August 14, 2019 14:19:49
Australian football legend Graham “Polly” Farmer has died in Perth at the age of 84 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for more than a decade.
- Farmer played 356 games and won the coveted Sandover Medal three times
- He was a ruckman who revolutionised the sport with his use of the handball
- He was raised in an orphanage and suffered polio as a child
A trailblazer for Indigenous players in Australian sport, Farmer played 356 games from 1953 to 1971 across the WAFL and VFL leagues for East Perth, Geelong and West Perth.
An AFL spokesman said the league had been in constant contact with Farmer’s family and had confirmed the news of his death and the release of his name and photo.
He is regarded as one of the greatest players to play Australian rules football and is credited with revolutionising the role of the ruckman, particularly with his trademark use of the handball.
He won three Sandover medals as the WAFL’s top player and took out his club’s best and fairest award 10 times.
AFL chief lauds ‘the greatest’
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan described Farmer as “the greatest big man in the history of Australian football”, with “a record that few players could ever hope to match”.
“When the Australian Football Hall of Fame was founded in 1996, Graham Farmer was one of the elite dozen players in our game’s history who was deemed both exceptional and worthy to be an inaugural Legend,” Mr McLachlan said.
“Our game has always started in the centre square, with a contest between two big men, and Polly was the greatest of all the big men who seek to set the standard of competitiveness for their teams, lead from the front at every contest and compel their team mates to match their skills and commitment in the pursuit of victory.
“Beyond football, as a proud Noongar man, he was a leader for the Aboriginal community and his standing in the game and in society enabled his people to believe that they too could reach the peaks and achieve their best potential.”
Farmer’s achievements came despite a childhood bout of polio which left one leg shorter than the other.
From the WAFL to the VFL
Initially picked up for WA football league club East Perth, Farmer was talent-spotted by Geelong’s Bob Davis in 1962.
In the opening moments of Farmer’s debut with Geelong, he damaged his knee and was forced off the field for the rest of the season.
But he came back the following year, winning the premiership with Geelong and launching a long and highly-lauded sporting career.
Farmer was one of the original 12 Legends inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 1996 and was the first Australian footballer to be named a Member of the British Empire (MBE).
A childhood in an orphanage
He came from humble beginnings, raised at Sister Kate’s Home — an orphanage for Indigenous children in Western Australia.
Farmer has a freeway in Perth named in his honour and dedicated his post-playing career to helping young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Polly Farmer Foundation, established in 1994, provides education programs to hundreds of indigenous children across Australia.
WA Premier Mark McGowan said Farmer was an inspiring role model and flagged the idea of a state funeral.
“It’s sad to hear that Graham “Polly” Farmer has passed away, obviously he held a special place for Western Australia,” Mr McGowan said.
“He was a great footballer, great role model, someone who inspired many people, especially young Aboriginal people, to excel and to hear he’s gone from us is a sad event.
“Obviously I think Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer is worthy of a state funeral, but we’ll talk to his family about what they would like to see happen.”
Sport Australia Hall of Fame chairman John Bertrand said Farmer, an inaugural hall of fame inductee in 1985, had been one of the AFL’s greatest and a trailblazer for Indigenous players.
“From such humble beginnings to success at the highest level, he changed the face of football and will forever be remembered as the ruckman that all aspired to be,” he said.
“Polly will be dearly missed, and our thoughts are with the Farmer family.”
August 14, 2019 13:13:32