AN estimated 6000 people who crammed into the Albury Sportsground on a mid-July day in 1954 were treated to a glimpse of a player who would become one of football's greatest ever.
Graham "Polly" Farmer, who died this week, was only 19 when he made the trip to Albury with the East Perth Football Club, which had embarked on a mid-season promotional trip to the eastern states and took in a match against an Ovens and Murray league representative team and Goulburn Valley league combined side at Shepparton a few days later.
East Perth won the match by 34 points with Farmer listed second to another ruckman Colin Pestall in the Royals' best players in a season which would end with the first of seven club best and fairests.
IN OTHER NEWS
He also won three Sandover Medals before making his mark in the VFL in a brilliant 101-match career with Geelong which included the Cats' 1963 premiership.
Among his East Perth team-mates who played on the Albury Tigers' home ground more than six decades ago was Myrtleford's Mick Flecknoe, who was in his first season at the Royals, and booted three goals from centre half-forward.
"We started together at East Perth and he was just a brilliant footballer," he said.
"His ability as a ruckman was first class, but his hand-balling skills were magnificent.
"There were no packs like you see today because his handballs got the ball out in the clear 20 to 30 metres and opened the game right up.
"He made the blokes who played around him like Billy Goggin.
"But he was a shy sort of bloke and I was pretty shocked to see him come across and play for Geelong so there must have been some good incentive there."
The O and M's best players in the 1954 match included John Ziebarth, Lester Yensch, Greg Hoare, Keith Thomas (until injured), Louis Cesa and Billy Dicks.
Yensch booted three goals and Tim Robb and Dicks two each.
Albury resident John Sharrock and Burrumbuttock's Ian Scott played alongside Farmer in the Cats' 1963 premiership win against Hawthorn.
Sharrock said Farmer was a player before his time with his athletic prowess and dominated the VFL.
"He was a fitness fanatic," he said.
"We would do four laps to warm-up, but Polly would do six or eight, we would do 10 run-throughs, but he would do 15.
"He was fitter than any other player and just a beautiful specimen of a man and so perfectly built."
Farmer was aged 84 and had battled Alzheimer's disease for more than a decade.
He will have a state funeral.