On the origins of Australian football
The Indigenous game of marngrook and its claimed connection to Australian rules football has provoked unusually intense debate.1. Dismissed as ‘an emotional belief’, ‘falsifying history’, ‘lacking any intellectual credibility’—who could have imagined that the seemingly innocuous matter of an Indigenous game of football would meet with such invective.
Several accounts of Indigenous football reveal a striking similarity with key features of the Australian game, suggesting an unarticulated link between the two games. In the insistent denial of such a link, a critical factor has been that none of these historic accounts of Indigenous football has placed the game directly in the Western District of Victoria, in the area where Tom Wills lived. ‘Were there any reports of Aboriginal football in the Western District where Wills lived?’ Hibbins asks.2 The short answer is, yes.
A personal recollection by Mukjarrawaint man Johnny Connolly is the clearest and most detailed eye-witness account yet found of an Indigenous game of football. Most significantly this remarkable account, found among the personal papers of the ethnographer A.W. Howitt in the State Library of Victoria, is the only account by someone who actually played the game.3 And he played it in the Grampians region in the Western District of Victoria, precisely where Tom Wills lived. In the search for the elusive Indigenous game of ‘marngrook’ and its contested links to Australian rules football, Johnny Connolly’s firsthand account changes everything:
In playing a game at ball which they kicked about[,] the different totems present two different sides and there were men and women in each side … Johnny remembers that he, his mother, and her mother all played on the same side at ball. His cousin George played with the Wurant in the other side.
Connolly was from the Mukjarrawaint people, a subgroup of the Wotjobaluk, and part of the complex network of intricately interconnected Indigenous communities of the Gariwerd (Grampians) region in what is now north-western Victoria. The land of the Mukjarrawaint covered the area between Ararat, Carr’s Plains, the Richardson River, Horsham, Rosebrook, and extending back to the Grampians. As Johnny Connolly described it, ‘Each man and each woman living in that country was Mukjarrawaint. His name is also that of a place now called Mockpilli.’4
When he told his story to Howitt, Connolly was living at the Ramahyuck mission, where he and many others had been relocated from Lake Condah and Framlingham missions in the west, their lands, families, totems and culture already irretrievably damaged by the incursions of European settlers, their stock and the ravages of dispossession.5 In the Western District this impact was violent, immediate and utterly devastating. Within 20 years of the arrival of the first squatters in the late 1830s, less than 700 members remained of this once diverse and complex community of more than 6000 people from several distinct language groupings.6
In the histories of that region the Mukjarrawaint rarely feature. Howitt’s notes point to an important matrilineal focus common to the area, particularly regarding totems and the complex social rules governing interrelationships. Connolly’s description of the two sides in Indigenous football as replicating these totemic divisions suggests that the game was important not only as amusement and skill development, but also as a means of reinforcing these political kin relationships. With the incursions of European settlers the Mukjarrawaint and their patterns of life, land and community developed over centuries were shattered and, just as quickly, became lost to history.
In the 1980s Poulter reprised marngrook from this cultural and historical vacuum and, more dramatically, posited a clear connection between it and Australian rules football.7 He could not have foreseen the furore that greeted this impertinence. Indigenous football had been played along the entire southern area of the continent and yet in the aftermath of Poulter’s invocation of its ‘previously unsuspected links’ to Australian football, its nature, extent and influence, became fiercely contested in what has been called ‘football’s history wars’. 8
In recent years these arguments have become so insistent, and their impact on contemporary perceptions of Australian rules football so unsettling, that the game’s own commissioned history has been called into question, and rightly so. In the AFL’s official history The Australian Game of Football since 1858, Hibbins proclaimed in a short and provocative piece that marngrook had no connection to, and not even any influence on, Australian football. In this unusually strident piece, Hibbins dismissed the suggestion of such an Indigenous influence as ‘a seductive myth’, writing that ‘Understandably, the appealing idea that Australian football is a truly Australian native game recognizing the Indigenous people, rather than deriving solely from a colonial dependence upon the British background, has been uncritically embraced and accepted in some places’. 9
The emphatic rejection of ‘this appealing idea’ left no space even for the possibility of a link between marngrook and Australian football, much less a causal relationship between them. In this, the historiographic response is as interesting as the history itself. Such singularity reflects a conceptual position in which the settler colonial experience is the only perspective from which history is, and can be, told. The prospect of Indigenous engagement with that colonial settler experience, even through the apparently unremarkable medium of Indigenous football, has been peremptorily rejected. Hibbins’ definitive view of Australian football as ‘derived solely from a colonial dependence’ links it irrevocably and absolutely to British football, despite the marked differences between them in which the influence of marngrook might be found.
