Author(s): Martin Flanagan
Tom Wills is the young man with at least two, and possibly four, different versions of Australian history running through his head: (blackfeller, whitefeller, convict, squatter and all the possible variations thereof). No-one in his time understood him. How could they? He didn't understand himself. All he knew was that when he was out there, on the sports field, he was himself.
Martin Flanagan gives us a way into one of Australia's most celebrated and complex sportsmen, Tom WIlls (1835-1880). From his time in Rugby he played high level cricket, returning to Victoria in 1856 to become a match-winning captain in Intercolonial matches. An aggressive batsman and over-arm bowler, Wills was part of the Melbourne Cricket Club. As one aware of the Aboriginal game known as Marngrook and keen to find a winter sport for his team-mates, he helped write the original code of laws for Australian Rules in 1859; was a founding member of several clubs including Melbourne, was President of Collingwood and Vice-President of Richmond.
While on a droving expedition in Queensland in 1861 with his father, Wills Senior and 17 friends were massacred at Cullin-la-ringo. Surviving this, Tom Wills captained Melbourne and sometimes Geelong in the mid-1860s, and scored the first half century in Australian cricket. As Captain and Coach prepared the first Aboriginal Cricket Team in 1866-67 for their famous tour of Great Britain in 1868. Not chosen to join them, and outlawed from cricket for "chucking" in 1872, Wills was still good enough to bowl WG Grace in 1874; but his drinking soon took the better of him, and he died by his own hand in 1880.