Henry Rischbieth was just sixteen years old and still attending Prince Alfred College when he donned the red and blue guernsey for his first game for Norwood in 1886. He would, over the following three years become one of the club’s leading players.
Henry was born at Glenelg on 26 January 1870 to Charles Frederick Rischbieth and Elizabeth Susan Wills and was one of eleven children born to the couple. His father was a partner in the firm G. & R. Wills & Co. Ltd and his mother was a member of the influentual Wills family.
Henry or ‘Harry’ as he became known, attended Prince Alfred College where he excelled in several sports including football and athletics. At a school sports day in September 1887 he was awarded the College Cup after winning several races and the high jump.
Harry played his first game for Norwood on 1st May 1886 against Adelaide at the North Park ground. The sketchy reports at the time indicate that Rischbieth probably played most of the remaining games in 1886 and was rewarded with three goals for the season.
In 1887 he played in the opening round game on 7th May against the new club, West Adelaide, at Kensington Oval. It was West’s first game in the competition and they were scoreless against Norwood’s 9.18. Rischbieth later featured in the intercolonial game against Carlton at Adelaide Oval on 10th July when a report noted that ‘the college boy’ Rischbieth ‘proved unreliable’ in a shot for goal during the final quarter, with Carlton winning 6.7 to 5.6. Norwood however, went on the win the premiership in 1887.
Rischbieth played well in the opening round game of 1888 when Norwood had a six goal victory over North Adelaide at Kensington on 5 May. In what was a busy playing month, after playing South Adelaide the following week, the team, including Rischbieth, travelled to Victoria to meet Ballarat at the Saxon Ground on 30 May, won by Norwood 7.7 to 3.6, before returning home and winning the game against Adelaide at Kensington on 2 June, scores 9.10 to 3.7.
The 1888 season was one of the most successful in the history of the Norwood Football Club as the team were premiers and also claimed the Championship of Australia after defeating South Melbourne in the best of three matches at the Kensington Oval in October. At half time in the deciding game on Saturday 13 October, won by Norwood 6.4 to 4.15, a presentation was made to Rischbieth “ for his brilliant play throughout the season”
In 1889 Rischbieth played one game on 11 May against Port Adelaide at Kensington when newspaper reports noted that he was shortly to depart for England and stamped him as “ one of the best players in the colony.” He was about to embark for Bradford in England, then considered the wool capital of the world, on a journey that would see him become one of Australia’s leading wool merchants. The teenager was farewelled by Norwood on 16 May at gathering of players and members during which he was presented with “ a handsome gold locket set with sapphire ruby and brillianta (Norwood colours)”
Rischbieth remained in England for four years and while in Bradford he was selected in the North of England side for the Rugby championship against Scotland.
He returned to Adelaide in 1893 and appeared for Norwood in the game against Adelaide on 12 August at Kensington, won by Norwood 20.14 to Adelaide 2.6. His final appearance was against South Adelaide at Adelaide on 1 September in a game that effectively decided the premiership with South victorious 10.14 to Norwood 9.4. Although there were several more games played, Rischbieth’s name does not appear in the team lists
Henry Rischbieth married Bessie Mabel Earle at Kent Town on 22 October 1898 who went on to become a leading advocate for womens suffrage. The couple moved to Western Australia where he established a large grazing and wool business including the pastoral firm Henry Wills & Co.
Henry Rischbieth died in London on 27 March 1925
W Heading, D Cox July 2020
Reference: 'Rischbieth, Henry Wills (1869–1925)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/rischbieth-henry-wills-858/text859, accessed 27 October 2016.