Hibbins’ claims attracted ardent supporters and critics alike and two opposing positions took shape around this question of the role of marngrook in the development of Australian football, each tightly held and neither yet conclusive.10 The arguments coalesced around three main elements in this still evolving story: the nature and extent of marngrook; the establishment of Australian football; and the equally contested role of the brilliant sportsman Tom Wills in the interface between both. Wills is widely seen as central to these debates, having lived in the Western District as a child and his famous letter to Bell’s Life Victoria in 1858 calling for the formation of football clubs as a means of keeping cricketers fit between seasons having precipitated the development of the first football clubs.
Hibbins and those to follow argue a negative, that the absence of documentary evidence of a connection between marngrook and Australian rules means that there is none. Specifically, there is ‘no evidence’ in three key respects: first, that marngrook was even played in the region where Wills lived; second, that Tom Wills saw or played marngrook; and finally, that elements from marngrook were incorporated into Australian football.11 Overarching this position is an approach to research that Cazaly termed ‘myopic’, marked by demands for ‘evidence’ narrowly focused on the time of codification of the rules.12
By these repeated calls for ‘evidence’ are meant documentary, text-based evidence, a notion and a form familiar to the British colonisers whose documentation of the penal settlement was superlative, but not one that would readily engage with Indigenous history. For a society whose cultural memory inhered in song, in dance, in stories and art, and which had so quickly been devastated, this constructs an evidentiary near impossibility.
In its landmark 1992 Mabo decision, the High Court of Australia recognised the limited utility of text-based documentary evidence alone for establishing historical patterns of life, land and ownership in Indigenous communities that had no such written tradition.
Not only did that transformative judgment acknowledge the significance of ethnographic and oral history to historical understanding of Indigenous communities, the court admitted such material as ‘traditional evidence’ of ownership.13 If even that bastion of theoretical high conservatism, grounded as it is in notions of precedence, can accept such a radical repositioning as this, surely football’s historians cannot be too far behind.
These demands for documentation and evidence also preclude the possibility that these accounts are there, to be found among the papers, reports and records of the colonial authorities and early settlers. ‘Pioneer’ records, diaries, correspondence, personal papers, and the exhaustive reports from the Aboriginal Protectorate in Port Phillip, reveal far more than this demand for documents suggests. The assertion that these records do not support a link between marngrook and Australian football has been too readily accepted as correct. The problem is not with the original records, but with those who continue to dismiss their significance.
