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Thursday, 22 March 2012
Page: 2661


Senator RONALDSON (Victoria) (18:06): I hope that my colleagues will give me some latitude in relation to the matter I am about to speak about. I express my personal deep regret and the deep regret of all colleagues following the death on 20 March 2011 of James Peter Stynes OAM, immediate past President of the Melbourne Football Club. I would like to place on record our appreciation for his long service to Australian sport and tender our profound sympathy to his family and his friends in the Melbourne Football Club in their bereavement.

The loss of James 'Jim' Stynes is a tragedy not simply for football but for the wider community. Born in Dublin on 23 April 1966, the son of Brian and Teresa, Jim began his playing career in Gaelic football, playing alongside his brother Brian in local club Ballyboden St Enda's—on whose website his name remains as 'a famous player'. His skills saw Jim included in what became Dublin's winning side in the 1984 All-Ireland Minor Football Championship. But it was a newspaper advertisement for the Melbourne Football Club offering sports scholarships to talented Gaelic footballers that saw the then 18-year-old Stynes depart for the Antipodes. Despite being relatively unacquainted with AFL save for a short television film, Stynes became perhaps the Demon's greatest success story, vindicating Coach Ron Barassi's 'Irish experiment' that Gaelic footballers could easily adapt to the local game.

Having played for the Demons under-19s squad and at the Victorian Football Association's Prahran Football Club, Stynes made his debut in round 3 of 1987, when the Demons played Geelong at Kardinia Park. His star was cemented from round 19 when he began what became the league record consecutive game streak of 244 games—a remarkable record. That lasted until round 4 of 1998. In total, Jim Stynes played 264 games.

Jimmy Stynes' talent and achievements were recognised many times throughout his sporting career, including with his receipt of the Brownlow Medal in 1999; the Leigh Matthews Trophy for the AFL Players Association Most Valuable Player in 1991; four club best and fairest awards in 1991, 1995, 1996 and 1997; inclusion as an All-Australian in 1991 and 1993; inclusion in the Melbourne Team of the Century in 2000; and his induction into the AFL Hall of Fame in 2003.

Throughout his life, as in sport, Jim Stynes was never a man to be boxed in. In 1994, together with Paul Currie he founded the Reach Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation which has run support programs for more than 500,000 young Australians as well as for teachers and youth professionals. It was in his role with Reach that I had the pleasure to meet him on several occasions in my hometown of Ballarat. He also served on several government advisory boards, including a 1987 Victorian government suicide task force. Jim was subsequently named Victorian of the Year in 2001 and 2003, Melbournian of the year in 2010 and was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2007 for his services to youth.

After becoming President of the Melbourne Football Club in 2008, Jim was diagnosed with cancer and began immediate treatment. While many would have been rocked to the core by such a revelation, Jim Stynes stayed the course. He continued to lead the Demons—he did not give up—and he remained club president until February this year. I speak tonight as a Melbourne supporter and member and I pay great tribute to Jim Stynes. I would like to pass on my personal condolences to his family. In the brief time that is left to me, I would like to read part of a statement issued by Sam Stynes, Jim's wife, on 20 March:

Jim Stynes died on Tuesday the 20th of March at 8.20 am. Jim was pain-free, dignified and peaceful. Matisse and Tiernan were present.

Not surprisingly, in his last week of life Jim continued to defy the odds and lived his life to the fullest attending the Melbourne vs Hawthorn football match, his son Tiernan's 7th Birthday celebration, the MFC Blazer Ceremony and a casual Friday night dinner at Toplinos in his much loved suburb St Kilda.

In his final days Jim was immersed with insurmountable love and tenderness surrounded by his family and some close friends in the comfort of his own home.

On behalf of Jim my heartfelt thanks to all those who have so generously cared for, guided and supported Jim throughout his challenging cancer battle.

I am sure I speak for all honourable senators when I celebrate the remarkable life of Jim Stynes. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.