Ben McGuire continues legacy

Wednesday, August 26, 2020 - 8:00 PM by Katie de Haer

For 20-year-old Ben McGuire, running out in the East Perth jumper this season has carried extra significance.

The number ‘25’ is significant for McGuire given its proud Indigenous history.

Not only did his uncle, John McGuire, wear the number ‘25’ as a premiership winning player in 1978, but it was also the number worn by one of the greatest Aboriginal players of all time - Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer - during his time at East Perth. 

“It was a huge honour to receive the number,” McGuire said.

It gives you the motivation that you’re representing something bigger than yourself when you run out. It’s amazing to represent not only this number but the footy club itself."

John McGuire was a talented dual sportsman. He played 85 League games for East Perth and compiled over 10,000 runs in First Grade cricket. In 1988, he captained an all-Aboriginal team that played the Prime Minister’s XI and later toured England.

I’m enormously proud,” John McGuire told

“First of all that Ben is representing the football club but also to have a bit of a tradition happen in terms of the number 25 jumper. It’s wonderful to see it happen, and that it’s my nephew who is carrying it on.”

East Perth will celebrate the significant contributions of its past and present Indigenous players during NAIDOC round against Swan Districts on Saturday at Leederville Oval.

John McGuire will be joined by club legend Syd Jackson and Kim Farmer, the daughter of Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer’, at a pre-game NAIDOC ceremony where a statement outlining East Perth’s stance against racism will be read to supporters.

“Polly is revered as the greatest player of all. He changed the game. It was an honour and a privilege to play for East Perth but also to play in the jumper that was made famous by an iconic man,” McGuire said.

“You wear a jumper and it becomes your identity as a player. The number ‘25’ was certainly that for me, and it will be for Ben. To wear it in a grand final and to have won a premiership in it, just makes it really, really special.”

The AFL formally recognised Syd Jackson’s contribution to Australian Rules Football and Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples as the 2020 Toyota AFL Sir Doug Nicholls Round honouree last weekend.

Jackson played 104 games for East Perth before moving to Victoria to play with Carlton. He played 136 games for the Blues and won two premierships in 1970 and 1972.

“Syd was my idol as a kid growing up," McGuire said.

“I can remember coming down to a league game with my father and my uncle, we travelled down from Kellerberrin in the mid 60s.

“Syd was a superstar in a superstar team at that time. Watching Syd out there, doing unbelievable things in terms of skill, balance and kicking the football. He had a sensationally high mark, for a relatively little bloke. It was just mesmerizing and immediately, I thought, that’s what I want to do.

“As an Aboriginal kid, standing at the fence line watching the game happening – there weren’t too many Noongars running around. To see Syd doing these things, I thought ‘wow, he’s the same colour as me. If he can do that, I can do that and that was my motivation.”