There is no shortage of descriptions of Indigenous football games before the depredations of European occupation. Of these, the account given by the assistant protector of Aborigines, William Thomas, in 1858 is one of the best known: ‘The Marngrook (or the Ball) is a favourite game with boys and men … the ball is kicked into the air not along the ground, there is a general scramble at the ball, the tall black fellows stand the best chance. When caught it is again kicked up in the air with great force and ascends as straight up and as high as when thrown by the hand.’14
Dawson also described Indigenous football as ‘one of the favourite games … in which fifty, or as many as one hundred players engage at a time’. The local game he observed was played with two sides formed according to their totem: ‘white cockatoo against black cockatoo, quail against snake’, matching the totemic formations recalled by Johnny Connolly.15 Howitt recognised in the game an additional social and cultural significance in regulating relations between these totemic divisions, through the ball itself: ‘The “mangurt” or ball was sent as a token of friendship from one to the other.’16
A more recently discovered etching based on the observations of William Blandowski in 1857 depicts a game of football being played by the Nyeri Nyeri people of northern Victoria in which the ball ‘is not thrown or hit with a bat, but it is kicked in the air with the foot … The aim of the game: never let the ball touch the ground.’17
While Blandowski’s observations have provided the earliest image of a football game, the papers of the artist W.A. Cawthorne provide the earliest image of an Indigenous football. Cawthorne’s papers in the Mitchell Library include a sketch from the early 1840s of the ‘pando’, the oval ball used by the Kaurna people of the southern region between what is now Victoria and South Australia. The pando was sketched from Cawthorne’s own observation and it formed the basis for one of his colour plates on ‘the manners and customs of the natives’. It included a brief description of the pando, as ‘universally used by the young and old’.18 Cawthorne subsequently gave a more detailed description of the game of ‘pando’: ‘The players stand together in a ring or a line. One of them kicks the ball in the air, sometimes to the height of fifty feet … The merit of the game is to kick the ball perpendicularly and to keep it in the air as long as possible.’19
Like most other firsthand accounts, Cawthorne drew no distinction between men and women, old and young, as participants in this game. The accounts of Connolly, Howitt and Beveridge all detail female involvement in these games, with women playing as equals. ‘The women participate in this game as well as the men. We have seen as many as two hundred—including sexes—engaged in it at one time.’20 Yet in much of the recent discourse regarding Indigenous football drawing on these sources, the integral part played by women has been almost entirely disregarded. Beveridge gives this powerful observation of the start of the game:
When all is in order, a Lyoore [woman] starts off with the ball in her hand. She walks a little way out from her own side, and towards that of her opponents, drops the ball with seeming carelessness, but ’ere it has time to reach the ground, she gives it a dexterous, and by no means gentle kick, which being correctly aimed, sends the ball spinning high into the air.21
In a remarkable transposition, this description of a game in which a woman starts the game by kicking the ball up and then plays with ‘her side’ against ‘her opponents’, has been re-presented and cast instead as a game that begins ‘with a woman kicking the ball up for the men to play’.22 This transposition means that marngrook has been presented as a game played by men when Beveridge described a game in which women played alongside men—‘women participate in this game as well as the men’. In a final indignity, those women have been depicted as merely providing support for the male players. It would be difficult to find a clearer example of the process through which evidence provided by the historical record is filtered through unconscious presentiment and recast in that image.
The contestation over marngrook and its relationship with Australian football has crystallised around three key elements: marngrook, Australian football, and between them the figure of Tom Wills, seen as the pivot between two communities, two cultures and two games. Wills was an exceptional athlete, possessed of ‘transcendent sporting achievements’.23 He had excelled at rugby, which he had played as a pupil at Rugby School, and equally at cricket, which he played again at Rugby School and then for Cambridge University, where he enrolled simply in order to play for the university team. Wills had also, most unusually, grown up in the Gariwerd (Grampians) region where the Mukjarrawaint people lived and where marngrook was also played. Wills occupied what Judd terms ‘a position of cultural hybridity’ between ‘settler’ and Indigenous peoples in the Western district—a position that, while not uncommon, is rarely acknowledged.24 Tom Wills is not only the bridge between two cultures and two games, he is the bridge between the opposing views in this debate. For it is a rare point of agreement that if the argued link between marngrook and Australian football is to be found, it will be found in the story of Tom Wills.
