Jim Stynes

James Stynes OAM (23 April 1966  20 March 2012) was an Irish-born footballer who converted from Gaelic football to Australian rules football. Playing for the Melbourne Football Club in the Australian Football League (AFL), he went on to become one of the game's most prominent figures, breaking the record for most consecutive games of VFL/AFL football (244) and winning the sport's highest individual honour, the Brownlow Medal, in 1991. Off the field, he was a notable AFL administrator, philanthropist, charity worker and writer.

Jim Stynes
Stynes in 2008
Personal information
Full name James Stynes
Nickname(s) Jimmy
Date of birth (1966-04-23)23 April 1966
Place of birth Dublin, Ireland
Date of death 20 March 2012(2012-03-20) (aged 45)
Place of death St Kilda, Victoria, Australia
Original team(s) Ballyboden St Enda's
Height 199 cm (6 ft 6 in)
Weight 99 kg (218 lb)
Position(s) Ruckman
Playing career1
Years Club Games (Goals)
1987–1998 Melbourne 264 (130)
Representative team honours
Years Team Games (Goals)
1990–1994 Victoria 10 (?)
International team honours
1987–88, 1998 Australia 5 (42pts)
1990 Ireland 3 (11pts)
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of 1998.
2 State and international statistics correct as of 1998.
Career highlights
Sources: AFL Tables, AustralianFootball.com


During his 264-game career playing for the Melbourne Football Club in the Australian Football League (AFL) between 1987 and 1998, Stynes became the first and only non-Australian-born VFL/AFL player to win the Brownlow Medal, which he achieved in 1991.

After his retirement he was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame. Stynes was quite famous in both Australia and Ireland as a result of his involvement in the Melbourne Football Club's ambitious international recruitment program (now known as the "Irish experiment"). Born in Dublin Ireland, where he was a promising Gaelic footballer, Stynes made an ambitious move to Australia at the age of 18 following his side's win in the 1984 All-Ireland Minor Football Championship.

Debuting in the Australian Football League in 1987, he played a league record 244 consecutive games between 1987 and 1998. Playing as a mobile ruckman, Stynes is credited as having changed the way that the position is played and along with his Brownlow his Australian Rules achievements included the Leigh Matthews Trophy, two time All-Australian team selection, a night and day Grand Final and four club trophies for Melbourne. He also represented Victoria in interstate football matches, and both Australia and Ireland in international rules football, a hybrid of Gaelic football and Australian rules football.

Following his football career, Stynes focused on youth work using his profile to launch the Reach Foundation, which he co-founded in 1994. As a result of his work with young people in Victoria he was named Victorian of the Year twice, in 2001 and 2003, and with the expanded profile of Reach nationally, awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2007.

Stynes also served as president of the Melbourne Football Club from 2008 and was involved in fundraising efforts which brought the club out of debt. In 2009, Stynes was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma and continued to work during his treatment for brain metastasis. He died in March 2012 and was honoured by a state funeral held at St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne on 27 March 2012.[1]

Early life

Stynes was born in Dublin, Ireland to a Roman Catholic family,[2] the eldest son of Brian and Teresa Stynes, one of six siblings.[3] He grew up in Rathfarnham.[4][5]

He attended Ballyroan Boys National School.[6] He began playing Gaelic football at the age of eight. From age nine, he played at Ballyboden St Enda's at under 11s level. He attended high school at De La Salle College, Churchtown, where he played rugby union[7] while continuing to play Gaelic football for his club alongside his younger brother, Brian.

His first exposure to Australian rules football was watching the 1980 film The Club on television. Stynes represented Dublin and in 1984 at the age of eighteen, was on Dublin's winning side in the All-Ireland Minor Football Championship.[8]

Stynes aspired to a college education; however, he lacked the means and was earning just $10 a week delivering newspapers.[9]

Later in his life he graduated with a Bachelor of Social Science degree and a Diploma in Youth Work from RMIT University, as well as a Bachelor of Education degree from Deakin University. He was later awarded with the honorary degree of Doctor of the University from the Australian Catholic University.[10]

Switch to Australian rules football

In 1984 Stynes responded to an advertisement in his local paper placed by the Melbourne Football Club that offered two scholarships all expenses paid to play football and attend university in Victoria, Australia. Applicants were required to be under 18, over 183 cm and at county standard.[9]

