Australian football legend Graham “Polly” Farmer has died in Perth at the age of 84 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for more than a decade.
- Farmer played 356 games and won the coveted Sandover Medal three times
- He was a ruckman who revolutionised the sport with his use of the handball
- He was raised in an orphanage and suffered polio as a child
A trailblazer for Indigenous players in Australian sport, Farmer played 356 games from 1953 to 1971 across the WAFL and VFL leagues for East Perth, Geelong and West Perth.
An AFL spokesman said the league had been in constant contact with Farmer’s family and had confirmed the news of his death and the release of his name and photo.
He is regarded as one of the greatest players to play Australian rules football and is credited with revolutionising the role of the ruckman, particularly with his trademark use of the handball.
He won three Sandover medals and took out his club’s best and fairest award 10 times.
His achievements came despite a childhood bout of polio which left one leg shorter than the other.
Initially picked up for WA football league club East Perth, Farmer was talent-spotted by Geelong’s Bob Davis in 1962.
In the opening moments of Farmer’s debut with Geelong, he damaged his knee and was forced off the field for the rest of the season.
But he came back the following year, winning the premiership with Geelong and launching a long and highly-lauded sporting career.
Farmer was one of the original 12 Legends inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 1996 and was the first Australian footballer to be named a Member of the British Empire (MBE).
He came from humble beginnings, raised at Sister Kate’s Home — an orphanage for Indigenous children in Western Australia.
Farmer has a freeway in Perth named in his honour and dedicated his post-playing career to helping young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Polly Farmer Foundation, established in 1994, provides education programs to hundreds of indigenous children across Australia.