Almanac (Footy) History: Polly’s Folly

In an extraordinary and decorated career, you wouldn’t think that the late and great Graham “Polly” Farmer would have too many regrets. But it was this weekend, exactly 50 years ago, you may find that exception.

 

If we can’t beat Tasmania, we ought to give the game away!

 

The rest is history.

 


 

Two years after returning home to WA, Polly now found himself back east as captain-coach of a WAFL team fixtured to play the VFL and Tasmania in a pair of matches over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend.

 

Despite the muddy and cool conditions at the MCG on the Saturday, the Sandgropers were by all accounts the better team on the day and unlucky to lose by a goal. Disappointed, it was still an important outcome for Farmer. The previous time the WAFL played at the MCG, the Big V won by 178 points. Polly was captain of the WA that day too.

 

The next day, the Sandgropers made their way to Hobart for a Monday encounter with a combined Tasmanian team. Most local scribes of the day conceded that the Sandgropers were going to be far too strong for the Apple Isle. There was little if any apprehension within the WAFL camp that the visitors would be playing their second game in three days. The visitors had many reasons to feel confident of a victory in the Apple Isle this weekend.

 

Tasmanian football doyen John Devaney described the interaction this way:

 

“The Western Australians arrived in Hobart in a confident frame of mind. On Saturday they had come closer than ever before to recording an upset victory over the VFL in Melbourne. Moreover, the last time Western Australia had played Tasmania, at the previous year’s Adelaide carnival, the Sandgropers had done virtually as they pleased all day en route to 113 point victory.”

 

Given his team’s recent dominance over the Tasmanians and also buoyed by its excellent performance at the MCG two days earlier, a confident Farmer told the waiting pool of Tasmanian journalists, “My team simply cannot countenance anything other than a convincing win. If we can’t beat Tasmania, we ought to give the game away.”

 

Hello football folklore.

 

In a nutshell, the Tasmanian team gets off to a flyer and kick accurately to lead by 6 goals at the main break. The WAFL get back into the game in the third and a seven goal final quarter puts them in front for the first time with minutes to go. In the final flurry, it is Devine to Baldock to Bingley who nails a set shot to secure victory. The newspaper report of the next day by sporting journalist Allan Leeson of The Advocate is included for your convenience at the foot of this piece.

 

 

The Victorious Tasmanians

 

 

 

BACK ROW (L-R): D.Baldock (vice-captain), M.Urquhart, J.Bingley, K.Edwards, J. Jillard
MIDDLE ROW (L-R): F.Newell (Head Trainer), R.Hall, A.Thiessen, A.Bowden, J. Frost, A.Hodgetts, L.Styles, P.Vinar, D.Plaister
FRONT ROW (L-R): R.Johnson, J.Bonney, C.Coombes, R.Steele, J.Devine (captain-coach), J.Marshall, R.Graham, S.Dec, R.Stirling

 

 

Match Summary

 

TASMANIA                                 6.1     13.2    14.5     18.10 (118)

WESTERN AUSTRALIA       1.3     6.7     10.10    17.14 (116)

 

 

Tasmania:            Bonney 4, Marshall 3, Hodgetts 3, Devine 2, Hall 2, Baldock, Stirling, Bingley, L.Styles
WAFL:                   Carroll 3, Cooper 3, Walker 2; Brown 2, Smeath 2, Duperouzel 2, Blakemore, Farmer, Purton

 

 

Tasmania:            Vinar, Bonney, Graham, Devine, Urquhart, Steele, Stirling, Baldock
WAFL:                   Walker, Brown, Brehaut (left), A.Stiles, Farmer, Cooper, Blakemore

 

Crowd:         19,823 at North Hobart Oval

 

 

 

From The Advocate – by Allan Leeson

 

This will go down in history as one of the best ever performances by a Tasmanian team. In fact, it was only fourth victory against WA in the 16 clashes between the states since 1911. Tasmania stole the game with phenomenal goal shooting and fierce tackling in the opening two and a half quarters, lost it late in the third and for most of the final quarter when it switched to fancy short passing, and won it again in a steamrolling final three minutes.

 

Two men held the game in their palms in the vital few minutes – West Australian centre half forward Mal Brown who had been switched to full forward, and Tasmanian half forward flanker John Bingley (left). Brown returned to the scene of his famous – or infamous (whichever way you look at it) – 1966 carnival stoush with Tasmanian Max McMahon to capture the lead for Western Australia for the first time with a goal 26 minutes into the final term. It was Brown’s great marking and creative attacking – fired by replacement centreman Cam Blakemore – that nearly gave WA victory minutes before the final siren. It was Bingley’s fanatical desire, marking and deciding kick that recovered the lead for Tasmania 30 seconds before the final siren.