Tall and slim, Stynes was selected, along with James Fahey and brought to Victoria to undergo a crash course in Australian Rules and signed a two-year contract, hoping to use the money to fund his way through college. Stynes was promised accommodation with an additional $60 a week, clothing and $50 a game. He arrived in Australia on 7 November 1984.[11]

Stynes debuted for the Melbourne under 19s team in 1985 and finished the season runner-up in the best and fairest.[3] Ray Jordon, a coach who was experienced with talented juniors, worked intensively with Stynes and he was sent to Victorian Football Association's Prahran Football Club to compete at senior level.[12]

VFL/AFL career

In 1987 he played in a night premiership side. The Melbourne coaching panel's perseverance with him paid off when Stynes made his senior debut for Melbourne in 1987 at Waverley Park against the Geelong Football Club.[11]

He was dropped after a poor performance; however, he returned to the senior side later in the season against the Brisbane Bears. In the 1987 preliminary final, Melbourne was leading Hawthorn as the final siren sounded, when Stynes made the mistake of running across a mark, which resulted in a free for the opposition. His error resulted in a 15-metre penalty which Gary Buckenara goaled after the final siren for a two-point win.[13] The next year, Melbourne made the Grand Final. Despite being beaten by 96 points, Stynes was voted Melbourne's best player of the match.

Stynes' best year came in 1991, playing a consistent season he became favourite to win the Brownlow Medal and did so with 25 five votes clear of any other player. In doing so he became the first (and so far only) overseas-born player to win the award. Along with the Brownlow he was also awarded the AFL Players Association MVP award and was selected in the All-Australian team and won his first best and fairest at Melbourne. Media commentators noted that Stynes had used his extraordinary endurance to redefine the role of the professional ruckman. While many of his opponents were over 2 metres tall, Stynes played in the style of a tall ruck rover. Instead of focusing on hit outs and play in bursts, he ran the whole game gaining possession across the whole ground.[14] This was a model of play which many other mid-sized ruckmen such as Geelong's John Barnes were able to successfully follow.

An exceptional run of consecutive games which had begun in Round 18 of 1987[12] almost ended with a severe rib injury in 1993 Stynes sustained from a collision with teammate David Neitz in a match against North Melbourne Football Club. He was treated at Epworth Hospital for a compound rib fracture. Despite being ruled out by medical officers for six weeks, he convinced his coach Neil Balme to pass him in the club fitness test and wore a chest guard in order to play the following Friday night.[15]

Stynes finished the season with his consecutive games record unblemished and achieved All-Australian selection for the second time.[12] In 1994, he suffered a medial ligament tear, but continued to play through it, going on to string together three fine seasons between 1995 and 1997 in which he won consecutive club champion awards.[12] In round 9 of 1996, Stynes played his 205th consecutive game, breaking the record held by Jack Titus since 1943.[16]

Stynes broke his hand early in the 1998 season, effectively ending his streak of consecutive games finally at 244. He retired from professional football at the conclusion of the season, having played a total of 264 AFL games all at Melbourne, placing him second on the club's all-time games tally.[12]


 G  Goals  B  Behinds  K  Kicks  H  Handballs  D  Disposals  M  Marks  T  Tackles  H/O  Hit-outs
Led the league after season and finals
Season Team No. Games G B K H D M T H/O G B K H D M T H/O
Totals Averages (per game)
1987 Melbourne 37131510116451614881141.
1988 Melbourne 11262613316107423135211961.00.512.
1989 Melbourne 11241714327112439119262540.70.613.64.718.
1990 Melbourne 1124118306129435125252580.50.312.85.418.
1991 Melbourne 11241510382232614214112560.60.415.99.725.68.90.510.7
1992 Melbourne 112293334180514166133350.
1993 Melbourne 11206826517944412362640.30.413.
1994 Melbourne 1125108241179420126162690.
1995 Melbourne 112293264137401134152420.
1996 Melbourne 1122710267182449144263490.30.512.18.320.
1997 Melbourne 112234279172451126163200.
1998 Melbourne 112026145892345662530.
Career 264 130 97 3242 1743 4985 1516 189 3110 0.5 0.4 12.3 6.6 18.9 5.7 0.7 11.8

Honours and achievements

Brownlow Medal votes
Season Votes
1988 4
1989 10
1990 5
1991 25
1992 8
1993 12
1994 7
1995 15
1996 11
1997 4
1998 4
Total 105
Green / Bold = Won

Youth work and founding of Reach

In 1994, Stynes co-founded (with film director Paul Currie)[18] The Reach Foundation and became a prominent youth worker in Victoria.

