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Thursday, 22 March 2012
Page: 4110


Ms O'DWYER (Higgins) (11:58): As a Victorian and an ardent 'Shinboner' I understand the role football plays in our community. For us as Victorians it is more than just a game, more than just a sport; it is a way of life. And Jim Stynes was a colossus. Jim Stynes was a trailblazer. In 1984 he made what was at that stage an unheralded move from Ireland to Australia to pursue a career in the AFL after an already very successful career in the Gaelic Football League, winning an all Ireland minor football championship with Dublin. Little did he know at that time the precedent that he was setting. Pioneer is a term too readily repeated these days, but Jim Stynes was a pioneer. When he arrived in Australia no-one could have predicted the impact he would have on the game, the community and society as a whole. Jim Stynes holds the AFL record for the most consecutive games—244. This achievement could not sum up Jim Stynes attitude towards life more succinctly—a fighter to the end, and someone who was absolutely relentless in his commitment. Jim was a four-time best and fairest winner, a two-time All Australian, an AFL Hall of Famer, a Melbourne team of the century member and, of course, the 1991 Brownlow medallist, awarded to the best and fairest player in the league. That was the first time someone born outside of Australia won this prestigious award. Jim's affection for his beloved Melbourne Football Club was unrivalled. A one-team player, his connection to the Demons extended beyond his playing career. In 2008, Jim Stynes was named chairman of the board. He arrived with the club burdened with debt and embarked on the debt demolition campaign, delivering on the $5 million pledge in August of 2010. Jim's commitment to his club was nothing short of superhuman given the graveness of his illness, but he never allowed his personal battles to burden those around him. Even during the depths of his own personal struggles, he was reported to be counselling others with their troubles. This was the Jim that we all knew publicly, a man who was always thinking of others.

Jim's duty to his community extended far beyond football. He was the founder of the Reach Foundation, helping disadvantaged youth. He was twice named Victorian of the Year and was awarded an Order of Australia for his contribution to sport and community. Unfortunately, Jim's battle with skin cancer is an all too familiar one in this country, with Australia recording the highest rate of skin cancer per capita anywhere in the world. It is essential that we all follow the SunSmart message and have regular checks.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Jim's wife, Sam, and his two young children, Matisse and Tiernan, who, most importantly, have lost a husband and a father at too young an age. One cannot express the sorrow and pain they must be feeling but, at the same time, the pride they must also feel to have loved such an inspiring and courageous leader of our community. We mourn the passing of Jim Stynes, a great Victorian and a great leader. He will be sadly missed.