Graham “Polly” Farmer, widely regarded as Australian rules football’s greatest-ever ruckman, 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.
Farmer’s ruckwork and creative use of handball were considered 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 at both West Perth and East Perth.
Farmer was an inspiration for generations of indigenous footballers.
He 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.
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.”
Farmer was one of the inaugural intake of 12 Legends when the Australian Football Hall of Fame was set up in 1996.
“When discussing ruckmen, every player who saw him play or took the field against him, deferred to Polly,” McLachlan said.
“Our game has always started in the centre square, with a contest between two big men, and Polly was the greatest of all the big men who seek to set the standard of competitiveness for their teams, lead from the front at every contest and compel their team mates to match their skills and commitment in the pursuit of victory.”
His wife of 58 years, Marlene, passed away in 2015.
They had three children, daughter Kim and sons Brett and Dean.