Celebrating Tom Wills’ birthday in Captains Flat

August 2, 2014 by
Filed under: NSW Demons 

Thomas Wentworth Wills was born on 19 August 1835 near Captains Flat in NSW. He is one of the writers of the original rules of AFL and an early member of the Melbourne Football Club. The home ground of the GWS in Sydney is the Tom Wills Ground and Melbourne plays GWS on Sunday 17 August.

So the Captains Flat Area S355 Committee is celebrating his birthday with a party and the first public showing of the AFL on the cinema screen in the Hall.

When: 3.00 pm on Sunday 17 August
Where: Captains Flat Community Hall

The game commences at 3:20 pm, so the Hall will open at 3:00pm. At half time there will be birthday cake and party games. Post game drinks and meals will be available from both the Hotel and the Club and, if you make prior arrangements, meals from the Outsider Gallery & Café. If you are travelling by car or coach please note there is no fuel at Captains Flat.

Thomas Wentworth Wills, born 19 August 1835, at Molonglo Plains, eldest son of Horatio Spencer Howe Wills and his wife Elizabeth, née McGuire. According to Melbourne University, he was born in 1835 “on a bleak landscape called Captains Flat near Canberra: the game of Australian Rules football was created by a New South Welshman.” Although other sources state he was born at Parramatta, he is featured on the sporting history plaque in Wilkins Memorial Park where it states he was born at Foxlow.

Wills’ letter published in Bell’s Life in Victoria and Sporting Chronicle, 10 July, 1858, called for cricketers to take up a winter sport for fitness’ sake and maintenance of the cricket field. Wills wrote:
“Dear Sir,
Now that cricket has been put aside for some months to come, and cricketers have assumed somewhat of the chrysalis nature (for the time being only, it is true), but at length again will burst forth in all their varied hues, rather than allow this state of torpor to creep over them and stifle their now supple limbs, why cannot they, I say, form a football club, and form a committee of three or more to draw up a code of laws?
If a club of this sort was got up, it would be of vast benefit to any cricket ground to be trampled on, and would make the turf firm and durable, besides which it would help those who are inclined to become stout and having their joints encased in useless superabundant flesh.
If it were not possible to form a football club, why should these young men who have adopted this new country for their motherland – why, I say, do not they form themselves into a rifle club, so at any date they may be some day called upon to aid their adopted land against a tyrant who may some time pop upon us when we least expect a foe at our very own doors. Surely our young cricketers are not afraid of a crack of a rifle when they face so courageously the leather sphere, and it would disgrace no one to learn in time to defend his country and his hearth.
A firm heart and a steady hand and a quick eye are all that are requisite and with practice all these may be attained.
Trusting that someone will take up this matter and form either of the above clubs, or at any rate some athletic games.”

The response to this letter enabled him, his cousin Henry Colden Harrison, William Hammersley, J. B. Thompson and Thomas H. Smith to meet at Jerry Bryant’s Parade Hotel in East Melbourne on 17 May 1859, to write down the Melbourne Football Club’s rules for the first time. They consulted the rules of Rugby and three other English schools before outlawing some rules and adding now characteristic ones of the game. Tom Wills introduced the oval shaped ball, a free kick following a mark and the whole concept of flooding.
In September 1857, Wills was elected as honorary secretary of the MCC, replacing William Hammersley but also played for other local clubs when the MCC didn’t have a Saturday fixture. The Melbourne Football Club was formed on August 7, 1858. Late in 1858 Wills left Melbourne Cricket Club and joined Richmond. The game quickly expanded and in 1866 an updated set of rules was put in place and competition started. Tom Wills died on 2 May 1880, sixteen years before the Victorian Football League was established in 1896. In 1897 the League’s first games were played among the foundation clubs – Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, Melbourne, St Kilda and South Melbourne.




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