Born Fremantle, W.A.
10 March, 1935
Few sports champions can lay claim to having changed the direction of their chosen sport but football legend Graham (Polly) Farmer certainly can.
Raised in the Sister Kate’s Orphanage at Queen’s Park, in suburban Perth, Farmer broke the shackles of his Aboriginal background to emerge as the dominant man in the game, nationwide, for nearly two decades. A superb, high-leaping ruckman (he actually had one leg shorter than the other), Farmer revoloutionsied the game with his use of handball in Western Australia and then Victoria.
It was a little-used art in the early 1950s when Farmer perfected ruck tactics, handballing while still airborne.
Farmer was developed at East Perth in the mid-1950s when coach Jack Sheedy instigated the Royal’s revival, building a superb team around the big man and his ability to feed the handpass out to running players.
Farmer’s individual dominance in 1956 when he won his first Sandover Medal as the fairest and best player in the WA Football League. He won a second Sandover Medal in 1957 and a third in 1960. He was runner-up for the award twice. A Tassie Medal for the best player in an Australian Championship was won in 1956 and Simpson Medals came in 1959 (best player in the grand final) and in the interstate arena in 1956, 1958 and 1969. that last medal win, achieved in an Australian Championship at the age of 34, was regarded as one of his greatest games.
Fairest and best wins for his clubs came frequently – at East Perth in 1954-55-56-57-59-60-61; at Geelong in the Victorian Football League in 1963-64 and then as captain-coach West Perth in 1969. Farmer played a total of 356 club matches (East Perth 176, Geelong 101, West Perth 79) and 36 State games, five with Victoria.
He played in Premiership teams with all three clubs (East Perth, 1956-58-59; Geelong 1963 and West Perth 1969-71). After returning as a player in 1971 he returned to coach Geelong (1973-75) and East Perth (1976-77). In 1988 he returned to the VFL arena as an assistant coach of the West Coast Eagles.
Scrupulously fair, but tough and hard to beat, Farmer featured in many epic big-man battles in his 19 years of football. His contribution to the game was recongised by the Queen in 1971 when he was awarded an MBE.