Almanac Teams: Why have we killed the Bills?


Bill (William and Billy don’t count in this team) is another name that has been consigned to the margins of history.


The name was popular in the early part of the 20th century, peaking in the 1940s,’50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. It started to dwindle by the 1980s and was virtually extinct by the end of the 20th century.


It may yet make a comeback if Bill Shorten becomes PM this year, but I doubt it. Billys Hartung and Longer could have flown the flag had they decided to drop the ‘Y’.


Adelaide, Brisbane, Fremantle, Gold Coast, GWS, Port and West Coast have not had a ‘Bill’ represent them in the VFL/AFL.


Trivia Question: Who was the last Bill (Not Billy) to play in the VFL/AFL?


Almanackers, here is your chance to nominate your favourite Bills from Australian Football.



B:  Bill Duckworth (Ess)   Bill Dolphin (SthM)    Bill Proudfoot (Coll)


HB:  Bill Stephen (Fitz)     Bill Picken (Coll)        Bill Hinman (Uni)


C:     Bill Gunn (SthM)       Bill Barrot (Rich)        Bill Walker (Fitz)


HF:  Bill Wood (Foots)    Bill Brownless (Geel)    Bill Nettlefold (NthM)


F:  Bill Cubbins (StK)         Bill Mohr (StK)           Bill Findlay (NthM )


Ruck: Bill Morris (Rich)    Bill Hutchison (Ess)      Bill Goggin (Geel)


Inter: Bill Ryan (Geel) Bill Milroy (Carl) Bill Faul (SthM) Bill Brittingham (Ess)


Coach: Bill Adams (SthM)


Umpires: Bill Deller, Bill Blackburn, Bill Barbour


Entertainment: Bill Bailey (Comedian)



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About Phillip Dimitriadis

Carer/Teacher/Writer. Author of Fandemic: Travels in Footy Mythology. World view influenced by Johnny Cash, Krishnamurti, Larry David, Toni Morrison and Billy Picken.


  1. Good work Phil.

    Bill Brown played in Richmonds flag team in both 1967, then 1969.


  2. “Last BIll, not Billy” is difficult because they all get called Billy!

  3. Keiran Croker says

    Great team and nice work Phil.

    Of course many if not most of them would have been christened William and living known as Billy. I’ll akaYs remember the Tigers flyer if the 60s as Billy Barrott.

  4. John Butler says

    Historical footnote: Bill Ahern played in Carlton’s first ever VFL team, in 1897.

    He was never picked again.

    Bit disappointed Bill Barrot’s pic shows him in a Tiger stripe. Overlooks his distinguished career in Navy Blue.

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Another worthwhile concept Phil

    Bill Nalder (Richmond, Norwood, Centrals)
    Bill Lokan (North Adelaide, Fitzroy)
    Bill Cochrane (Centrals, SA)
    Fred and Brenton Bills (West Torrens)

  6. John Butler, surely you can’t bypass the two games he played in St Kilda in 1971.


  7. John Butler says

    Oh yes I can. :)

  8. I thought half of these were Billys – Billy Duckworth, Billy Brownless etc?

  9. Bill Twomey – father and son (Coll)
    Bill Mildenhall (SK) – also a top basketball referee
    Bill E Smedts (Geel,Carl) – could have been anything, but wasn’t.

    Cheers, Burkie

  10. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Thanks for the suggestions so far folks. Rabid,McAlmanac,Glen! I get my info from
    Those in this team have been listed as ‘Bill’ (Duckworth, Picken, Brownless, et al)

    Billy is a nickname that has been foisted upon them. Glen ! Bill Brown would have been a starter along with Burkie’s Bill E Smedts, but they are both listed as ‘Billy’ and therefore are ineligible under my Bill !

    My other bugbear is: why aren’t the Ponsford and O’Reilly Stands known as the Bill Ponsford or Bill O’Reilly Stands? I mean, if Clem Jones gets his whole name on the stand and Bill Lawry gets an oval in Northcote, why can’t the Bills get full recognition? You wouldn’t call it the ‘Billy Ponsford Stand’ because that would be silly.
    A handy 11 of Test Cricketing Bills from England and Australia in batting order:
    Bill Lawry – Aus
    Bill Ponsford – Aus
    Bill Woodfull- Aus
    Bill Brown – Aus
    Bill Edrich- Eng
    Bill Storer WK – Eng
    Bill Brockwell – Eng
    Bill Lockwood – Eng
    Bill Johnston – Aus
    Bill O’Reilly – Aus
    Bill Voce – Eng

    JB – You can claim Bill Barrot, but no one is buying it !
    Swish – Bill Lokan close to selection, nice play with the surnames Bills.
    Keiran – South had Billy Williams (Listed as William Williams in afltables ) Bill Windley an early Blood who played 129 games for South between 1897-1905.
    Burkie – Bill Mildenhall a fine nomination along with the father and son Twomeys

  11. Surely you’d give Bill Valli a nod.

    And what about the real Bill Walker, Swan Districts. Coulda played VFL, Hall of Famer. C’mon.


    Oh, usual top notch idea LB

  12. what about one of Norwood and SA’s best ruckmen, Big Bill Wedding

  13. Can you include someone whose given name wasn’t Bill but given as a sort of long-term substitute name.

    I refer to Geelong’s No. 1 ruckman of the early Fifties: Cyril “Bill” McMaster.

