Don’t you just love it when you learn something you didn’t know before? Don’t you love it even more when that something surprises and delights you?
The origins of Australian Rules Football are laid bare in this beautiful book by footy fanatic and author of Side-by-Side (the Collingwood FC story), Neridah McMullen.
Young Tom is feeling blue. The cricket season is over and there’s nothing to do. He drags his feet in the ochre dust, but suddenly he hears singing. It’s his friend Jirra from the Djab Wurrung camp who tries to cheer Tom up with a different kind of ball game. It’s called Marn-grook and . . . it’s truly awesome.
Tom joins in a large group of Indigenous kids who toss, kick, leap and climb each others’ backs in pursuit of that ball. The descriptions of the boys kicking and lobbing that ball in the sunshine are joyful and full of action, and Tom’s face as he gets into the full swing of the game is priceless. You can simply feel his breath being stolen away.
Vibrant, emotive illustrations by Peter Hudson beautifully showcase not only the land but the sunshine and effervescence in the boys’ faces.
A fascinating postscript gives some historical background on young Tom Wills, who once lived near and befriended children of the Djab Wurrung tribe, near the Gariwerd Grampians of Western Victoria. After spending a childhood on the land, Tom was sent to boarding school in Melbourne then onto England where he attended Rugby School and Cambridge.
After returning to Australia in 1856, Tom captained the Victorian colony in cricket, but it wasn’t until 1858 when he sent a letter to a Victorian newspaper explaining the importance of fitness that he suggested football club be formed. “We shall have a game of our own,” he declared – and so this letter changed the course of Australian sporting history.
Aussie Rules was born. Helping develop, champion, officiate and administrate AFL, Tom Wills was certainly a key player in the formation of this glorious Indigenous sport. A priceless story for anyone with a love of history – or anyone with a serious addiction to our great Aussie game.
Kick It To Me is published by One Day Hill.