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Graham “Polly” Farmer by Graeme Kelly

Graham Polly Farmer. Image: Bob Gartland Collection.

(Born March, 1935 – died August, 2019)


Graham “Polly” Farmer is arguably the greatest ruckman to play Australian Football.

He was also a trailblazer for indigenous people playing the game.

“Polly”, who died in Perth on August 14 aged 84 after suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease for 10 years, overcame extreme difficulties to achieve those accolades.

He was brought up in an orphanage and suffered polo as a child, which resulted in his left leg being shorter than his right.

That did not stop him becoming a super star playing 356 games with East Perth, Geelong and West Perth from 1953 to 1971.

During that period he revolutionised the use of handball, particularly when directing the ball to Geelong rover Billy Goggin.

Fittingly “Polly” was among the first 12 inductees into the Australian football Hall of Fame when it was established in 1996.

Probably a feature about “Polly” that has been forgotten over the years is that he enjoyed success as a breeder and owner.

Among the horses he bred and raced was the high class Grey Sapphire, who was a 1975 foal by Deep Sapphire (GB) from the Zahedan (IRE) mare Zara’s Return.

Deep Sapphire was a winner of 18 races of which six were black type events.

His victories featured the MVRC Moir Stakes-Gr.2, VATC Liston Stakes-Gr.2, MVRC Freeway Stakes-Gr.2 and VRC Standish Handicap-Gr.3.

The gelding was also finished second, to Private Talk in the 1978 VATC Marlboro Cup-Gr.1, to Sovereign Red in the 1981 Rothmans 100,000-Gr.1 and to My Gold Hope in the 1982 AJC Doncaster Handicap-Gr.1

Grey Sapphire’s other placings included a third behind Manaroa and Marjoleo in the VATC Toorak Handicap-Gr.1 in 1979.

“Polly” was also an enthusiastic but not entirely successful punter.

In the mid-1970s he was writing columns for The Australian newspaper, which I was ghosting.

One winter Friday he told me a Perth sprinter – I can’t remember the horse’s name – was a “certainty” at Moonee Valley the next day.

The horse won at 9/2 but when I said to “Polly” on the Sunday “you would have had a good day yesterday” he said “no, I lost $5,000”, which was quite a sum in those days.

It turned out that “Polly” had taken daily doubles and quadrellas with the Perth sprinter rather than having a win bet.

The horse won the first leg of the double, which was also the second leg of the quadrella.

Unfortunately “Polly” had taken eight of the nine horses in the second leg of the double and the third leg of the quadrella.

As so often happens the other horse – a 50/1 shot – won the race and blew his bets out of the water.

That is a sorry story but “Polly” was a wonderful person, who will be remembered warmly for his achievements and his friendship.