In addition to Reach, Stynes worked on government advisory boards including the 1997 Victorian Government Suicide Task Force and the Federal Minister For Youth's Youth Advisory Consultative Forum Committee.


Stynes authored several books. His written works include two autobiographies: My Journey (2012) with Warwick Green and Whatever It Takes (1996) with Jim Main [19] along with children's Self-help books co-written by Dr Jon Carnegie including Heroes (2003)[20] and Finding Heroes (2006).[21][22]

Melbourne Football Club chairman

In 2008 Stynes began expressing an interest in becoming chairman. In June 2008, Melbourne's chairman, Paul Gardner, stepped down as president to make way for Stynes.[23]

His early-stated main goal at this stage was to increase the Melbourne membership number – especially the junior membership base as stated on The Footy Show on 12 June 2008. Shortly following his election he declared his staunch stance against any proposed relocation of the club to the Gold Coast or elsewhere.[24]

In March 2011, Stynes met Prince William, Duke of Cambridge in Kerang, teaching him basic Australian rules football skills.[25]

In December 2011, Stynes handed his #11 guernsey to new recruit Mitch Clark.[26] In February 2012, Stynes stepped down from the presidency of Melbourne, citing a desire to devote his energies towards his family and wellbeing. He was succeeded by his vice-president, Don McLardy.[27]

Honours and awards

The Jim Stynes Medal was named in Stynes' honour and first awarded in 1998 to the best Australian player in the International Rules series. The Jim Stynes Cup (also known as the Jim Stynes trophy) was named in Stynes' honour and awarded to the winner of the inaugural International Australian Football Youth Tournament.[28]

In 2000, Stynes received an Australian Sports Medal,[29] and was named in Melbourne Football Club's Team of the Century. In 2001, he received the Centenary Medal "for establishing and leading a Reach organisation for youth development", and was named Victorian of the Year.[30]

In 2003, Stynes was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame and was once again named Victorian of the Year. In 2006, during the redevelopment of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, a new corporate dining and function room in level 2 of the Olympic Stand was named the "Jim Stynes Room" in honour of Stynes.[31]

In 2007, he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his work with youth and contribution to Australian rules football.[32]

Stynes was named Melbournian of the Year for 2010 for his Reach Foundation work.[33] He was named a Doctor of the University by the Australian Catholic University in recognition of his social work.[10]


On 2 July 2009, Stynes held a media conference to inform the public that he had developed cancer. A lump in his back was shown to be melanoma and tests revealed that his cancer had metastasised, ie spread to other regions in his body.[34] Stynes intended to make clear that he was not stepping down from his role as President of the Melbourne Football Club but instead just taking a break to seek treatment.[35]

On 4 April 2010 it was revealed that his condition had worsened and three days later he had surgery for brain metastasis.[36] He continued to work during his treatment and participated in the filming of a television documentary about his life and his battle with cancer "Every Heart Beats True" produced by friends Jules Lund and Reach co-founder Paul Currie which aired on 19 September 2010 on the Nine Network.[37]


Stynes died at his home in St Kilda on 20 March 2012, aged 45.[38][39][40][41] He was cremated, and his ashes were scattered at a "treasured spot" he chose before he died.[4]

Reactions to death and legacy

Ted Baillieu, the Premier of Victoria described Stynes as "an exceptional Victorian", and later offered a state funeral to Stynes' family, which was accepted.[42]

The memorial was held at St Paul's Cathedral (an Anglican cathedral, although Stynes was Roman Catholic, [43]) in central Melbourne on 27 March 2012, with the service shown on screen at Federation Square.[44]

Former teammate and captain Garry Lyon gave an emotional tribute to Stynes on The Footy Show saying "Jimmy refused to let the game define who he was. It was just a part of him and it allowed us to marvel at his determination, unwavering self-belief, resilience, strength, skill, endurance and courage" and that his good friend "was secure enough to know that displaying vulnerability can be a strength and not a weakness".[45]