Tom Wills had arrived in the region when his father Horatio Wills, the excitable mercurial son of a convict, followed the tracks of Major Mitchell to the newly opened Port Phillip district in search of his idealised ‘Australia Felix’. Horatio, his wife Elizabeth and four-year-old son Tom, with 500 sheep, 500 cattle, drovers, stockmen, shepherds and their families, travelled south across the Murray to the eastern end of the Grampians mountain range. In 1840 Horatio, in the passive language of a land presumed terra nullius, ‘took up’ an immense tract of land called Ledcourt, 200,000 acres from Mount William, north-east towards the Wimmera and back towards Mount Dryden, just beyond the limits of established European settlement.25
The two stations on which Tom Wills spent most of his childhood, Lexington and La Rose-Mokepilli, were taken up the following year.26 Mokepilli is the Indigenous name recalled by Johnny Connolly for the traditional lands of the Mukjarrawaint people: ‘His name is also that of a place now called Mockpilli.’ In its transliteration this has been variously presented as Mokpilli, Mokepilli and Noke Pillee. Lexington alone ran to 120,000 acres, its boundaries marked by the landscape itself, ‘on the south from the Three Corner Waterhole … on the east by Ararat’. From there it stretched on to the junction of Mt Dryden Ridge, to Fyans Creek on the Wimmera River, on to ‘Noke Pillee’ and the Long Waterhole.27
Each of the three runs occupied by Wills—Ledcourt in 1840 for a year, Lexington and La Rose-Mokepilli for ten years—were in the country of the Mukjarrawaint people. Horatio Wills had led the first group of European settlers into that immediate region, he had named the area now known as Ararat for its biblical referents—‘for here, like the Ark, we rested’, he wrote in his journal.28 As a squatter Horatio Wills was both typical and unusual in his attitude to the Indigenous people whose land he had so easily ‘taken up’. He developed an unusually syncretic relationship with the local communities—a mix of brutality, paternalism and personal connection. Horatio spoke their language and worked with Indigenous people on his stations, yet the records show that he was also guilty of murder and the violent dispossession of those same communities.29
Most unusually, Horatio Wills acknowledged the Indigenous peoples as ‘the original possessors’ of his land and proposed to Governor Gipps that they should not be placed in reserves but should be given ‘the right of their hunting grounds’: ‘Let the Blacks have the country unmolested to range upon.’30 The local Indigenous people were always present on the Wills’ properties—
he encouraged it and recognised their need to be on their country—which he considered nevertheless now to be his. The chief protector of Aborigines in Port Phillip, G.A. Robinson, visiting the Wills property at Ledcourt in 1849, noted several ‘natives’ engaged as shepherds and workers there.31 Horatio also described this land as having been ‘for some considerable time back an area of general rendezvous’ for the local Indigenous peoples, a place where corroborees, games and other entertainments were traditionally held including football. Cawthorne described the ‘korrobery’ as ‘connected to these games’ and considered them as part of the same group of activities.32
Like his father, Tom Wills spoke the local Indigenous language and there is no doubt he formed close relationships with the Mukjarrawait people, as his cousin Colden Harrison recalled.33 For six years, until he left Lexington to attend Brickwoods Academy in Melbourne, Tom Wills was the only European child there and his friends were the Indigenous children on that land. A letter Horatio wrote to Tom soon after Tom had left Lexington for Rugby School highlights this connection:
‘Pussy cat’ (black boy) went off to Mt. William with teams a few days ago. The day before he left he said to your Mother ‘Where Tom? Tom no quambie here: when quambie Tom?’ Evidently much surprised at not meeting you he continued ‘You show me Tom’ meaning the daguerreotype likeness, he gazed upon it a long time. The old blacks, your friends, were fond of seeing it. They told me to send you up to them as soon as you came back.34
