A member of a prominent family warehousing firm, Ernest Toms filled a hole in the Norwood senior side from time to time and kicked the odd goal along the way.
Ernest was born in 1872 and was the eldest of six sons of Samuel Toms, a keen cricketer and co-founder of Good, Toms & Co of Stephens Place, Adelaide. Frank, the second son, was a champion long-distance cyclist. Sport also touched the lives of the other boys, Henry, Arthur, Charles and Lindsay.
Ernest and fellow Norwood aspirants, Os Bertram, Jack Holbrook and George Kirby, battled hard for St Peter’s College before going down 8.11 to 2.6 to Prince Alfred College in 1888. A cavalier innings of 33 not out by Ernest in intercollegiate cricket the year before had revived his team’s hopes before Prince Alfred prevailed by 27 runs.
Ernest made his senior football debut against South Adelaide early in the 1889 season and, according to The South Australian Chronicle, “though he did nothing brilliant, at times (he) executed some good work”. Norwood won 7.13 to 2.1. His next chance came when half a dozen regulars were absent from the match against lowly Medindie at Kensington Oval on 29 June. Wearing crêpe to mark the death of George Liston’s brother that week, a scratch Norwood side won 3.12 to nil. Ernest then helped defeat South 7.17 to 1.5 on 17 August.
Ernest’s next senior game was before a crowd of 10,000 at Adelaide Oval on 20 June 1890. Port Adelaide beat Norwood 5.10 to 3.3 and the critics were not kind. ‘Flyer’ wrote in Quiz and Lantern: “Toms did very little work and was hardly worth his place.” ‘Goalpost’ of The Advertiser rated Ernest “a second twenty man”. He nevertheless came in for three more games that season, a three-goal loss to South and big wins over Adelaide and Medindie.
Ernest played the first four games of 1893. He was on a half-forward flank in the third game when Norwood lost by four goals to South, premiership bound. The other three matches were debacles, with Norwood thrashing Adelaide 12.27 to 1.3, North Adelaide 21.14 to 1.2 and a pitiful Adelaide 30.11 to 0.1. Ernest kicked a goal against North and another against the broken Adelaide side.
Ernest was an accomplished cricketer. He played for Parkside and Payneham before captaining Paradise in 1901 and hitting two centuries for that club in 1903.
Seven years after the death of his father, Ernest ended two decades with the family firm and on 16 May 1913 set sail in the Orsova with his wife and son for retirement in England.
P Robins, D Cox February 2021