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INDIGENE - PART SIX


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INDIGENE - PART SIX by Whispering Jack

They called him the "Wizard" or just plain "Wiz" because he had the uncanny ability to create goals from nothing and he became the ninth indigenous Australian to don the Demon guernsey in 1995 after the club traded Phil Gilbert to the new Fremantle franchise in exchange for the 178 cm 82 kg 17 year old who plucked from the obscurity of Tambellup, WA. Farmer was a true footballing freak who would duck and weave his way around unsuspecting opponents, soar to the heights for spectacular marks and kick goals from improbable angles.

With the Wiz it was always wise to expect the unexpected as Garry Lyon learned early in the youngster's career. Lyon was in among a pack of players in the goal square when he received a hospital handpass from Farmer who was just few metres away. He managed the goal but the glare he gave Farmer said everything and, after that, the Wizard must have decided to mostly kick the goals by himself.

In 1998 he won the goal of the year award and came very close to taking mark of the year. Both were efforts of sheer brilliance. The mark, taken high above a pack in the last home and away game before the finals, will remain forever etched in the memory of all those who came to the MCG that day.

Then there was another day in 2000 on the same ground against Collingwood when he kicked 9 goals in the second half after barely getting a sniff in the first half. He might have spent much of the second on the bench but for a wrist injury to Ben Beams. Farmer then put on a show the likes of which few had ever seen before, kicking goals from every conceivable angle and generally running amok on the Melbourne forward line. He finished that season with a career best 76 goal, played in a grand final (with a rib injury) after booting eight against North Melbourne in the preliminary final and was named in the All Australian team. A year later he asked for a trade back to Fremantle.

farmer.jpg

The Wizard had a wife and children back in the West and the lure of family and the money proved too great. The Demons couldn't match the deal and let him go although they really got nowhere near enough compensation for their marquee player

For a while, Farmer's career continued to flourish at Fremantle where he was called the "Purple Jesus" by some, but in the end, there was controversy both on and off the field and his career ended unhappily amid a blaze of adverse publicity. He had always been regarded an angry young man but later in his career he developed behavioural problems, some related to drinking and one has the feeling that, although he played more games with the Dockers to finish just short of 250 games and closing in on 500 goals (more than any other indigenous player), the move west was not the greatest of career moves

Nearing the end of 2008 one of the greatest but most flawed small forwards was beaten by time. I was saddened to read his words on retirement:

"From being a 17-year-old boy in Tambellup until today, I have known nothing else in my adult working life other than being an AFL footballer.

"It is something that I will sorely miss but having said that I'm looking forward to the next phase of my life."

The Wizard's record at Melbourne was 118 games and 231 goals but he will best be remembered for the pleasure he gave Demon fans during his stay with the club although he offset much of the goodwill by kicking a late goal to win Fremantle the first game he played in against his old club at Subiaco.

The introduction of the Dockers also led to Melbourne recruiting the Cockatoo-Collins twins David and Donald who were the younger brothers of Bomber star Che. Demon Jason Norrish had earlier played in a WAFL premiership with Claremont under the inaugural Fremantle coach Gerard Neesham and was targeted in 1994 as a priority signing, returning to Perth and the new club as an uncontracted player. This enabled Melbourne to select David Cockatoo-Collins from Port Adelaide as compensatory pick before the 1995 season. Melbourne then promised his mother who was dying of cancer, that it would draft his twin brother Donald at the end of the year. The boys were schooled at Wesley College, the promise was honoured and they both made their AFL debuts early the following year. David, a small forward managed just one more game in 1997 while Donald, a utility played 9 games for 3 goals and too he was gone by the end of 1998.

The Fremantle connection continued with the recruitment of Docker Scott Chisholm at the beginning of 1999 and it was only fitting that he found himself at a "blue blood" club like Melbourne because it was said that thanks to a "liaison" in his family back a century earlier, the blood of royalty flowed through his veins. They even called him "The Prince" but Chisholm, an exciting Jack-in-a-box player who ran, carried and often went sideways when it was the least expected, couldn't command a regular place in the side and departed just after the turn of the century at the end of 2000. Controversially, he was the object of a racist barrage from then St. Kilda ruckman Peter Everitt that resulted in AFL intervention over the racial vilification furore that followed. Today, such behaviour has thankfully all but been removed from the AFL scene and recently the AFL's policy on racial abuse was highlighted by the recently retired Adelaide champion Andrew McLeod inside the United Nations.

TO BE CONTINUED

This series is written in honour of the late Matthew Wonaeamirri, father of current Melbourne player Austin. Our hearts go out to all of the family.

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I will never forget the game Farmer mentioned by WJ where he kicked 9.1 (so close to perfection) in the second half against the maggies. One of my all time favourite footy watching moments, perhaps even my fav

I was sitting at the top of the Ponsford Stand (city end)and there was a magpie fan in front of me who in the first half was absolutely giving it to Farmer. All half he was bagging hi whenever he went near it. His vitriol tipped over into mindless racist drivel. I think he must have thought himself quite witty as his insults were along the lines of "typical, always looking for a handout", "hoping for easy welfare" and other such rubbish. The fella was absolutely relentless and as Farmer barely got a kick in that first half he had plenty of opportunities to have a go at him.

What made it worse was he was with his son, who was probably no older than about 9 or so. It was for this reason that i elected not to say anything (and a sense that it would have been pointless and perhaps he was trying to provoke something), as there would have been some sort of confrontation an more than likely violence. That said i really i struggled throughout the first half not to say anything to him and with the tension of thinking i should.

Well Farmer answered such rubbish in the best possible way. 9 goals in a half of footy and it could have easily have been 10. Awesome. With each goal i was able to go wild for the Wiz and was able to "respond" to the dill without ever having to do so directly. I yelled out stuff like "that's it Jeff, do it all youself, go hard", "you don't need any easy frees or handouts from the umps" etc etc. As the Whiz lined up for his 9th at about the 15 min mark of the last this fella (having barely said a word, little lone an insult, since about half way through the 3rd quarter) slinked off, leaving his son with a mate of his (who funnily enough had not at any stage yelled out any abuse). He was a beaten man. The Whiz had seen to that. There had beee no violence and perhaps his son had learnt a lesson. A great day and a great talent.

Edited by binman
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