Labelling someone the “best ever” is a subjective exercise, but put that tag alongside the name of Graham “Polly” Farmer and no one would dispute it.
If he is not the best of all time, then he is certainly on the podium.
A three-time Sandover medallist, a premiership player at all three of his senior clubs – East Perth (thrice), Geelong (1963) and West Perth (twice as captain-coach), he was also named in each club’s team of the century.
Seven times he won East Perth’s fairest and best award, was twice afforded that distinction at Geelong and in the twilight of his playing career won the award for West Perth in 1969.
He was an all-Australian in 1956, 1958 and 1961 and won the Tassie Medal in 1956.
He achieved all of that despite one leg being shorter than the other, the result of a childhood battle with polio.
While his list of achievements is exceptional and led to him being inducted into the inaugural AFL Hall of Fame in the centenary year of 1996 as a legend, it only partially tells the story of Polly Farmer and his impact on the game.
He was nothing short of a genius in the ruck, his touch and vision elevating him above all others. But then there was his revolutionary use of the handball, delivered with such precision and purpose that he changed the game.
He ‘made’ teammates with his ability to thread a handball through traffic and into space, allowing ruck-rovers and rovers of his time to break into space and deliver the ball forward. In essence, he changed the game forever.
A proud Aboriginal man, Polly was almost regal in stature. Considered, articulate and highly respected.
He did everything possible in the game and was even involved in the formative years of the West Coast Eagles.
Players in those early seasons at the club wondered at the presence of Farmer and another all-time great, Barry Cable, both of whom were assistant coaches.
They were often regaled on bus trips to and from airports and training sessions with some wonderful stories they will never forget.
As a young boy, my earliest football memories were of Polly Farmer playing for West Perth and denying my beloved East Perth the 1969 and 1971 premiership.
It hurt that my Royals missed premiership glory at the hands of our greatest.
Later, as a young football journalist, I had the privilege of interviewing Polly on more than a few occasions, usually at his family home. It could have been an intimidating experience, had he not been such as genial and welcoming subject.
It is no secret that Polly was ill for a number of years, but when news came through of his passing this morning, it made it no less sad.
Our community has lost a star – in every sense.