    When the Pivotonians were going for three-in-a-row in 1953 Bill was taken off with a broken leg.

    So incensed was ‘Woofa” Davis (and, no doubt, all his teammates) he went hunting for retribution when the Pies came down to Kardinia Park the next season.

  14. Bill Nunn played a few games for North Melbourne in the early 70’s. This was the PB era.



  15. Following on from my earlier comments on Big Bill Wedding, so dominant was Bill’s ruck work, none of his opponents, interstaters included, could match him as he repeatedly smashed the ball at least 35 to 40 yards into the open. West Adelaide’s then coach, Jack Oatey then invented the famous check side tactics in an endevour to nullify him with partial success. Bill could also take a good mark, he had very large hands, and kicked many drop kick goals when resting in the forward pocket. Bill had much success in state games, particularly against Victoria.At Norwood, he is recognized as a true legend of the game.

  16. Andrew Starkie says

    Has the name William gone out of vogue? Replaced by Will?

  17. Phil
    As the proud father of a 25 year-old William (aka Bill), I was rather aggrieved when he met Stephen K Amos at the Melbourne Comedy Festival a few years ago only to be told by the great SKA that “Bill’s a bit of an old codger’s name, isn’t it”!
    Bill Nicholls played a few games with Hawthorn and Richmond in the early 2000s, but again, I think he was more a “Billy”.

  18. Luke Reynolds says

    Bill Swan (Port Melbourne/Williamstown)

    Love your cricketing Bill XI too Phil!

  19. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Cheers Slim, Bill Valli a great nom. Had a decent 1979 at the Pies during home and away.
    Fisho – Was Bill Wedding Greek ? Sounds like a fine player.
    Elijah – Bill McMaster story not a proud one in Collingwood history. Worthy nom in a team of Cyrils !
    Starks – More evidence that this world is a ‘Will’ to Power.
    Stainless – ‘Old Codgers Name’? That’s a bit rough. Tell Bill to be proud. They might be back one day when they tire of the Jaspers, Joshes and Jarrods…
    Luke – Bill Swan a beauty. Found it hard to find ‘Bills’ from SA, Windies. England and Australia had the pick of the Bills. Very handy team.

  20. Phil, I’ve no idea of Bill’s pedigree except that he came to Norwood from Gawler as a raw ungainly big man. At first he was a lousy mark and unreliable kick but he sure improved. When he finally retired in ’68 he had developed his marking and kicking to an excellent standard. It was Alan Killigrew that got Bill belting the ball forward big distances but Haydon Bunton and later Bob Oatey had him palming the ball to his rovers. Bill was exceptional in interstate games, cleaning up ruckmen John Nicholls and Polly Farmer Bill’s fantastic ruck play in ’63 was instrumental in SA cleaning up the Vics at the MCG. Bill died in 2007 of cancer. Naturally, he was one of my favourite players

  21. Les Everett says

    The great Bill Dempsey.

  22. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I’m feeling churlish today – his real name was Kingsley Arthur Wedding. But everything else is true.

    Here’s a bit more

  23. Swish, you’re right. his name was Kingsley Arthur Wedding but everyone knew him as Big Bill. Bill was a gentle giant standing 6 foot 5 and a half inches and was an imposing figure. However, much to Killigrew’s despair, Bill never threw his weight around and opposing rucks tried all sorts of intimidating tactics against him. After each match Bill’s body was a mass of black and blue and sprig marks where he had been punched and kicked. In ’65 Bob Truelove told me that in the previous Saturday’s game against Glenelg at the Bay Doug Long hit Bill with everything, including the kitchen sink. The Bays won. Anyway, according to Truelove, as the players left the oval, Bob Oatey raced over to Long and said something like this, “Do that again when we meet again at Norwood and you’ll be on a stretcher by the end of the first quarter”. In the return game Long was rarely sighted, Bill dominated and Ian Brewer, Norwood’s goal sneak kicked 10 goals without a miss. A few years later, in another game when Bill was on the end of questionable tactics, he finally cracked and aimed a kick at his tormentor. He missed. However, it was right in front of the Umpire and he was reported. At his hearing it took approximately 65 seconds for the case to be thrown out.

  24. On the same topic. Henry McCarty ( name on birth certificate) was better known throughout history as William Bonney aka Billy the Kid. Other western badmen were Bill Doolin and Bill Dalton Of course on the lawmen side, there was James Butler Hickok aka Wild Bill Hickok and, of course, who could forget Buffalo Bill Cody

  25. This was a great idea, LB. Well played, mate.

    Can I suggest Bill Shorten as the team’s No.1 ticket-holder ?

  26. I just remembered a certain North Adelaide league footy player player , Billy Thomas. What was so special about him? Well he was extremely adept at imitating the umpire’s whistle which he sparingly used to devastating effect. He was able to often get kicks after opposition players stopped on hearing a whistle leaving our Bill to gather the pill and be off.

  27. Bill Belichick has proven himself to be a handy coach with the New England Patriots (5 Superbowl wins).

  28. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Cheers Smokie. $3 Bill is a shoe in if he can become PM.

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