Graham Farmer

Graham Farmer

Infobox afl player | firstname = Graham
lastname = Farmer

birthdate = Birth date and age|1935|3|10|df=y
birthplace =
originalteam = East Perth Football Club (WAFL)
dead = alive
deathdate =
deathplace =
debutdate = Round 1, 21 April 1962
debutteam = Geelong
debutopponent = Carlton
debutstadium = Princes Park
playingteams = East Perth (1953-1961)

176 games, 157 goals

Geelong (1962-1967)

101 games, 65 goals

West Perth (1968-1971)

79 games
coach = coach
coachingteams = West Perth Football Club (1968-1971)Geelong Football Club (1973-1975)East Perth Football Club (1976-1977)
statsend = 2005
careerhighlights =
Career Honours
*Australian Football Hall of Fame: Legend (inducted 1996)Teams of the Century (all as first ruckman)
*AFL Team of the Century
*Western Australian Team of the Century (as vice-captain)
*Indigenous Team of the Century (as captain)
*East Perth Football Club Post-War
*Geelong Football Club
*West Perth Football ClubPremierships
*East Perth: 1956, 1958, 1959
*Geelong: 1963
*West Perth: 1969, 1971League Best and Fairests
*Sandover Medal 1956, 1957 (ret.), 1960Club Best and Fairests
*East Perth: 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1960, 1961
*Geelong 1963, 1964
*West Perth Football Club: 1969Simpson Medal1956, 1959, 1961, 1969Miscellany
* Represented Australia in "The Galahs" Australian Football World Tour 1968

Graham "Polly" Farmer (born 10 March, 1935) is a retired Indigenous Australian rules football player and coach. Born in Western Australia, Farmer joined the East Perth Football Club as a ruckman in 1953, where he won several awards and contributed to the team winning three premierships. He was recruited to the national VFL league in 1962 for the Geelong Football Club, where he played 101 games and captained the team for three seasons. Farmer returned to Western Australia and became the captain/coach of the West Perth Football Club in 1968, leading the club to premierships against East Perth in 1969 and 1971. After retiring as a player, he coached Geelong, East Perth and Western Australia's first state of origin team.

Farmer is an official Legend of Australian rules football, and he revolutionised ruckwork and handballing. The Graham Farmer Freeway in his hometown of Perth is named in his honour.

Early life

When Farmer was 21 months old, he and his brothers and sisters were taken to Sister Kate's home in Queen's Park, a church home "for the delicate, sick and destitute".cite news |first=Duncan |last=Graham |title=Polly Farmer – still giving it all to the game |publisher="The Age" |date=1994-09-09 |page=13] Farmer said, " If it had not been for Sister Kate, I would have had an ice block's hope in hell of ever leading a normal life. I owe her and all her dedicated helpers everything - for giving me the chance to make something of myself. I was one of the lucky ones."cite news |title=The man behind a legend |publisher="Northern Territory News" |date=2005-02-26 |page=216] A bout of poliomyelitis left Farmer with his left leg shorter than his right leg. According to Farmer, he was nicknamed "Polly the Parrot" as a six-year-old because people thought he chattered away like a parrot.cite news |first=Torrance |last=Mendez |title=Tunnel's a winner for Polly Farmer |publisher="The West Australian" |date=1997-10-07 |page=3] At high school, Farmer was spotted by talent scouts for East Perth Football Club, and joined the team.

Football career

Farmer began his top-level career with the East Perth Football Club in the WAFL in 1953. Farmer played 176 games from 1953 to 1961 with East Perth.cite news |first=Rohan |last=Connolly |title=Polly Farmer No. 5 The Legends' 50 greatest |publisher="The Age" |date=2008-07-01 |page=7] During this time he won the club's Fairest and Best award seven times, and was a member of their 1956, 1958 and 1959 Premiership teams. In 1956, he was awarded a Simpson Medal for his performance against South Australia in the Perth Carnival, and later he also awarded the Tassie Medal for being judged best in the Carnival overall. He was awarded the WAFL's highest individual honour, the Sandover Medal, in 1956 and 1960. He also tied for the medal in 1957 with East Fremantle's Jack Clarke but lost on a countback; he was awarded that medal in 1997 when the WAFL awarded retrospective medals for those who missed out on countbacks. In 1959 he was awarded the Simpson Medal for being best on ground in the Grand Final. He was awarded another Simpson Medal in 1961 for his game against Victoria in the Brisbane Carnival.

Bob Davis recruited Farmer to the Geelong Football Club in the VFL in 1962. In the opening moments of his debut for Geelong in 1962, Farmer severely injured his knee, causing ligament damage, and missing the rest of the season. Farmer returned in 1963, winning a Premiership with Geelong and coming equal-second in the Brownlow Medal behind winner Bob Skilton. Farmer played 101 games for Geelong from 1962 to 1968, won the team's Fairest and Best in 1963 and 1964, and captained the team from 1965 to 1967.

In 1968, he desired to return home to Western Australia and accepted the role of captain/coach with the West Perth Football Club, rivals to his former club, East Perth. He led West Perth to premierships in 1969 and 1971, both times defeating East Perth in the Grand Final. In 1969, Farmer received his fourth Simpson Medal during the AFC Championships in Adelaide. He retired from playing football in 1971, aged 36, after 76 games with West Perth.