While these basic facts about Tom Wills’ life might appear incontrovertible, they are contested, caught up in the dispute over the role of marngrook in Australian football. Hibbins claims that Wills could not have seen marngrook played in the Grampians because he was not there long enough before leaving for school in Melbourne: ‘The Lexington station house with its window, which still exists, was not built when Tom was a boy and he never lived in the house’.36 This confuses Lexington the homestead with Lexington the sheep run. It was there, on that run also called Lexington, that Wills lived between the ages of four and ten, of this there is no dispute. The still existing homestead was built in 1851 and Tom was by then at school, but what Hibbins does not say is that Lexington homestead had replaced an earlier slab house built ten years earlier and in which Tom Wills lived with his family as a child. The slab house had in turn replaced the rudimentary tents that the family lived in for much of their first year in the district.36 In 1841 Robinson recorded that he had ridden to the Wills’ home station nine miles from Mt William and described Mrs Wills ‘living with her child (boy) in a small tent’.37
The basic biographical material clearly shows that not only did Tom Wills live in this area from the age of four, he lived in the very area in which the Indigenous football game played by and described by Johnny Connolly was played. Johnny Connolly’s is the only firsthand description of marngrook from someone who had played the game before the reach of settlement. Connolly was later engaged as a stockman on the stations in that same area, one of which was Ledcourt, the first run ‘taken up’ by Horatio Wills.38
While the testimony of Connolly has not previously been acknowledged, the reports of Howitt and Thomas have been key sites in the contention over marngrook and its influence on Australian football. In the debates over the marngrook connection, these reports of Indigenous football in the western region have been disputed, at times on the slightest, almost whimsical, grounds. Thomas provides one of the most important descriptions. In his 1844 journal he writes of a ‘great body’ of people coming into the settlement of Melbourne from the north-west. Thomas writes that after a day corroboree ‘about 35 fine young men of various tribes have a fine game of ball’. This is a significant firsthand reference to the Indigenous game since it is one of the earliest contemporaneous records of it, yet it too has been disputed.
Indeed Gooch dismisses the observations of both Thomas and Howitt, suggesting that their descriptions of Indigenous football refer only to ‘ball’, not specifically to ‘football’, and could therefore be referring to a different game altogether.39 This is a strained interpretation at best. Thomas elsewhere uses the same construction of ‘ball’ as meaning ‘marngrook’: ‘The Marngrook (or the Ball) is a favourite game with boys and men.’40 Similarly, it is suggested that Howitt ‘only ever mention[s] a ball game, apparently not football … those who support Marn grook have usually turned this game into football, but that is not actually what the Howitt records say.’41 In fact it is—the Howitt records include Connolly’s account of ‘a game at ball which they kicked about’.42
Thomas, Howitt and Cawthorne all noted the meanings of Indigenous words and it is clear from those and other contemporaneous reports that ‘marngrook’, ‘mangurt’ and ‘pando’ for instance each signified ‘ball’ as well as ‘football’.43 Several of the sources discussed here do not use the term ‘football’ at all when describing an Indigenous game of football. Connolly refers to ‘a game at ball’ and Howitt similarly writes of a ‘game of ball-playing’.44 By expecting ‘evidence’ of Indigenous football to take a contemporary form—namely the word ‘football’ itself—this historical evidence has been overlooked and seen as irrelevant.
What these repeated attempts to dispel the earliest reports of marngrook ineluctably lead to is the suggestion that Indigenous football did not exist until after European colonial expansion into the region. Gooch claims that Dawson’s account of the Indigenous game is undated and ‘unsourced’ and could therefore refer to a game witnessed later than the 1850s, after the development of Australian football.45 What follows is a dramatic claim, given the reports of the existence of marngrook throughout south-eastern Australia, for Gooch suggests that marngrook was not a genuine Indigenous game but mere mimicry of European football: ‘If, in this instance, it was Aborigines who did the copying, they were known everywhere as brilliant mimics, a facility which included their ability to imitate the British, right down to every lisp and limp.’
In this way a unique Indigenous game has been expropriated by and into the colonial present as nothing more than a mimic of the European game, in a modern variant of the silencing of Indigenous history. Here is the ultimate logic of the denials of marngrook, the rejection of the essence of indigeneity—its agency, history, identity and memory.