 

Tasmania stole the game with phenomenal goal shooting and fierce tackling in the opening two and a half quarters, lost it late in the third and for most of the final quarter when it switched to fancy short passing, and won it again in a steamrolling final three minutes.

 

Two men held the game in their palms in the vital few minutes – West Australian centre half forward Mal Brown (right) who had been switched to full forward, and Tasmanian half forward flanker John Bingley. Brown returned to the scene of his famous – or infamous (whichever way you look at it) – 1966 carnival stoush with Tasmanian Max McMahon to capture the lead for Western Australia for the first time with a goal 26 minutes into the final term. It was Brown’s great marking and creative attacking – fired by replacement centreman Cam Blakemore – that nearly gave WA victory minutes before the final siren. It was Bingley’s fanatical desire, marking and deciding kick that recovered the lead for Tasmania 30 seconds before the final siren.

 

The big crowd of nearly 20,000 – only 4,000 short of the 1966 opening day carnival record of 23,754 – held its breath as Bingley marked with three minutes left. Bingley, of all people, a natural backman and notoriously bad kick for goal. Sure enough, his kick flew wide and fell short for Frost to miss and Marshall to pick up the crumbs and kick a point.

 

The crowd had almost given up hope as the precious minutes ticked by and WA recovered again for Brown to mark, a long way out, but within kicking distance. But he too was off target, for a point. All hope seemed lost as Longford coach Paul Vinar, considered by many as the best Tasmanian afield, kicked off. The former national long distance champion, as usual, put plenty of distance into the lofty kick. The ball flew to the wing, Stirling grabbed it, Devine (left) chipped in and found Baldock, who hit Bingley on the chest about 40 yards out on a flank.

 

Could he or couldn’t he? This was the big question in one of the most tense finished seen in an interstate game in Tasmania. Bingley did and the wild scenes of jubilation among players and thousands of spectators as the siren sounded 30 seconds later reflected the pleasure of everyone at the ground. Veteran pressmen said it was the best reception ever given a Tasmanian team. Thousands poured onto the ground and clogged the entrances and even the timekeeper vented his feelings with a drawn out salute on the siren.

 

I believe the straight kicking for goal – it was uncannily accurate – and fierce tackling played the biggest part in this victory.

 

In defence of WA it must be remembered that it was recovering from an equally torrid game against Victoria only two days previously. A game which robbed it of four of its star players – Denis Marshall, ‘Hassa’ Mann, Bradley Smith and Peter Stephen – all of whom were injured. The strange ground – and North Hobart can be strange to visiting teams – slippery surface and travelling are all factors which were against the sandgropers. Nevertheless, they had every opportunity and nothing can be taken away from Tasmania – generally regarded as the ‘Cinderella’ football state. The Tasmanians demonstrated a fanaticism and desire to win the ball rarely seen in state teams. They took the initiative from the first bounce, with Baldock, proving that he is far from ‘too old’ as claimed by some critics, and Devine the masterminds.

 

Rovers Bonney (right) and Marshall were in fine form and within five minutes the home side had two goals on the board. It went on to kick six goals from seven shots, while WA had only four shots, one of which was a ‘poster’. It was much the same in the second quarter, with full forward Athol Hodgetts also joining the spree. Hodgetts finished with 3.1 in his interstate debut – against the man who kept Hudson to only one goal on Saturday, John Reilly.

 

‘Polly’ Farmer’s creative handball and strength in the ruck started to tell towards the end of this term, enabling bustling little rover Bill Walker – one of the stars of the 1969 Adelaide carnival – to come into his own. The WAs whittled the lead away in the third term, but Tasmania was still well clear. Then at three quarter time WA made two changes which swung the game. Cam Blakemore replaced injured centreman Peter Manning and became the focal point of WA’s thrusts to high marking Brown, who was moved to full forward. Ultimately, however, it was not quite enough.

 

 

 

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

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About Warwick Nolan

Cricket tragic. Football tragic. However, he did enjoy glory early in his career. His zenith was as a ten years old when Simpson and Lawry opened the batting, Baldock wore a Collingwood jumper and a UFO landed on the school oval.

Comments

  1. A great story, Warwick. And how goos is that Tasmanian guernsey.

    In the Sandgropers’ defence: two matches (with a flight in between) in three days?
    Imagine the players’ response to that these days?

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