Tom Wills

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Tom Wills

Statue at the Melbourne Cricket Ground of Tom Wills umpiring a game of school or folk football in 1858
Born August 19, 1835
Near Gundagai, New South Wales or Queanbeyan, New South Wales[1]
Died May 2, 1880 (aged 44)
Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia
Cause of death Suicide by stabbing[2]

Thomas Wentworth "Tom" Wills (19 August 1835 – 3 May 1880) was an Australian all-round sportsman who helped invent Australian Football and helped write the Laws of Australian Football.[3][2]

Wills was born in south-east New South Wales, Australia either near Gundagai or Queanbeyan.[1]

From the age of 14 he went to Rugby School in England. At school he played both rugby football and cricket very well. By his final year in England, he was captain of the Rugby XI and he was listed in Bells Sporting Life as being one of the most promising young cricketers in England.

In 1859, Wills was involved with others in creating a set of football rules that were like a cross between rugby, soccer and Gaelic football. He made up the game for cricketers to keep in shape during the off-season (winter). Wills had help from people who included his cousin Henry Colden Harrison, and W.J. Hammersly and J.B. Thompson. This game is now Australian Rules Football.[4]

Tom Wills with the Aboriginal cricket team he captained at the MCG in December 1866

Wills grew up with Indigenous Australians. He spoke the language of the people who lived near him and played with the children. It has been suggested that Australian Rules Football is based in part on Marn Grook, an Aboriginal game with some similar rules to Australian Rules Football. Because the indigenous people Wills played with as a child would have played Marn Grook, Wills would have been influenced by this game when creating the rules for Australian Rules Football.[5]

Willis was an alcoholic. He committed suicide by stabbing himself in the heart.

References[change | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Family history states 19 August near Gundagai (reference "Thomas Wentworth Wills". An Index of Australian Wills Families: Descendants of Edward Wills. Tom Wills. 2006. http://tww.id.au/fam/liza-edward/pafg03.htm#91. Retrieved 2006-07-05.) However, the Australian Dictionary of Biography entry (reference: W. F. Mandle (1976). "Wills, Thomas Wentworth Spencer (1835 - 1880)". http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A060443b.htm. Retrieved 2008-11-25.) gives the date of birth as 19 December and the location as on the Molonglo Plains, near present day Queanbeyan, New South Wales.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Tom Wills: His Spectacular Rise and Tragic Fall - biography by Greg de Moore". Reading Victoria > The Summer Read > 2008 > Shortlist. State Library of Australia. Archived from the original on 2009-02-20. http://web.archive.org/web/20090220233814/http://slv.vic.gov.au/programs/reading_victoria/summerread/2008/shortlist/shortlist18.html. Retrieved 2008-11-25.
  3. http://www.footystamps.com/ot_tom_wills.htm
  4. W. F. Mandle (1976). "Wills, Thomas Wentworth Spencer (1835 - 1880)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A060443b.htm. Retrieved 2008-11-25.
  5. "Australian rules football: Australian Football League" (pdf (18 pages). What’s the score? A survey of cultural diversity and racism in Australian sport. Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. 2007. http://www.humanrights.gov.au/racial_discrimination/whats_the_score/pdf/afl.pdf. Retrieved 2008-11-25.