A moment of silence was observed at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on the day of Stynes' death, and both the Melbourne Football Club and the Casey Scorpions, its VFL-affiliate plan to commemorate Stynes at their first home games in 2012.[4][46]

At the launch of the 2012 Australian Football League season, both Stynes' replacement as president of the Melbourne Football Club, Don McLardy, and the AFL's chief executive officer, Andrew Demetriou, acknowledged his contribution to football in Australia.[47]

A minute's silence was observed before the season-opening Sydney Derby between the Greater Western Sydney Giants and Sydney Swans.[48]

A commemoration was held prior to Dublin's NFL match against Donegal,[49] both of which were held on the Saturday after Stynes' death.

The Jim Stynes Achievement Scholarships, a $3 million AUD 5-year partnership with the Australian government, Reach Foundation and Australian Football League for children of indigenous or multicultural backgrounds, or from disadvantaged backgrounds was announced following Stynes' death.[50]

Personal life

Stynes' family has a strong history in Gaelic football. His grandfather Joe Stynes was an All-Ireland Gaelic footballer with Dublin (1923). His younger brother Brian won an All-Ireland with Dublin (1995). Jim played against Brian in the International Rules Series against Ireland many times. Brian followed Jim to play professional Australian Rules at Melbourne; however, he returned to Ireland having played just 2 senior games in 1992.[51]

Another younger brother, David, also played both Gaelic football and Australian Rules, albeit at an amateur level, having played in the Ireland national Australian rules football team. He was the first player to win the cup twice, being a member of the winning team in the 2002 International Cup and 2011 International Cup.[52][53] His cousin, Chris Stynes, is a former Major League Baseball utility player.[54]


Jim Stynes and his wife Samantha had a daughter, Matisse, and a son, Tiernan.[55]

