In Greg De Moore’s illustrated talk on Sunday at the Bradman Museum he both entertained and informed an eager crowd on not only the first ‘Wild Man’ of Australian sport but the unique and important role of Tom Wills in early Australian society.
With his whimsical nature and deep understanding of human psyche, Greg took his audience on a journey through the life of an extraordinary man. Very few people realise that Victoria’s beloved game of Australian Rules Football was actually developed by Australia’s earliest cricket superstar, who ironically, was also born in NSW.
Wills grew up in Australia’s heartland where his only playmates were the local Aboriginal children. He honed his cricket skills at the strict British Rugby School and came back to adoring fans in Australia who ogled his on field superiority.
Wills lived hard and fast, constantly challenging authority. He broke down the barriers between professional and amateur cricketers when as an amateur he managed to acquire an allowance from the Melbourne cricket club. Also, despite losing his father in the biggest European massacre by Aborigines he went on to coach the first Aboriginal cricket team.
Wills life was one of hard work on the field and he enjoyed great success but like all sport stars he began to struggle as his skills began to fade. As Greg’s talk reached the climax of this Australian tale he recounted the final traumatic hours of Wills life which ended with him taking his own life in a violent fashion. As Greg so succinctly put it, ‘this was one final act by a man who lived by his own rules.’