Three features of marngrook are common to all descriptions: the ball is kicked directly up and high; the ball is kept off the ground; and from these comes its third and most visually arresting aspect, its high leaping and catching—the ‘high mark’. These are well captured by Thomas: ‘The ball is kicked up in the air … when the ball is caught it is kicked up in the air again by the one who caught it, it is sent up with great force and ascends as straight up and as high as when thrown by the hand’.46 The final contention revolves around whether any of these elements of marngrook were incorporated into Australian football and its early rules.47
De Moore argues that, for the first 20 years, ‘the game was characterised by play that was, for the most part, close to the ground’, precluding any influence of the above ground style of play characteristic of marngrook. An unpublished letter by Tom Wills to his brother Horace shows that this was far from the case. Keeping the play and the players off the ground had been the intention of its founders from the outset. This letter, which Tom wrote to Horace in Queensland, was among the extensive papers, letters and original documents held by Terry Wills Cooke. Wills Cooke is a Wills family descendant, and although he is far from convinced of a connection between marngrook and Australian football, his own material suggests otherwise.
In this letter, according to Wills Cooke, Tom Wills indicates that the critical factor in the adaptations made in the new game of Australian football was a matter of geography—that the grounds were too hard for rugby, in which players were routinely thrown to the ground. The game then had to be adapted to keep the players and the play off the ground. Wills had proposed the new game in these terms in 1858 to the Melbourne Cricket Club and the early unwritten rules of Australian football were devised to ensure that players were not thrown to the ground and ‘kept the ball in the air’.48 Wills’ cousin Colden Harrison also recalled this potential for injury as central to the game’s early form, that Wills considered rugby ‘unsuitable’ for working men who needed to stay fit for work as well as for cricket.49 The context in which football had been established is the key to understanding these changes. Australian football had been developed in order to keep cricketers fit and healthy between seasons, and not as the primary focus of the sporting calendar that it quickly became.
Tom Wills’ letter crystallises some key points of contention in the debate over marngrook and its influence on modern Australian football. First, it confirms the view, already widely acknowledged, that football had derived primarily from rugby, in keeping with Tom Wills’ schooling and experience and his undoubted expertise at that game. Second, and in terms of the arguments over the influence of marngrook most significantly, rugby was not simply adopted wholesale. Instead, changes were made in order to address local conditions in its Australian adaptation, specifically the hardness of the ground. The key changes described by Wills and others were made in order to keep the players and the game off the ground and the ball in the air—there would be no ‘hacking’ or kicking of shins, no tripping and the ball could be kicked from player to player, not thrown.
It is here, in the interstices between rugby and Australian football, that the influence of marngrook can be seen most clearly. The distinguishing features of marngrook, the high kicking, leaping and marking, all advanced its central aim of keeping the ball off the ground. The early accounts of marngrook described the aim of the game in precisely those terms: Beveridge writes that ‘the whole of the play is merely to keep the ball in motion, and to prevent its coming to the ground’; Cawthorne that ‘the merit of the game is to kick the ball perpendicularly and to keep it in the air as long as possible’; and Blandowski identifies ‘The aim of the game—never let the ball touch the ground.’50
As a reconstruction of the past, history is always a narrative formed from imperfect knowledge, drawing on sources of vastly differing forms, veracity and relevance. As more and more material is uncovered about marngrook, Tom Wills and Australian football, the accumulating evidence all points in the same direction—the inescapable link between marngrook and Australian football. With Johnny Connolly’s testimony, a critical component in the denial of that link has crumbled.
Marngrook was played across the Western District, including the area Tom Wills lived in as a child from the age of four. That land was the land of the Mukjarrawaint people and a meeting place for local communities where corroborees were held and games were played. The local Indigenous people were Tom Wills’ childhood friends, he spoke their language, knew their customs, and he was close enough to them for young and old to pine for him when he went away to school. Instead of asking ‘where is the evidence he saw or played marngrook?’, we might ask, why would he not? Are we really to accept that Wills did everything but play football with the Mukjarrawaint people, that football was a hermetically sealed part of their relationship such that whenever a game began, Tom Wills—who arrived at school at the age of ten already highly skilled at sport—neither watched nor played?
