• Graham "Polly" Farmer was an inspiration for generations of Indigenous footballers. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Australia has lost one of its finest sportsmen with the passing of Australian Rules football legend Graham "Polly" Farmer.
Source:
NITV News
14 Aug 2019 - 2:53 PM  UPDATED 14 Aug 2019 - 2:53 PM

Warning: This article contains images and words about someone from our community that has passed. 

Graham "Polly" Farmer, Australian rules football's greatest-ever ruckman and the first Indigenous coach in VFL/AFL history, has been remembered as a pioneer for generations of Indigenous footballers and one of the game's true innovators.

A uniquely gifted footballer who reached the greatest of heights in both his native Western Australia and in Victoria, Farmer has died aged 84.

Farmer, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease more than 20 years ago, passed away in Perth's Fiona Stanley Hospital with his family by his side.

He will be offered a state funeral.

Farmer's ruckwork and creative use of handball were revolutionary during his 101-game stint with the Cats from 1962-67 - including a key role in the 1963 premiership - and a long career in the WAFL with East Perth and West Perth.

He also coached the Cats in the VFL from 1975-77 and coached at both West Perth and East Perth.

Farmer was named as first ruck in the AFL team of the century, and in the same position and as vice-captain in the Indigenous team of the century.

Farmer Mural

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said the game had lost one of its greatest players.

"Beyond football, as a proud Noongar man, he was a leader for the Aboriginal community and his standing in the game and in society enabled his people to believe that they too could reach the peaks and achieve their best potential," McLachlan said.

"He laid the path for so many great footballers from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to come into the elite levels of the game and showcase their skills.

"At every point of his career, his teams found success on the field, thanks largely to his dominance that built a record that few players could ever hope to match."

Raised in an orphanage in Perth's eastern suburbs, Farmer suffered polio as a child that left one leg slightly shorter than the other.

He began his playing career at East Perth, where he won three premierships and was three times awarded the Sandover Medal as the WAFL's best and fairest player.

Farmer was one of the inaugural intake of 12 Legends when the Australian Football Hall of Fame was set up in 1996.

Fellow Indigenous legend Barry Cable, who played alongside Farmer and followed in his footsteps as a coach, said his achievements went beyond the playing field.

"People say he changed the style of ruckman but I feel that he was the only one who could do what he could do ... no-one has ever been able to follow it," Cable told Perth radio station 6PR.

"He went through a fairly tough time in those days. Because of his greatness and the sort of person that he was, he worked out ways of how to overcome it.

"Even though he was discriminated against at times, he was big enough to cop it and get on with it and he never used it as an excuse."

WA premier Mark McGowan said Farmer deserved a state funeral and the state government would consult with his family.

Geelong chief executive Brian Cook highlighted Farmer's enduring impact on the club.

"He thrilled the crowds," Cook said.

"That's what I remember most, the way he took the ball before the peak and handballed it before he landed.

"He was one of the first adventurers, I reckon, in relation to trying to change the game."

His wife of 58 years, Marlene, passed away in 2015.

They had three children, daughter Kim and sons Brett and Dean.

AAP