Thomas Wentworth Wills

In 2008 on the 150th anniversary of Australian Rules football, we remembered the man with his cousin H.C.A. Harrison, drafted the first rules for a new form of football in 1858.

This young man was an all round sportsman, Secretary of the Melbourne Cricket Club at twenty years of age, an excellent cricketer, a great coach and a sports administrator at a
time when amateurism was the norm.

He also took the first Aboriginal (and thus Australian) Cricketing Team to England.

The following is largely drawn from "The Paddock That Grew" (The Story of the Melbourne Cricket Club), by Keith Dunstan .

"His father, Horace Spencer Wills, settled at Ararat in 1839". This was some three years
after the first settlement in what became the Colony of Victoria. " In 1852 he sent his young son Tommy home home to England to be educated at Rugby. Tommy was a sporting natural. He was Captain of both cricket and football at Rugby, and at Cambridge he was considered one of the most promising cricketers in England. He returned to Australia in 1856".

Tom Wills accompanied his father to Queensland in 1860 and remained there for some
years, returning to Victoria in 1864 in time to play against Parr's English XII that year. "It is
hard even to guess at his value to cricket in Australia. For years he was the "Grace" of the
Colony, and there's no question that his coaching of young players helped put Australia on
equal terms with England."

But it was prior to this that Tom's attention turned to developing an "off-season" activity to
keep cricketers fit during the winter months.

"During 1858 he wrote his famous letter to "Bell's Life", suggesting that the MCC should
form a football club to keep the players fit during the winter. The grounds were too hard for
Rugby tackling, therefore new rules were necessary. With his cousin, H.C.A. Harrison, he
worked on the rules of a new football game that was to have quite an effect on the MCG."

As has been recorded elsewhere, and immortalised in bronze at the MCG, Tom Wills umpired
the first game of football in the parkland adjoining the present site of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, between students from two Melbourne private schools. The new game caught on and clubs were formed, requiring further revision of the rules to enable a game to be completed in a reasonable time. Umpires came later. Initially the opposing Captains
awarded free kicks.

So we come to the grave at Warringal Cemetery. For a life that was lived to the full, for a person who achieved so much, Tom met a tragic end. "In later years he became an alcoholic, and in 1880 he committed suicide with a bayonet".

Tom Wills cousin, H.C.A. Harrison, died in 1929 aged 92. "He had been a member of the MCC for 68 years and he was vicepresident since 1892". Whether it was Harrison's passing or, for some other reason, the MCC members recognised that the grave of Thomas Wentworth Wills at Warringal Cemetery was without a suitable monument. Through subscriptions, they raised sufficient money to provide a monument for his grave. Bearing in mind that these were the years of the Great Depression, when many families starved and men wandered the countryside looking for work, it is remarkable to now look upon that simple monument to Wills, the founder of Australian Football.

Thomas Wentworth Wills is buried in Warringal Cemetery, adjoining Upper Heidelberg
Road in Heidelberg.




Melbourne Link Thomas Wentworth Wills Link opens in new browser window






Link opens new page Content > View Category | Melbourne | View Mobile Friendly Page

Link opens new page This Page > Update | Edit This Page


Click here to edit / update this page







Stay Tuned | Free Newsletter


Want all the latest Melbourne events and activities straight to your inbox?

Subscribe to our FREE weekly newsletter below to keep up to date with all the best events & activities for Melbourne. Newsletters are sent once a week every Tuesday!

Email Address*:


Melbourne * Requires confirmation Read FAQ | Read This Week's Newsletter

Facebook Twitter Google+ YouTube Instagram
See Events in May >
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31


Featured
Hophaus SausageFest
View Hophaus SausageFest
Announcing Hophaus SausageFest – A Fleisch Festival – A German Meat Festival in the heart of | Read On..


Peter and Bambi Heaven | The Magic Inside
View Peter and Bambi Heaven | The Magic Inside
Magic is going to happen people. Asher Treleaven (La Soirée) and Gypsy Wood (Miss Cage Dance | Read On..


Prometheus Bound
View Prometheus Bound
Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus The daring of concept and dramatic movement of Aeschylus stands | Read On..


Centre of Italian Studies
View Centre of Italian Studies
Based in Melbourne's lively "Little Italy", the Centre of Italian Studies has been teaching Italian | Read On..


Melbourne's Exclusive Magic Show
View Melbourne's Exclusive Magic Show
Witness Impossible Occurrences, one of Melbourne's most exclusive attractions. Award winning | Read On..


Greek Tavern Night | Saturday Nights
View Greek Tavern Night | Saturday Nights
Melbourne's best traditional GREEK night with live music, entertainment, dancing and Mediterranean | Read On..


Check Out
Aladdin – The Musical
View Aladdin – The Musical
Disney’s ALADDIN is the must-see show of the year and “Broadway’s biggest new hit! (Entertainment Weekly) From the producer of The Lion King, the | Read On..

Mel's Pick
Van Gogh and the Seasons
View Van Gogh and the Seasons
Melbourne Winter Masterpieces 2017 NGV - National Gallery of Victoria 28 April - 9 July 2017 | Read On..

Trending