The intense debate over marngrook and Australian football reflects something beyond just football. It reflects what Stanner called ‘the other side of a story over which the great Australian silence reigns … the story, in short, of unacknowledged relations between two racial groups within a single field of life’.51 At the heart of any connection between marngrook and Australian football is precisely this acknowledgement of relations between two cultures, the recognition of a shared history ‘within this single field of life’. Australian football has an Indigenous history.
- The Indigenous game is now widely referred to as the generic ‘marngrook’, although each Indigenous group played its own variant and with its own name.
- G. Hibbins, ‘Wills and the Aboriginal Game: A Seductive Myth’, in G. Slattery (ed.), The Australian Game of Football since 1858, GSP Books, Melbourne, 2008, p. 45.
- Alfred William Howitt Papers, 1830–1908, MS 9356, State Library of Victoria. This section of the Howitt papers has been discussed by Ian Clark in relation to the Mukjarrawaint people in ‘Land Succession and Fission in Nineteenth-century Western Victoria: The Case of Knenknenwurrung’, Australian Journal of Anthropology, vol. 17, no. 1 (2006).
- A.W. Howitt, The Native Tribes of South-East Australia, Macmillan, London, 1904, p. 55.
- P. Pepper and T. de Araugo, You are what you make yourself to be: The story of a Victorian Aboriginal family 1842–1980, Hyland House, Melbourne, 1980.
- P. Corris, Aborigines and Europeans in Western Victoria, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra, 1968, pp. 2–5.
- J. Poulter, ‘An old, old, ball game’, Australasian Post, 4 August 1983; J. Poulter, ‘Mark-Grook—Original Australian Rules’, in P. Bourke and L. Grogan (eds), This Game of Ours: Supporters’ Tales of the People’s Game, EATWARFLEMSD, St Andrews, Vic., 1993, pp. 64–7.
- C. Cazaly, ‘Off the Ball: Football’s History Wars’, Meanjin, no. 4, 2008, pp. 82–7.
- Hibbins, ‘A Seductive Myth’, p. 45.
- Cazaly, ‘Off the Ball’, p. 82.
- G. de Moore, ‘Tom Wills, Marngrook and the Evolution of Australian Rules Football’, in R. Hess, M. Nicholson and B. Stewart (eds), Football Fever: Crossing Boundaries, Maribyrnong Press, Hawthorn, 2005, p. 5.
- Cazaly, ‘Off the Ball’; G. Hibbins, ‘Myth and History in Australian Rules Football’, Sporting Traditions, vol. 25, no. 2 (2008), pp. 41–53.
- N. Sharp, No Ordinary Judgment: Mabo, the Murray Islanders’ Land Case, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, 1996.
- W. Thomas, ‘Vol 24 Amusements and War Implements’, Papers 1842–1858, ML MSS214, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.
- J. Dawson, Australian Aborigines: The Languages and Customs of Several Tribes of Aborigines in the Western District of Victoria, Australia, George Robertson, Melbourne, 1881, p. 85.
- A.W. Howitt, ‘Notes on Australian Message Sticks and Messengers’, 1889, <http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-26171094/view>; see also the discussion in B. Judd, ‘Australian Rules Football as Aboriginal Cultural Artifact’, Canadian Journal of Native Studies, vol. 25, no. 1 (2005), pp. 215–37, at p. 223.
- The etching was created in 1862 by Gustave Mutzel as instructed by Blandowski. S. Farnsworth, ‘Kids play kick to kick—1850s style’, ABC News, 21 September 2005, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2007-09-21/kids-play-kick-to-kick–1850s-style/676704>.
- W.A. Cawthorne Papers (1843), ML A105 Item 24, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.
- W.A. Cawthorne, ‘Rough Notes on the Manners and Customs of the Natives’, 1844.
