FOOTBALL legend Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer was described as an innovator and deep thinker about the game as Joondalup WAFL club West Perth prepared to return to the ground from which he led them to two premierships.
Farmer died aged 84 on Monday at Fiona Stanley Hospital ahead of West Perth’s clash with premiers Subiaco at Leederville Oval this Saturday and just weeks after the Falcons won the annual Polly Farmer Shield against his other WAFL club East Perth.
Premiership teammate and fellow Australian Football Hall of Fame inductee Mel Whinnen said Farmer had “really transformed footy at West Perth” when he came to the then Cardinals as captain-coach on his return from Geelong in 1968. The players knew of his great reputation with the Royals and Cats but the start of his tenure at Leederville had been “quite destabilising”.
“He came with a lot of different methods and ideas,” Whinnen said.
“But once we got used to those training methods and the way he thought about football, we became a strong team for the four years he stayed with us.
“He was a very deep thinker. I haven’t struck a bloke who thought as much about football and getting people to play good footy as Polly did. And to get everyone in the team playing to the best of their ability.
“He also helped us to be better people as well as better footballers. He made us think about what we did and how we did it.”
Whinnen said Farmer’s legendary ruck work “didn’t waver” right to the end of his playing career.
“His rucking ability even when he retired at 36, 37 was still impeccable,” he said.
“He could still get off the ground… get hold of the ball and fire out those handballs to Stephen Smeath and Alan Watling.”
Whinnen acknowledged Farmer had had “a tough time over recent years” with dementia.
“Still it’s extremely sad to lose a bloke like that,” he said. “Extremely sad he’s gone.”
West Perth president Neale Fong said the club wanted to pass on its deepest sympathies to the Farmer family.
“He was a legend of Australian football and we are very pleased he came to West Perth in 1968,” he said.
“Instead of returning to our great rival East Perth, he chose us and we ended up winning two premierships in 1969 and 1971.
“We are very grateful he was part of our club and history.
“It was a great era for us, cementing ourselves as a great club in WA.”
West Perth retained the annual Polly Farmer Shield this season, defeating the Royals 12.6 (78) to 11.6 (72).
Farmer’s daughter Kim presented the shield to Falcons captain Aaron Black after the game.
“He had the respect of everyone,” Whinnen said.
Fong said the club’s August 30 celebration at the Italian Club to mark the 50th anniversary of West Perth’s 1969 premiership had now become more poignant.