THEY say the measure of a man is not how he died, but how he lived.
In the case of Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer, while his feats on the football field helped him transcend the game, it was his kindness and desire to inspire others which defined him as one of Australian sport’s true legends.
Today his family, friends, fans and everyone in between gathered at Optus Stadium to pay tribute to Polly’s life, at the first State Funeral to be held for a footballer in WA.
He passed away on August 14 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease and almost 1500 people squeezed into the River View Room, with more in the stadium’s grandstands, to remember one of Australian football’s all-time greats.
The football family turned out in force, some opting to wear their colours, donning East Perth and West Perth ties and even Geelong gurneys and scarfs as the crowd swelled with mourners and admirers, footy players past, present and future.
Falcons jackets mingled freely with Royals polos, while Polly’s teammates and friends reminisced next to young children.
Commentator Dennis Cometti, AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan and actor Ernie Dingo were among those in attendance.
It was fitting his hearse was delivered to the funeral via the very tunnel named after him, ‘Polly’s Pipe’ connecting West and East Perth just as he had done at the height of his career.
While Farmer never graced the field of Optus Stadium, his lasting legacy can be witnessed to this day in the number of Aboriginal players who call the stadium home.
His breathtaking play at a time when Aboriginal people had only just been given voting rights paved the way for every indigenous player after him.
“We’re in the company of a champion,” master of ceremonies Russell Woolf said.
His statistics were repeated on numerous occasions by a number of speakers, and still sounded like unfathomable feats with each utterance.
A career of 356 games for East Perth, Geelong and West Perth bore five WAFL premierships and a VFL flag, three Sandover Medals, two Simpson medals and a slew of Fairest and Best awards wherever he played.
“He was quite simply, a legend,” Premier Mark McGowan said. “When he played, he would own the field.”
But there was more to the gentle giant whose use of the handball revolutionised the game.
Treasurer Ben Wyatt spoke of how the Polly Farmer Foundation had inspired Aboriginal people to fulfill their potential in the face of challenges.
“He changed the way Aboriginal people felt about themselves,” he said.
“I suspect why so many are here today is because of what he did with his greatness off the field.”
The foundation’s Vice President Fred Cheney said Farmer once told him: “There’s a lot of good jobs in Australia, but I don’t see many Aboriginal people holding them.”
Mr Cheney pledged the foundation would continue to deliver Farmer’s vision of helping Aboriginal people have a chance to access a quality education to best set them up for life.
Farmer’s daughter Kim said her father was a caring dad whose love of football was only dwarfed by his love for his family.
She recalled his eagerness to help out others, memorably getting his entire Geelong team to sign an autograph book for one of her teachers, a mad Cats fanatic.
“People approached him with a look of love on the street,” she said.
His son Dean remembered him as a humble, kind, loving man who provided his kids with a stable, loving environment which enabled them to grow and encouraged them to follow their dreams.
Footy statistics tell half of the story. His family and charity work tell the other half.
“He leaves us all with a story, and a legend,” Mr Wyatt said.