Tributes flowed after Geelong champion and AFL Football Hall of Fame Legend Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer passed away at age 84 on Wednesday. AFLPlayers.com.au spoke with 1963 premiership teammate and captain Fred Wooller about what made ‘Polly’ such a giant of the game.
Ben Guthrie: How did Polly revolutionise the ruck position?
Fred Wooller: He had this ability to jump fractionally higher than his opponents and use them as a bit of a lift. Not many other ruckmen back in that day could do that you see. He had that unique ability to roll the ball down one side of his body and deliver a quick handball. He had that second phase to his ruck work where at times he’d get the ball down to himself and then quick handball. That’s where he got that attacking advantage from and it was a pretty special skill to have.
His use of the handball has been well regarded. But why was it so effective?
It was always an attacking handball. Polly hardly ever went backwards with a handball. Nobody else did it and he was unique and that’s why he became so renowned. His handballs were always to someone running or to allow them to run onto it. These kicks that players are getting away with nowadays, he’d handball longer than that. He would go 25m sometimes, but they’d always be to a teammate’s advantage.
What was Polly like as a teammate?
He was a champion bloke and he was probably the most dedicated out of any player I played with. He’d get to the ground before training most nights and he’d kick the ball and have shots at goal before training started. He used to have his car in his driveway and he’d stand over in the garden near the rose bush near where we used to live near one another. He’d wind the window down and he’d handball through the car and his son Brett would throw it back out to him. That was his level of commitment to the game. He always had a footy in his hand. You’d go around to his place to have a yarn and he’d always be spinning a footy in his hand.
Would Polly have been able to excel in the modern game?
If there was one player I would pick to be able to thrive in today’s game, it would be Polly. He would have been so suited to today’s football with all the training, the preparation. He just loved football and he would have suited that down to the ground. He would have loved it.
Graham Farmer with Tom Lonergan, Steve Johnson, James Podsiadly, James Kelly, Travis Varcoe, Mathew Stokes and Joel Selwood
Polly had a huge impact in Geelong’s 1963 premiership victory. Would you have won the game without him in the side?
He was the best man on the ground and we all recognised that he was a significant contributor to winning the premiership. I think all of us realised that if he hadn’t been playing for Geelong it might have been a bit of a struggle to win it. The players that played with him would say we walked off the ground all together and no doubt Polly was influential in us winning that game.
Was Polly up there with the best players you ever played with?
No doubt. It’s pretty hard to compare him with the modern players but Polly is a fella that wanted to develop his skills, loved the game and he always wanted to improve. He lived for football.
Did you remain close after your football careers ended?
We’ve visited him two or three times and he and (wife) Marlene visited us a lot. We had a great friendship with Marlene and ‘Pol’ and also their children Brett, Dean and Kim. A few of us flew over to Perth in November last year to say our goodbyes to him, to be honest, so that was a great trip to go and see him and we were able to say our thank yous and goodbyes.
Polly clearly left an indelible mark on the Geelong Football Club. What do you think his legacy will be?
He came to the footy club and he was so well thought of when he first arrived that our practice games would often get five to 10,000 people among ourselves. That’s how much people wanted to see Polly. He was a legend and a half. When he injured his knee in 1962 everyone was really downcast, but then he came back the next year and got his knee right and finished up playing in a premiership side. He had a fantastic career and it was a privilege to play with and call him a friend.
Thanks for giving us an insight into the life of the great Polly Farmer, Fred.
Good on you, Ben.