Please note this story contains reference to someone who has died.
Marked with grass-stains and smelling of saltwater and mothballs, Polly Farmer’s jersey from the 1961 Football Carnival is coming home.
A priceless piece of history, the jersey was worn by Polly during WA’s victory over Victoria. A win that saw WA end a 40-year national championship drought and saw the team become the first inducted into the WA Football Hall of Champions.
The jumper found its way into the hands of John Schultz, who was opposing Polly on the Victorian team. It was customary for teams at the time to give one another their jerseys.
“I was privileged, in that game between Vic and WA … I was … against Polly. That was probably my first recollection of personally meeting him,” said Schultz.
Not realising the history the jersey held, Schultz used to wear it surfing.
“In those days we didn’t have wetsuits or leg ropes, so if you fell off your board … I’d come up and see my board sailing into shore without me on it. And that means a long swim in cold Victorian waters!” he said.
“I used to wear Polly’s jumper as some protection against the cold. I wore it for many years.”
The jersey survived, standing the test of time thanks to Schultz’s wife who preserved it for many years in “a draw full of mothballs”.
Schultz contacted the Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation regarding donating the jersey less than a month ago.
“I was thinking I should try to do something with the jumper and then … I heard about the Foundation and the wonderful work it does. It was started by Polly with the view to enhance the educational pathways for Indigenous youth,” he said.
“The best gift you can ever give someone is an education.”
Polly’s daughter, Kim Farmer, spoke of her appreciation for Schultz in reaching out to the Foundation.
“Dad wasn’t very sentimental, so he didn’t keep anything, no boots or jumpers. He gave a lot away, so it was really cool to see this relic from the past,” she said.
“What John has enabled is really important to me, he didn’t contact the family or any of the football clubs—he contacted the Foundation.
“I was at the beginning watching Dad do this, and I’ve watched it grow. It has always been so important to me … I am really proud that when Dad’s name is mentioned, it is mentioned in terms of the Foundation.”
The jersey’s new home will be the State Library of Western Australia. An official handover by Farmer to the Library’s CEO, Margaret Allen, will occur on October 12.
Schultz said jersey is just one small part of the immensely powerful legacy of Polly Farmer.
“We are talking about a very special person here when it comes to Polly … he was very clever and a very great man.”
By Rachael Knowles