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Thursday, 22 March 2012
Page: 4111

Mr TONY SMITH (Casey) (12:04): I join in this sad statement of condolence for someone who was well known and well liked not just in Victoria but beyond. Many millions of Victorians felt a connection with Jim Stynes. He died at the age of 45. The member for Mayo began his speech with a memory of the 1987 preliminary final, and I would like to start there too. I remember that day very well—like the member for Mayo, I am a Carlton supporter. Melbourne had been an underperforming team for many years but they surged through the 1987 season and, against great odds, won their way to the preliminary final. I remember that I had come home from work that day and saw the last few minutes on television, which was rare in those days—they did a live cross because the match was so close.

As the member for Mayo outlined, it was a heartbreaking finish for the club and for Jim Stynes personally. Melbourne looked like they had won the match. They had been in front pretty much all day, they had been in front at three-quarter time. Gary Buckenara, from Hawthorn, had taken a mark that was too far from goal and the siren rang. As it was ringing, Jim Stynes—who we had all got to know as the Irish recruit, who had come across and learnt the game at the instigation of Ron Barassi—I think I am correct on that—ran across the mark, which in those days was an automatic 15-metre penalty. That put the Hawthorn sharpshooter Gary Buckenara within distance to kick the goal after the siren. He did kick that goal and Hawthorn went into the grand final. For Melbourne supporters it was heartbreak, and Jim Stynes felt it. I read in the paper this week that he went to Europe to try and get away from it all, but someone walked up to him and said, 'Aren't you the bloke who ran across the mark in the preliminary final?'

That story has been told a lot. But it is a story that needs to be told because Jim Stynes was a determined person but also an affable and optimistic person. He came out from Ireland not knowing the rules of our 'southern code'. Then he had a setback. It took him a while to make the firsts and become a star player. He played in a premiership grand final the following year and, even though Melbourne lost, he was best on ground. He won a Brownlow Medal. He was not just a great footballer but a great person and a great community leader. It is rare to be a superstar AFL footballer but it is rarer still to be one of those players for whom every AFL fan has a soft spot. Throughout his playing career, every AFL fan thought Jim Stynes was a great person. He was a superstar for the Melbourne Football Club, and opposing fans respected that. Of course, he took that affable determination that so many people had underestimated into his full-on dedication in the community, as the member for Higgins outlined. It is too sad that he is now no longer with his family. He is someone who came from Ireland and became a great Australian. His family naturally will be devastated that he has been taken so early, but they will be forever proud for everything he did and for everything he ever was.