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THE CALL

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Thomas Wentworth Wills is an Australian Icarus. Having grown up among the Djabwurrung people in western Victoria, he was sent to the Rugby school in England. Returning in 1856, he promptly revolutionised colonial cricket and opened the door for the evolution of the indigenous game we know as Australian football. In 1866, he coached the Aboriginal team which later: became the first Australian cricket team to tour England, despite having suffered in the war being fought at the country's frontiers between white settlers and the land's Aboriginal inhabitants. Tom Wills died a neglected and forgotten figure. His life is an Australian tragedy, but it bequeathed to the nation a unique and hopeful legacy. The Call is a remarkable novel. In charting the history of one man's life, it takes us to the birth of sport in this country, and to the horrors of racial struggle which continue to this day. His story is lyrical, subtle and true.
Martin Flanagan is an Australian journalist and author. He writes on sport, particularly Australian Rules football. Flanagan has written thirteen books, including the novel The Call (1998), an "historical imagining" into the life of Tom Wills, the enigmatic father of Australian rules football and captain-coach of the first Aboriginal cricket team. Flanagan portrays Wills as a tragic figure caught between white and black Australia, and postulates that the Aboriginal game of Marngrook influenced his conception of Australian Rules football. Flanagan subsequently became embroiled in football's "history wars" which received significant coverage in the national media in 2008, the year of the game's 150th anniversary celebrations. He and Bruce Myles adapted The Call into a stage play of the same name, which premiered at Melbourne's Malthouse Theatre in 2004. Flanagan has also written biographies of Australian Rules footballers: Richo (2010) on Matthew Richardson and The Short Long Book (2015) on Michael Long, and The Tom Wills Picture Show (ETT Imprint, 2018).
* Author writes for the Age on Australian Rules and Aboriginal sports players, published for round 18 AFL, Tom Wills now recognised as father of Australian football. * Reviews and interviews with the author on sports sites.
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