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How Polly Farmer nearly became a Tiger

Richmond president Harry Dyke and captain Des Rowe congratulate Polly Farmer on his signing with the Tigers.

The mighty on-field deeds of Australian Football Legend Graham Polly Farmer, who passed away yesterday, aged 84, are well known.

Farmer was a champion ruckman in Western Australia for both East Perth and West Perth, as well as at VFL level with Geelong.

He is rightfully regarded as one of the greatest players in the game’s history, with a truly amazing football CV.

What’s not so well known about Farmer, however, is just how close he came to becoming a Richmond player.

The Tigers had secured Farmer’s signature in the mid-1950s, while he was playing at East Perth, and seemed set to lure him across to Victoria.

Farmer, indeed, was extremely keen to make the move to Tigerland, as this article in The Age newspaper on Friday, October 14, 1955 indicated . . .

“East Perth ruckman Graham Farmer will not play football in W.A. again unless he is guaranteed a clearance to Richmond by 1957.

In a telephone conversation from Melbourne today, Farmer, 20, said that he was prepared to stand out of football for 12 months and take his application on appeal to the A.N.F.C. (Australian National Football Council).

“I’m looking after myself. I’ve got a chance to make something of my future and I’m taking it.”

Farmer will return to Perth at the weekend. He is in Melbourne as a guest at a hotel run by Richmond captain Des Rowe.

He finishes his apprenticeship as a motor mechanic in January.

On Monday he was “signed up” by Richmond president Harry Dyke, who announced that Farmer would play with Richmond next season.

Asked if he would call on East Perth and tell them his intentions, Farmer said:

“I’ve got no reason to see them. They can see me if they like. We have had no row.”

He said he would be at East Fremantle Oval on Sunday to compete in the Legacy carnival.”

‘Immortal’ Richmond coach Tommy Hafey, who was a player with the Tigers at the time, recalled Farmer’s presence at Punt Road . . .

“In fact, I can remember him watching training. I can remember him down there at that stage, and I knew who he was, all about him, and it was just he was somebody we were chasing,” Hafey said.

Unfortunately for Richmond, however, it never managed to complete the deal to get Polly Farmer into a Yellow and Black guernsey.

East Perth eventually convinced Farmer to stay for several more years, as this news item from The Age on May 19, 1961 detailed . . . 

“Five years ago Farmer considered moving to Victoria, but eventually reached an agreement with East Perth to play for them for another five seasons. The agreement ends with this season.”

At the end of that agreement, Farmer did finally make the move to Victoria, at 27 years of age, to join Geelong, where he went on to play 101 games, including the Cats’ 1963 Grand Final triumph over Hawthorn.

It is fascinating to imagine, though, what could have been, had Richmond parlayed Farmer’s signature into a transfer to Tigerland.

Regardless, Graham Polly Farmer was a giant of our great game, and Richmond extends its deepest sympathy to his family and friends.