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.
Stynes in 2008
|Full name||James Stynes|
|Date of birth||23 April 1966|
|Place of birth||Dublin, Ireland|
|Date of death||20 March 2012 45)(aged|
|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)|
|Representative team honours|
|International team honours|
|1987–88, 1998||Australia||5 (42pts)|
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of 1998.
2 State and international statistics correct as of 1998.
|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.
He attended Ballyroan Boys National School. 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Stynes debuted for the Melbourne under 19s team in 1985 and finished the season runner-up in the best and fairest. 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.
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.
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. 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. 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 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.
Stynes finished the season with his consecutive games record unblemished and achieved All-Australian selection for the second time. 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. In round 9 of 1996, Stynes played his 205th consecutive game, breaking the record held by Jack Titus since 1943.
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.
|Led the league after season and finals|
|Totals||Averages (per game)|
Honours and achievements
|Brownlow Medal votes|
|Green / Bold = Won|
Youth work and founding of Reach
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 along with children's Self-help books co-written by Dr Jon Carnegie including Heroes (2003) and Finding Heroes (2006).
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.
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.
In December 2011, Stynes handed his #11 guernsey to new recruit Mitch Clark. 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.
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.
In 2000, Stynes received an Australian Sports Medal, 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.
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.
In 2007, he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his work with youth and contribution to Australian rules football.
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. 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.
On 4 April 2010 it was revealed that his condition had worsened and three days later he had surgery for brain metastasis. 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.
Stynes died at his home in St Kilda on 20 March 2012, aged 45. He was cremated, and his ashes were scattered at a "treasured spot" he chose before he died.
Reactions to death and legacy
The memorial was held at St Paul's Cathedral (an Anglican cathedral, although Stynes was Roman Catholic, ) in central Melbourne on 27 March 2012, with the service shown on screen at Federation Square.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. His cousin, Chris Stynes, is a former Major League Baseball utility player.
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- Jim Stynes (1996). Whatever It Takes. Celebrity Publishing. ISBN 1-875481-40-0.
- Dr Jon Carnegie (2003). Heroes. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 978-1-86508-725-2.
- "Jim Stynes, from Aussie rules to author: ABC Western Australia". Australia: ABC. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
- Dr Jon Carnegie (2006). Finding Heroes. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 978-1-74114-757-5.
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- "Prince William on Flight to Queensland". Heraldsun.com.au. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
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- "Jim Stynes Trophy". Archived from the original on 27 February 2011. Retrieved 28 December 2015.
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- "Jim Stynes and Jules Lunds Bond for Life". Heraldsun.com.au. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
- "A giant of the game and a true inspiration". The Age. Melbourne, Victoria. 21 March 2012.
- "A Gamble Who Became a Champion On and Off the Field Leaves Too Soon". Theaustralian.com.au. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
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his grandfather, Joe Stynes, played Irish Rules footballCite journal requires
- "Jim Stynes: a proud career". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2 July 2009. Retrieved 22 March 2012.
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