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'Early Years' recognised in Hall of Fame

GFC Honouring The Past Committee  February 23, 2016 8:00 PM

The Geelong Football Club's founding father and new inductee in the GFC Hall of Fame, Tom Wills

The Geelong Football Club's founding father and new inductee in the GFC Hall of Fame, Tom Wills

The Geelong Football Club will this year celebrate its 156th birthday.

Our club has a submission under consideration with the AFL for the records and achievements of the period from 1877 to 1896, to be recognised as part of the competition’s history.

As part of our club’s acknowledgement of our ‘Early Years’, we have inducted eight great champions - Charles Brownlow, Percy Douglass, William Hall, Dave Hickinbotham, Hughie McLean, Phil McShane, Tom Wills and Jimmy Wilson Jnr - into the GFC Hall of Fame. 

CHARLES BROWNLOW

Born: 25/07/1861  
From: North Geelong
Premierships: 1882, 1883
Captain: 17 matches (1883-84)
Career span for Geelong: 1881-90 (estimated 69 to 77 matches, 15 goals)
GFC committee:  1884-87
GFC secretary: 1888-1923
Died: 23/01/1924

The highly reliable wingman played the code fairly and had the ability to feature in the play at vital moments. He was ahead of his time tactically, realising that positional play and teamwork resulted in team success. His sound judgment, determination , defensive skills and penetrating drop-kicking were features of his play. When moved into the forward line, he was capable of scoring important goals. After initially retiring as a player in mid-1884, due to the pressure of business, he made himself available for selection when the team was short of players during the next six seasons. 

Charles Brownlow was a remarkable figure. He played the game, helped shape its rules, was a brilliant administrator for Geelong and a key driver in the Victorian Football League’s formative years, and was a respected and beloved businessman in the Geelong community. Shorty after he died in 1924, the VFL named an award in his honour, for the competition’s fairest and best player. Today, the Brownlow Medal is the most prestigious and sought-after individual accolade in the game. Brownlow was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 1997 as an administrator.

PERCY DOUGLASS

Born: 09/06/1859
From: Geelong Grammar
Premierships: 1878, 1879, 1880, 1883
Career span for Geelong: 1877-81; 1883 (estimated 52 to 61 matches, 27 goals)
GFC committee: 1880; 1883; 1887; 1889
GFC vice president: 1884
Died: 17/05/1927

A clever half-forward who could also perform well as a centreman, Douglass was capable of fine dodging runs, could evade opponents easily and was a fine left-foot kick. Unselfishness, determination, a humble attitude, fair tactics and consistency made him an admired team member.

WILLIAM (BEN) ‘TRUSTY’ HALL

Born: 1855
From: Geelong Grammar
Premierships: 1878, 1879, 1880, 1882, 1883
Captain/acting capt: 15 matches (1877-78; 1881)
Intercolonial selection for Victoria: one match, no goals (1881)
Club leading goalscorer: 1873 (7 gls), 1874 (6 gls), 1875 (9 gls)
Career span for Geelong: 1872-84; 1887 (estimated 122 to 143 matches, 32 goals)
GFC committee: 1876; 1882; 1885-90
GFC secretary: 1883-84
Died: 22/04/1910

Hall kicked the ball magnificently and possessed outstanding pace, which he used in long, brilliant runs along the wing. Many of his drop-kicks and place-kicks travelled at least 65 metres. His contribution as a deep forward was equally effective. He remains the only player in the club’s history to be a member of five premiership teams. After announcing his retirement at the end of the 1884 season, he made a brief comeback after a two-year break.

DAVE HICKINBOTHAM

Born: 29/09/1862
From: Geelong West
Premierships: 1882, 1883, 1884, 1886 (capt)
Captain/acting capt: 53 matches (1886; 1888-89)
Career span for Geelong: 1882-90; 1894 (estimated 147 to 149 matches, 17 goals)
GFC Committeeman: 1884-85; 1897-99; 1901-03; 1914
GFC Selection Committee: 1885-86; 1890; 1892; 1895; 1901-03; 1910-12; 1914-15
Non-playing Coach of Geelong: 1910-11 (The club's first ever official coach)
GFC committee: 1884-85; 1897-99; 1901-03; 1914
Died: 09/11/1941

As one of the most outstanding centremen of his era, Hickinbotham possessed great judgment, skill, stamina, pace, consistency and leadership qualities. His left-foot kicking was outstanding. He recognised the value of moving the ball quickly into attack to set up scoring opportunities for teammates. In pack situations he had an uncanny knack of wriggling out of a tackle with the ball.