- P. Beveridge, The Aborigines of Victoria and Riverina as Seen by Peter Beveridge, M.L. Hutchinson, Melbourne, 1889, p. 45.
- P. Beveridge, The Aborigines of Victoria and Riverina as Seen by Peter Beveridge, M.L. Hutchinson, Melbourne, 1889, p. 46.
- R. Gooch, ‘Another Look at Marn Grook’, Sporting Tradition, vol. 32, no. 1 (2015), p. 43 (our emphasis).
- G. de Moore, ‘The suicide of Thomas Wentworth Wills’, Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 171 (1999), pp. 656–8.
- B. Judd, On the Boundary Line: The colonial identity in football, Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, 2008, p. 65 and throughout.
- ‘Claims to leases of Crown lands’, No. 6 Ledcourt, Supplement to the New South Wales Government Gazette, 25 August 1848, p. 1078; Crown Land Leases, Victoria, Government Printer, Melbourne, 1856, p. 33.
- Crown Land Leases, Victoria, p. 33.
- ‘Claims to leases of Crown lands’, No. 62 Lexington, Supplement to the New South Wales Government Gazette, 25 August 1848, p. 1088.
- Quoted in L. Banfield, Like the Ark: The Story of Ararat, F.W. Cheshire, Melbourne, 1955.
- I.D. Clark (ed.), The Journals of George Augustus Robinson, Chief Protector, Port Phillip Aboriginal Protectorate, Volume Two: 1 October 1840 – 31 August 1841, Heritage Matters, Melbourne, 2000, p. 309.
- H.S. Wills to Governor Gipps, Mount William, March 1842, Collection of Terry Wills Cooke.
- Clark, The Journals of George Augustus Robinson, Volume Four: Annual and Occasional Reports 1841–1849, p. 147.
- W.A. Cawthorne Papers (1843), ML A105 Item 24, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.
- A Mancini and G.M. Hibbins (eds), Running with the Ball: Football’s Foster Father, Lynedoch Publications, Melbourne, 2000, p. 79.
- H.S. Wills to T.W. Wills, 1 May 1853. Collection of Terry Wills Cooke.
- Hibbins, ‘Myth and History’, p. 50.
- Diary of Horatio Spencer Howe Wills from April 1843 to August 1851, Lexington, Ararat, Collection of Terry Wills Cooke; Heritage Victoria, ‘Lexington’.
- Clark, The Journals of George Augustus Robinson, p. 311.
- F.A. Hagenauer Papers, c. 1870–1908, MS 9556, State Library of Victoria.
- Gooch, ‘Another Look at Marn Grook’, p. 42.
- W. Thomas, Brief Remarks on the Aborigines of Victoria, 1838–1839, MS 7838, State Library of Victoria, p. 28.
- Gooch, ‘Another Look at Marn Grook’, pp. 47–8.
- Howitt Papers, MS 9356 (our emphasis).
- W.A. Cawthorne Papers, 1843.
- Howitt, ‘Notes on Australian Message Sticks and Messengers’, 1889, p. 316, n. 4.
- Gooch, ‘Another Look at Marn Grook’, p. 45.
- Thomas, Brief Remarks on the Aborigines of Victoria.
- The first written rules were codified in 1859 by Tom Wills, W.J. Hammersley, J.B. Thompson and T.H. Smith as a sub-committee of the Melbourne Football Club. The Yorker no. 39 Autumn 2009.
- L. Sandercock and I. Turner, Up where, Cazaly? The Great Australian Game, Granada, Sydney, 1981, p. 19.
- H.C.A. Harrison, Story of an Athlete: a picture of the past, Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1923, p. 89.
- Beveridge, The Aborigines of Victoria and Riverina, pp. 46–7; Cawthorne, ‘Rough Notes’; Farnsworth, ‘Kids play kick to kick’.
- W.E.H. Stanner, The Boyer Lectures 1968, published as After the Dreaming, ABC, Sydney, 1969, p. 25.