Not involved in top level football in 1972, Farmer returned to the VFL as coach of the Geelong Football Club from 1973 to 1975. Farmer and the club's committee had an increasingly strained relationship, and Farmer quit in 1975. He returned to the WAFL, coaching East Perth from 1976 to 1977 with some success, and he coached the first Western Australian state of origin team in 1977. Farmer was sacked as coach of East Perth in 1977 due to conflict, and replaced by Barry Cable in 1978. Farmer said, "When the going gets tough a club should stick together and fight to beat it. But some people chip and chip at the ground underneath you in trying to find someone to blame. I do my best in football and I have no time to protect my back, so it's left wide open. Maybe that's a lot of my trouble."

During his career, Farmer played a record 31 games for Western Australia, five games for Victoria, and was selected in the All-Australian team in 1956, 1958 and 1961. He played 356 league games in total, including 30 finals, 10 grand finals and six premierships.

Farmer was a strong, skilled and mobile ruckman. At convert|191|cm|in tall and weighing convert|94|kg|lb, Farmer had a naturally high leap that helped him to win ruck contests easily. Farmer practiced handballing through car windows at the car yard where he worked, and one of his football legacies is changing handballing from a last-resort option to a "dangerous offensive weapon". According to Geelong player Sam Newman, "without speaking one word he [Farmer] taught me everything I know. I watched how a man overcomes not the physical, not the mental, but the spiritual – that's the most important - he was an absolute star, about one decade, one century ahead of his time". [cite news |title=Cats' Tales: The colourful era Polly Farmer (Graham Farmer) |work=Sport |publisher="Geelong Advertiser" |date=2006-06-08 |page=1-F11]

Personal life

In 1956, Farmer met a Tasmanian woman holidaying in Perth named Marlene, and they married in 1957. They have three children, Brett, Dean and Kim. [cite news |first=John |last=Townsend |title=Polly taking the knock |publisher="The West Australian" |date=1998-07-04 |page=1] In the 1960s, former Geelong player Neil Trezise approached Farmer about representing the Australian Labor Party in the seat of Corio. Farmer declined.

Farmer established the Polly Farmer Foundation, joined by Sir Ronald Wilson, former High Court judge, Fred Chaney, former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and Greg Durham, chief executive of Geelong Football Club. One of the foundation's patrons is Ernie Dingo. Farmer explained, "I want the foundation to be of practical assistance to young Aboriginal people with potential to do something with their lives... Not just sport, but in the professions and business. We want to develop links with the tertiary institutions and make sure Aboriginal people become leaders."

Farmer and his wife Marlene sold their house in 1992 and ran a two-star Southway Auto Lodge motel in South Perth until 1998,cite news |first=Mark |last=Russell |title=Footy legend down and out |publisher="Herald Sun" |date=1998-06-18 |page=11] when they were evicted by the motel's owners after failing to pay rent. Farmer said the business failed due to the downtown in the Asian economy and a 40% drop in tourist numbers, and left him with no money or assets. He said, "We have nothing and we are back to square one. But we didn't borrow money to keep the business going. All my life I have helped myself and there is no reason why I can't still do that".cite news |first=John |last=Townsend |title=Polly Farmer broke but not beaten |publisher="The West Australian" |date=1998-06-17 |page=3] Farmer and Marlene were given temporary accommodation in the caretaker's flat in the Main Roads building. Two fundraising events were organised in Perth and Melbourne by John Watts, Bob Davis and Sam Newman, [cite news |title= WA - tribute dinners for broke Graham "Polly" Farmer |publisher=Australian Associated Press |date=1998-06-19] raising $120,000.cite news |first=Glen |last=Quartermain |title=Polly selling medals |publisher="Sunday Herald-Sun" |date=2000-03-12 |page=9] A trust fund was established with the money and a small villa bought in Innaloo.

Farmer worked for 6PR during the football season and promoted the Graham Farmer Freeway for Main Roads Western Australia until June 2000.In 2000, he put up for sale his 1956, 1957 and 1960 Sandover medals and MBE to fund his retirement.


In 1971 he became the first Australian footballer to receive a Queen's honour when he was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the New Year honours list. Farmer's name was included in the 150 bronze tablets set into the footpath along St Georges Terrace, Perth that commemorate notable figures in Western Australia's history, as part of the WAY 1979 celebrations.

On 6 October 1997, WA Transport Minister Eric Charlton announced that the $400 m Northern City Bypass would be named the Graham Farmer Freeway. Charlton said, "He already has a place in WA sporting folklore and it is fitting that a showpiece of the city's transport network should bear his name... The northern traffic bypass system links West Perth and East Perth which are, coincidentally, the two districts which Graham Farmer represented with distinction on the football arena".

He was inducted into the inaugural Australian Football Hall of Fame in 1996 as one of the twelve official "Legends", and then into the West Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2004. [cite news |first=Ray |last=Wilson |title= The eight legends who rose above the pack |publisher="The West Australian" |date=2005-03-08 |page=2] He has been nominated as the first ruckman in every Team of the Century for each of the two leagues and three clubs for which he participated, plus the Indigenous Team of the Century, in which he was the captain. [cite news |first=David |last=Reed |title=AFL's Aboriginal stars of century honoured Indigenous team of past 100 years |publisher="The West Australian" |date=2005-08-02 |page=65] In 2008, Farmer was named at number 5 in "The Age"'s top football players of all time.

External links

* [ The Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation]


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