HUGHIE McLEAN

Born: 29/11/1864
From: Geelong College
Premierships: 1882, 1883, 1884, 1886
Captain/acting capt: 18 matches (1885)
Club leading goalscorer: 1882 - equal (22 gls), 1885 (23 gls)
Competition leading goalscorer: 1882
Career span for Geelong: 1882-89; 1892 (estimated 139 to 143 matches, 136 goals)
GFC committee: 1886-87
Died: 19/02/1915

A versatile, cunning performer, who played mostly as a half-forward, was capable of dodging runs and cleverly snapped goals. McLean amazed onlookers with his ability to take the ball in one hand while moving at top speed and disposing of it with a penetrating kick. Few 19th century players exceeded his career goalscoring tally.

PHIL ‘SHILLEY’ McSHANE

Born: 19/07/1864
From: North Geelong
Career span for Geelong: 1883-84; 1886-89 (87 matches, 129 goals)
Premierships: 1883, 1884, 1886
Club leading goalscorer: 1883 (23 gls), 1884 (31 gls), 1886 (51 gls – including intercolonial matches, 1888 (19 gls)
Competition leading goalscorer: 1883, 1884, 1886
Died: 18/07/1935

A consistent key forward with outstanding ball-winning skills and the ability to score high goal tallies, McShane thrilled onlookers with his ability to snap seemingly impossible goals over his left shoulder. As one of six brothers who represented the club with great distinction, he contributed significantly to three of the club’s premiership victories.

TOM WILLS

Born: 19/08/1835
From: Melbourne
Captain: estimated 15 matches (1867 (part), 1872-73)
Australian Football Hall of Fame inductee (1996)
Career span for Geelong: 1862; 1864-65; 1867-68; 1872-74 (estimated 19 to 27 matches, 3 goals)
GFC committee: 1871-72
GFC vice president: 1873; 1875-77
Died: 02/05/1880

As a child, Wills lived with his parents on a pastoral run at the foot of the Grampians, near Ararat, where it is known that the Aboriginal game of Marn Grook was played. He would have witnessed that activity. During his early teens, he was enrolled at Rugby School in England, and became a talented cricketer. In those times the students played a primitive form of football with no formal rules. It wasn’t until after the development of Australian Football that the game of rugby was codified. 

Wills has the strongest claim to be regarded as the originator of the first phase of Australian Football as we know it. On July 10, 1858 he wrote to ‘Bell's Life’ recommending that football would be an ideal winter pursuit of fitness for cricketers. In association with a group of interested sportsmen, mainly associated with the Melbourne Cricket Club, he helped formalise our great game.

He acted as captain in Melbourne Football Club's earliest matches and was a key figure in establishing the code in the Geelong district in the late 1850s. At that time, his parents resided at Point Henry. It is believed that the Geelong Football Club was formed on his recommendation in July, 1859. In 1860 he became involved with as a player with three teams – Richmond, Melbourne and Geelong. In those times players could move freely from one team to another. 

Wills left Victoria in 1861 to work on a family-owned pastoral run in Queensland. In 1876 he was the donor of a Challenge Cup for the best team in Geelong, Ballarat and districts. On May 7, 1877 he represented Geelong at the inaugural VFA meeting. He was responsible for fostering the game in the districts of Ballarat and Bendigo, and also urged sporting authorities in NSW, Tasmania and New Zealand to adopt Australian Football.

As a player, his greatest attributes were determination, speed, athleticism, sure ball-handling and excellent drop-kicking. He was a highly creative and effective tactician. When not playing, he often officiated as a field umpire.

JIMMY WILSON JNR

Born: 18/05/1856
From: Geelong Imperial
Weight: 76kg
Premierships: 1878, 1879 (capt), 1880 (capt), 1882 (capt)
Captain/acting capt: 33 matches (1879- 80; 1882)
Intercolonial selection for Victoria: two matches, no goals as captain (1881)
Career span for Geelong: 1874; 1877-82 (estimated 66 to 77 matches, 3 goals)
GFC committee: 1879; 1881; 1883; 1891
GFC vice president: 1884
Died: 16/11/1935

Regarded by many as the best all-round player in the competition in the early 1880s, Wilson lacked nothing in determination, skill and consistency.