Given that this weekend is the Sir Doug Nicholls Round, marking the end of Reconciliation Week, and that during the week we saw the induction of the latest round of AFL Hall of Famers, we thought we needed to go back to the first Aboriginal player inducted , as a Legend, into the foundation Hall of Fame: Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer. Farmer’s Hall of Fame citation records that he “[b]ecame a rucking giant after crossing from Western Australia. His tap-outs were attacking and his handball revolutionised the game in Victoria. Also capable of playing for much of his career with injury. A great leader.”
Farmer began his career in the West Australian National Football League, playing for East Perth Football Club from 1953 to 1961. In May of his second year, The West Australian reported that “Farmer’s work in the ruck this season has shown an astonishing improvement since last season. For a player so inexperienced in league football, Farmer has quickly mastered the art of delicate ‘palming’ to his rovers. The most improved feature of his game, however, is his kicking” (‘Improving Ruckman’, The West Australian, 27 May 1954, p. 22).
And indeed, in July that same year, the paper would wax lyrical about how, in a game between East Perth and Perth at the WACA, “Graham Farmer, the tall slim follower, played a great part in East Perth’s win and was its most effective player. He battled manfully in the ruck and his intelligent knocking of the ball made many openings for his rovers” (Alan Newman, ‘South Fremantle Shows Its Class’, The West Australian, 5 July 1954, p. 26).
In 1962, Farmer moved across the country to Geelong, but only played 6 games for the season, having injured a ligament in his knee. In the opening round of the year, the Football Record listed him amongst the ‘New Faces in 1962’, noting that “Champion West Australian man, Graham (“Polly”) Farmer, has been stealing the limelight at Geelong. His marking, handball and palming out to the rovers have been perfect and he will be a real acquisition” (The Football Record, 21 April 1962, p. 4).
(1962 was also the year, it seems, when Footy Record sellers began wearing uniforms – the Record proudly announcing that “We found it easy to buy our ‘Football Record’ today. All sellers are now wearing those bright red coats – another way of providing a better service for footy fans” (p. 3))
In that first round, against Carlton, Farmer kicked 4 goals, the most he would kick that year. 41,846 people were in attendance, and the gate receipts totalled 5,630 pounds, or about $157,000 in today’s dollars, (The Football Record, 28 April 1962, p. 4). The Record the next week reported that “Geelong barrackers who flocked to the Carlton ground last Saturday were thrilled with the performance of ‘recruit’ ruckman, ‘Polly’ Farmer. He showed all the attributes of the champion he is” (p. 7).
In that debut year for Geelong, Farmer didn’t play Round 11, so let’s head to Round 11 in 1963, his second year (the year that Geelong would go on to win the premiership, and Farmer came equal second in the Brownlow Medal (behind Bob Skilton)). In round 11 Geelong beat Collingwood, Farmer was listed amongst the best players, and the Record reported that “there was little between Collingwood and Geelong in a fiery game at Kardinia Park, where a win was vital for both sides. The Magpies had several opportunities to clinch victory, but missed easy shots for goal. Geelong were much steadier on the forward line, and despite much inaccuracy, scored goals when the pressure was applied” (The Football Record, 27 July 1963, p. 9).
Round 11 that year happened a week later than had been planned, as the “V.F.L. Adverse Weather Committee [had] met at 10 a.m. last Saturday and decided to postpone the round and move all future rounds back one week.” This meant that the last round for the year was moved to September 7, with the finals beginning on September 14 and the Grand Final shifting to become ‘that first Saturday in October’ – October 5. The Brownlow moved to September 11, and the Football Record reported on previous postponements on rounds happening in 1897, 1900, 1910, 1918, 1923, 1936, 1939 and 1960 (The Football Record, 20 July 1963, p. 4).
Geelong headed into their game, billed “the match of the day”, “struggling to retain third position”(p. 6). And for those needing a bit of light entertainment after the footy was over, cinema listings informed readers of the Record that across the cinemas in the city they could see The Guns of Navarone, Sodom and Gomorrah, Boccaccio 70, or The Amorous Prawn (p. 12).
We hope all our readers weekends feature more matches of the day, celebrations of Aboriginal players and histories, and movements to stand in solidarity against racism, and fewer amorous prawns,