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Greats on show at sports museum
Gary Hartree, The West Australian The National Sports Museum in Melbourne.

It's just as well that the National Sports Museum has a 5pm closing time.

Otherwise, so engaging is this collection of Australian sporting memorabilia that sports fans may not emerge until well into the night from the museum, which opened as part of the redevelopment of the MCG in March 2008.

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On entering the museum, a green and gold 1960s Formula One racing car immediately attracts attention. It is the Repco Brabham driven by Sir Jack Brabham when he won both the World Drivers and Constructors Championships in 1966.

A basic car by today's standards, it's a lasting reminder of the days when an Australian dominated the sport. As the winner of three World Drivers Championships, Sir Jack is Australia's only multiple champion in that form of motor racing.

Displays show how the MCG has evolved since being established on the site in 1853 and its importance during World War II before being returned to its normal role for subsequent major events such as the 1956 Olympic Games and cricket's Centenary Test in 1977.

There is even a section of support column kept from the old Bay 13, which was notorious for its boisterous crowd behaviour, particularly during one-day cricket internationals.

Olympians feature prominently in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, including Dawn Fraser, Betty Cuthbert, Shane Gould and Herb Elliott.

A short walk away, the achievements that made them legends are documented in the Olympic Gallery (Faster, Higher, Stronger).

Sports memorabilia from some of Australia's proudest moments are on show in the National Sports Museum, Melbourne. Picture: Gary Hartree

The two gold medals won by Australia's first Olympic champion Edwin Flack in Athens in 1896 are part of an Olympic timeline.

Betty Cuthbert's three gold medals from the 1956 Melbourne Olympics are there, as are Shirley Strickland's Olympic medals and memorabilia, the famous running suit worn by Cathy Freeman in winning gold at the Sydney Olympics and reminders of the star power of swimmer Murray Rose.

Themed entrances lead into the cricket (Backyard to Baggy Green) and Australian football (Australia's Game) galleries.

A cricket wicket, flanked on either side by statistics and personal items of the 34 players in the cricket hall of fame and a display of equipment used by greats of the game, leads to the fascinating Shane Warne Theatre, where the latest in 3-D hologram technology virtually has the great spin bowler in the room with us as he reminisces over his stellar career.

Around the corner is the Baggy Green Room, containing Test caps worn by a host of leading players and the marvellous Melbourne Cricket Club Museum which traces the history of one of the world's biggest sporting clubs through 1500 artefacts including the amazing visual art collection of cricket-related paintings, etchings, lithographs, ceramics and trophies.

A set of goal and behind posts heralds the football gallery which has a series of exhibits that traces the history of Australian Rules.

Early football equipment and VFL premiership cups from 1957-59 lead to the Football Hall of Fame honouring almost 240 players, coaches, umpires and officials. The gallery has a 3-D hologram of former Essendon player and current club coach James Hird recounting the highlights and low points of his career.

The sport of kings is represented in the colourful Champions Thoroughbred Racing Gallery which is dominated by the skeleton of legendary horse and 1890 Melbourne Cup winner Carbine and honours racehorses along with jockeys and trainers. Displays show various styles of Melbourne Cup.

Other sports shown include rugby, tennis, soccer, basketball, netball, golf, Paralympics, cycling and boxing. Children and school groups can try different sports or check sports records in an interactive gallery along a section of the running track from the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

• The National Sports Museum can be seen on its own or as part of an MCG tour package.