era?”
The swimmer immediately replied: “No.”
“They are fantastic, phenomenal,” she said of the cricketers.
“Sixth win, it was their third in a row. Are they the best team of all time? No. Sorry.
“Look, I might be a little bit biased if we go back and look at the facts, I feel like the facts are going to back me up. If we look at the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay team, they are pretty much the most dominant team in the modern world in that event.
“We have broken world records. We’re the only team that has broken the world record in that event since 2009, which was a world record set by supersuits, which improved people’s performances like crazy.
“We broke the world record in 2014, 2016, 2020. We’ve won it at the past three Olympic Games.
“I’m not just saying this because I’ve been a part of it. It is by far the most dominant team in the world at the moment, I would argue.
“We shouldn’t compare. We should celebrate everyone. But if we are going to compare, swimming wins.”
Campbell has a point. Let’s break their achievements down.
The women’s 4x100m relay team winning gold medals and breaking world records has become as reliable as death and taxes.
Even at Australia’s disastrous 2012 London Olympic swimming campaign, the Aussie women still managed to pick up our only gold medal in the pool.
They backed it up in Rio and Tokyo, with Campbell the one constant in the team that claimed a hat-trick of Olympic golds.
Brittany Elmslie (2012, 2016) won two golds, as has Bronte Campbell (2016, 2021) and Australia’s most successful Olympian Emma McKeon (2016, 2021).
The Australians are Olympic, World and Commonwealth champions and hold the world record in both the 50m and 25m pools.
They haven’t been beaten in any long course competition since 2013 when the USA pipped them by 0.12sec at the World Championships.
With the Campbell sisters taking a break from swimming before gearing up for the Paris Olympics, the conveyor belt of talent has kept on rolling.
Meg Harris was the fourth swimmer in the relay in Tokyo, while Madi Wilson and Mollie O’Callaghan won gold as heat swimmers and Shayna Jack could join them for Paris.
To put it that dominance into context, Australia’s men haven’t won an Olympic relay gold since the days of Ian Thorpe and Michael Klim in 2000.
There are some similarities between our all-conquering swimming and cricket teams.
Just like the Campbell sisters and McKeon, skipper Meg Lanning has been a common thread throughout the World Cup triumphs, along with Ellyse Perry and Alyssa Healy.
But the Aussies have also regenerated, with the likes of Tahlia McGrath, Ash Gardner, Alanna King and Darcie Brown coming through to support the veterans.
There’s an argument Australia has professionalised women’s cricket faster than other countries, who are still playing catch up.
On the other hand, not every country in the world has the same swimming culture as us, but Australia still has a smaller population to draw on at Olympics compared to juggernauts like the USA.
There are other teams that lay claim to being Australia’s most dominant team.
The Hockeyroos of the 1990s, led by legendary coach Ric Charlesworth that won everything possible including two Olympic golds, also deserve a mention.
On the men’s side, the Australian cricket team of the late 1990s and 2000s led by Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting has to be our best ever team.
And the beloved Matildas are in excellent form and could leapfrog all of them by winning the FIFA World Cup at home later this year.