Australian Football

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Key Facts

Full name
Graham Vivian Farmer

Known as
Graham 'Polly' Farmer

Nickname
Polly

Born
10 March 1935

Place of birth
North Fremantle, WA (6159)

Died
14 August 2019 (aged 84)

Place of death
Murdoch, WA (6150)

Ethnicity
Indigenous Australian

Age at first & last AFL game
First game: 27y 42d
Last game: 32y 197d

Height and weight
Height: 191 cm
Weight: 94 kg

Senior clubs
East Perth; Geelong; West Perth

Jumper numbers
Geelong: 5

Recruited from
East Perth (1962); Geelong (1968)

State of origin
WA

Hall of fame
Australian Football Hall of Fame (1996) Legend (1996); Western Australian Football Hall Of Fame (2004) Legend (2004)

Graham 'Polly' Farmer

ClubLeagueCareer spanGamesGoalsAvgWin %AKIAHBAMKBV
East PerthWANFL1953-19611761570.89
GeelongV/AFL1962-1967101650.6472%11.6912.285.6451
West PerthWANFL1968-197179550.70
WANFL1953-1961, 1968-19712552120.83
V/AFL1962-1967101650.6472%11.6912.285.6451
Total1953-19713562770.78

Pre 1965 stats are for selected matches only

AFL: 7,323rd player to appear, 2,334th most games played, 1,621st most goals kickedGeelong: 663rd player to appear, 168th most games played, 126th most goals kicked

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The dictionary definition of a 'Legend' when applied to an individual human being is "a person having a special place in public esteem because of striking qualities or deeds". Such a definition arguably applies to very few exponents of any sport (and certainly not to every one of the individuals so aggrandised by the AFL) but if any player in history is worthy of the accolade it is Western Australia's Graham 'Polly' Farmer.

There have been more highly decorated individuals in the history of the game and arguably more gifted all round performers (though not too many of them) but in terms of impact, style and influence one is hard pressed to think of anyone to equal the East Perth, Geelong and West Perth great. As a ruckman during the 1950s and 1960s Farmer was unexcelled, with not even compatriot Jack Clarke or Victorian superstar John Nicholls being capable of living with him when he was fully fit and focused. Moreover, with his innovative and incomparably effective use of handball - often over prodigious distances - Farmer almost single-handedly revolutionised the sport. When you superimpose over all of this a resolute, almost regal demeanour and an unremitting determination to succeed - albeit without any of the egocentricity all too often associated with such traits - then Farmer's right to be considered a bona fide legend of the game becomes irresistible.

He made his league debut with East Perth in 1953 but it was twelve months before he settled down to become a regular. By 1955 he was recognised as one of the most effective knock ruckmen in Western Australia, earning state selection for the first time, and running second to South Fremantle's John Todd in the Sandover Medal voting. At the end of the year he signed for Richmond, and actually crossed to Victoria in order to prepare for the 1956 season with the Tigers. However, East Perth refused to clear him, and he was forced to return home.

Graham Farmer's 1956 season was almost the stuff of legend. While representing Western Australia at the Perth carnival he won both the Simpson Medal as his state's best in the win over South Australia, and the Tassie Medal as the top player of the series. Needless to say, All Australian selection also followed. Later in the year, he won the first of three Sandover Medals (one of which was awarded retrospectively), and helped the Royals to a Grand Final victory over South Fremantle. In nine seasons with East Perth Farmer would win the club's fairest and best award no fewer than seven times, besides enjoying premiership success on three occasions. He won further Simpson Medals while representing Western Australia against the VFL at the 1958 Melbourne carnival, and after East Perth's 1959 Grand Final defeat of Subiaco. He continued to represent Western Australia regularly, securing All Australian selection in both 1958 and 1961. At the 1961 Brisbane carnival he helped his state to an unexpected but wholly meritorious series win.

When Graham Farmer's contract with East Perth expired at the end of the 1961 season he advised the club that he would be moving to Victoria to play with Geelong. The Royals agreed, on condition that the Cats pay them the then unprecedented fee of $2,000 ($4,000) in order to procure his services. After witnessing Farmer's stellar form in the club's five pre-season matches, the Geelong hierarchy had no hesitation in agreeing to East Perth's terms.

Farmer's six season stint with Geelong was not all plain sailing, but there were nevertheless numerous highlights, including participation in a premiership team in 1963, representing the VFL in the interstate arena, winning two consecutive club best and fairest awards, and captaining the Cats for three seasons. With plenty of football still left in his legs he returned to Western Australia at the end of a 1967 season that had seen Geelong narrowly lose the Grand Final to Richmond. To many people's surprise, however, he did not resume with his former club, East Perth, but accepted the job of playing coach at arch-rivals West Perth. In four seasons with the Cardinals he oversaw two premierships - both secured with Grand Final victories over his former club - and added a club fairest and best award in 1969 to boot. When he retired at the end of the 1971 season, the WANFL organised an eight club interstate 'Pemiers carnival' to commemorate and celebrate his playing career.

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+Farmer's six season stint with Geelong was not all plain sailing, but there were nevertheless numerous highlights, including participation in a premiership team in 1963, representing the VFL, winning two consecutive club best and fairest awards, and captaining the Cats for three seasons. With plenty of football still left in his legs he returned to Western Australia at the end of a 1967 season that had seen Geelong narrowly lose the Grand Final to Richmond. To many people's surprise, however, he did not resume with his former club, East Perth, but accepted the job of playing coach at arch-rivals West Perth. In four seasons with the Cardinals he oversaw two premierships - both secured with Grand Final victories over his former club - and added a club fairest and best award in 1969 to boot. When he retired at the end of the 1971 season, the WANFL organised an eight club interstate "Pemiers carnival" to commemorate and celebrate his playing career.

That playing career saw Farmer play a total of 356 club games -176 with East Perth, 101 for Geelong, and 79 for West Perth. On the interstate front he played 31 times for Western Australia, including games at four interstate carnival series, and five times for the VFL. While representing his home state at the 1969 Adelaide carnival he won his fourth Simpson Medal.

Graham Farmer's coaching career was less auspicious, but still had its noteworthy moments. Besides leading West Perth to the 1969 and 1971 WANFL premierships, in October 1977 he was at the helm of Western Australia's team for the first ever state of origin match, in which the Sandgropers trounced Victoria 23.13 (151) to 8.9 (57) at Subiaco. From 1973 to 1975 he coached Geelong with minimal success, and although he managed to get East Perth into the finals in both of his seasons (1976-7) in charge he was unable to deliver the premiership the club's fans craved. Such comparative failures are of scant account, however, when viewed in the context of a two decade playing career that made Graham 'Polly' Farmer, in the view of many, the greatest individual exponent of the sport of Australian football ever known.

Author - John Devaney

Sources

Full Points Footy's WA Football Companion

Footnotes

* Behinds calculated from the 1965 season on.
+ Score at the end of extra time.