See also


  1. "Jim Stynes' Funeral at St Pauls Cathedral". Heraldsun.com.au. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  2. "Speaker Jim Stynes". Icmi.com.au. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  3. Matt Burgan. "The life and times of Jim Stynes". Melbournefc.com.au. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  4. Langmaid, Aaron (2012). Favourite son Jim Stynes's last wish for homecoming, Herald Sun online; published 22 March 2012
  5. Zwartz, Barney (27 March 2012). "An Irish touch to farewell a legend". Theage.com.au. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  6. "Mission Statement « Ballyroan Boys' National School". Ballyroanboysschool.ie. 27 March 2007. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  7. Urban, Rebecca (2 November 2003). "It's rugby for rules players". The Age. Australia.
  8. "Ballyboden St. Enda's GAA website". Bodengaa.ie. Archived from the original on 11 March 2012. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  9. "Jim Stynes : From an Irish Lad to Football Hero". Heraldsun.com.au. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  10. "Jim Stynes awarded University's highest honour". July 2011. Archived from the original on 24 April 2012. Retrieved 28 December 2015.
  11. Murray, John (2008). Melbourne F.C. Since 1858: An Illustrated History. Docklands, Victoria: Geoff Slattery Publishing. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-9804420-0-7.
  12. Brodie, Will (20 March 2012). "The Stynes timeline". Theage.com.au. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  13. Stevens, Mark (22 September 2012). "Saved from embarrassment by Jim Stynes, Simon Eishold the unsung villain of '87 prelim". News.com.au.
  14. Mulvey, Paul (20 March 2012). "Stynes one of the best says Northey". Archived from the original on 22 March 2012. Retrieved 28 December 2015.
  15. Wright, Gerard (15 May 1993). "Bursting through the pain barrier". The Sunday Age.
  16. "The Stynes timeline". Canberratimes.com.au. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  17. "Jim Stynes". AFL Tables. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  18. "The Reach Foundation". Reach.org.au. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  19. Jim Stynes (1996). Whatever It Takes. Celebrity Publishing. ISBN 1-875481-40-0.
  20. Dr Jon Carnegie (2003). Heroes. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 978-1-86508-725-2.
  21. "Jim Stynes, from Aussie rules to author: ABC Western Australia". Australia: ABC. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  22. Dr Jon Carnegie (2006). Finding Heroes. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 978-1-74114-757-5.
  23. "Jim Stynes new chairman of Melbourne Football Club". Herald Sun. News.com.au. 12 June 2008. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  24. Walsh, Courtney (13 June 2008). "Irish tears as Jim Stynes takes Demon chalice". theaustralian.com.au. The Australian. Retrieved 22 March 2012.
  25. "Prince William on Flight to Queensland". Heraldsun.com.au. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  26. "Melbourne Honours Mitch Clark with Jim Stynes' No. 11". Adelaidenow.com.au. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  27. Ryan, Peter (1 February 2012). "Stepping down". afl.com.au. AFL BigPond Network. Archived from the original on 6 March 2012. Retrieved 22 March 2012.
  28. "Jim Stynes Trophy". Archived from the original on 27 February 2011. Retrieved 28 December 2015.
  29. "Stynes, Jimmy: Australian Sports Medal". It's an Honour. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  30. "Stynes, Jim: Centenary Medal". It's an Honour. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  31. "MCG Corporate Hospitality: 2010 AFL Premiership Season" (PDF). E-brochures.com.au. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  32. "Styne, Jimmy, OAM". It's an Honour. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  33. Hastie, David. "Gentleman Jim Stynes wins Melbourne's top gong". Sunday Herald Sun, 29 August 2010
  34. Langmaid, Aaron (2 October 2009). "Demons legend Jim Stynes reveals he has brain tumour but remains positive as he battles cancer". Herald Sun. Retrieved 22 March 2012.
  35. "Melbourne Demons president Jim Stynes reveals he has cancer". Fox Sports. 2 July 2009. Retrieved 22 March 2012.
  36. Stynes, Sam (20 March 2012). "Jim Stynes dies: Full statement from wife Sam". Herald Sun. Retrieved 22 March 2012.
  37. "Jim Stynes and Jules Lunds Bond for Life". Heraldsun.com.au. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  38. "A giant of the game and a true inspiration". The Age. Melbourne, Victoria. 21 March 2012.
  39. "A Gamble Who Became a Champion On and Off the Field Leaves Too Soon". Theaustralian.com.au. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  40. "Stynes to receive state funeral". Irishtimes.com. 20 March 2012. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  41. "Jim was a champ to the end". 21 March 2012. Archived from the original on 28 July 2013.
  42. Henrietta Cook. "Jim Stynes Dead at 45". Theage.com.au. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  43. "The World Today - Jim Stynes farewelled in state funeral 27/03/2012". Abc.net.au. 26 February 2007. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  44. Langmaid, Aaron (2012). Jim Stynes' state funeral to be held at St Paul's Cathedral, Herald Sun; retrieved 22 March 2012.
  45. "Garry Lyon Fights Back Tears in Tribute to Jim Stynes". Heraldsun.com.au. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  46. Lucas, Brendan (2012). VFL club Casey Scorpions pays tribute to Jim Stynes, Herald Sun; retrieved 22 March 2012.
  47. Forsaith, Rob (2012). Stynes honoured at AFL's season launch, Sydney Morning Herald; accessed 22 March 2012.
  48. Sygall, David (25 March 2012). "A great falls, the Giants rise". Theage.com.au.
  49. Counihan, Patrick (21 March 2012). "Croke Park to pay tribute to a GAA legend Jim Stynes in emotional ceremony". IrishCentral. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  50. "Govt announces scholarships to honour Stynes | Irish Echo | Australia's Irish Website". Irish Echo. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  51. "49 Brian Stynes". Archived from the original on 20 August 2012. Retrieved 22 March 2012.
  52. Hanlon, Peter (23 August 2002). "Stynes junior puts durability to the test". Realfooty. Melbourne: The Age. Retrieved 22 March 2012.
  53. "Galleries - AFL Photo Galleries". AFL Photos. 3 August 2005. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  54. Bechtel, Mark (29 April 1998). "Spotlight: Getting His Irish Up: Leftfielder Chris Stynes has become the Reds' red-hot spark plug". CNN/SI. Retrieved 4 March 2014. his grandfather, Joe Stynes, played Irish Rules football Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  55. "Jim Stynes: a proud career". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2 July 2009. Retrieved 22 March 2012.
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