The Start of the Game
Thomas Wills was one of the four men who formulated the distinctive rules of Australian football and started the game to keep Melbourne cricket players fit in the winter.Thomas Wentworth Wills
(1935-1880) was one of the great early characters in Australian sport. He was sent off to England for his education and he captained Rugby school in both cricket and football. Back in Australia his family set out for north Queensland to establish a farm but the party was ambushed and 19 people including his father were killed by Aborigines. Thomas Wills survived because he had stayed back to mend a broken dray. He returned to Melbourne where he was a leading cricketer and an outstanding performer against early English touring sides, though he retired before the first test match in 1877.
He formed and coached
the Aboriginal cricket team which Charles Lawrence took to England
in the 1860s, a remarkable act of reconciliation in view of his earlier experience.
The Victorian Football League was established in 1896 and the foundation clubs in the first year of competiton in 1897 were Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, Melbourne, St Kilda and South Melbourne. Richmond joined in 1908, Footsgray, Hawthorn and North Melbourne joned in 1925. In 1987, the competition expanded to become the AFL with the West Coast Eagles and the Brisbane Bears, followed by Adelaide (in 1991), Fremantle (in 1995), and Port Adelaide (in 1997). Fitzroy merged with the Brisbane Bears to form the Brisbane Lions after the 1996 season.