In from the cold : Tom Wills – a nineteenth century sporting hero

Moore, Gregory Mark de (2008) In from the cold : Tom Wills – a nineteenth century sporting hero. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


Tom Wills was the most important Australian sportsman of the mid-nineteenth century, but it is only in the first decade of the twenty-first century that he has grown in profile as a figure of cultural significance. Although Tom Wills is best recalled as the most important figure in early Australian Rules football, it was cricket that dominated his life. He rose to prominence in cricket during his time at Rugby school in England during the 1850s. When he returned to Australia he became the captain of the Victorian cricket team. On 10 July 1858 he penned what has become one of the most famous documents in Australian sporting history: a letter calling for the formation of a ‘football’ club. Only three years later his father was murdered by aborigines in central Queensland in what is recorded as the highest number of European settlers killed by aborigines in a single assault. Remarkably, only five years after his father’s murder, Tom Wills coached an aboriginal cricket team from western Victoria. Tom Wills’ life ended early, as did so many lives of colonial sportsmen, shortened by the effects of alcohol. Alcohol abuse led directly to the suicide of Wills at the age of 44 years. This thesis is the first academic attempt to uncover and then critically review some of the important parameters that shaped his life.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Historical > RFCD Classification > 220000 Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts-General
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Sport and Exercise Science
Keywords sportsman, cricket player, Tom Wills, 19th century, history, Australia
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