Tuesday April 3, 2012

G'Day From Downunder

Get the champers out, we have things to talk about.

The media is awash here in the Land of Oz with the sad news of the passing of a Football legend and youth worker: Dubliner Jim Stynes, RIP.

Condolences have flooded in from all corners of the nation including one from Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Such was and still is the popularity of Stynes that he is to be honoured with a State funeral.

To be honest with you, in my thirty-seven years here in Australia I can remember but a few who were granted this privilege.

Without checking the records, I will say this is the first time an Irishman has been given such an honor.

The clocks all stopped for Australian Rules football fans, a nation far from his birthplace mourns the loss of this amazing Irishman who came to this country and conquered the hearts of all.

Jim Stynes defied all the odds in every aspect of his life.

Born in Dublin on the 23rd of April 1966, like all Irish young lads he started kicking a football as soon as he could walk.

He played with local football club side St Endas before moving to Melbourne in 1986 at the tender age of eighteen under, what they now call, the Irish experiment.

Tempted by full board and staying with a Catholic family (to keep his mom and dad happy) and paid $60 a week and $50 a game with the under 19 team, also thrown in with the deal was a one off $500 clothes voucher plus a college education.

How could a kid getting 10 pounds a week delivering papers not be excited about a deal like that.

Australia is a long way for a young lad to travel to play a game that he had only seen on TV a few times, but that was the type of character Jim Stynes was that he didn't see the difficulties only the challenges.

Now alone in a foreign country and just about as far away from Ireland and family as he could be, he set out to change so many things about his life and those around him.

In 1968 he made his first impression in Australian Rules Football with AFL side Prahran and in 1987 he played his first Australian Football League game with what would become his one and only club Melbourne, where he would go on to make history playing 244 consecutive games, an Australian record.

He did however end his football career in 1998 after playing a total of 264 games.

In 1991, Jim won a Brownlow Medal; the Brownlow is the highest accolade the game can bestow on a player.

He won four 'Most Valuable Player' awards in 1991, 1995, 1996 and 1997 and appeared in Melbourne's losing Grand Final in 1988.

Jim brought a different style, he was passionate and determined to make his mark on the rough and tumble Aussie game and history will now show that he was an exceptionally gifted player and one of the greatest to have played the game

In 1994, Jim and film director Paul Currie founded the Reach Foundation. Reach has assisted thousands of troubled youths.

This year alone approximately 56,000 troubled kids have passed through their door.

Croke Park honors Jim Stynes (INPHO)

Jim worked tirelessly at Reach bringing his fighting spirit and passion to the foundation to keep funds coming in the door and on numerous occasions, he approached me for support.

I do now wish I could have seen the full commitment of the man and been kinder in generosity to him.

Jim and Samantha Ludbey his girlfriend of three years married on November 4th, 2000.

In 2003, he was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame and in 2006 he was inducted into the Melbourne Football Club's Hall of Fame.

In 2007, he received The Order of Australia Medal for his work with the youth and his contribution to the AFL.

In 2008 he was elected Chairman of his beloved Melbourne Football Club, which was in debt to the tune of five million dollars at the time.

He swore to rid them of the debt and so he did in true Stynes style with lots of determination to prove that when the chips are down it doesn't mean that you have to lose, you just have to step up to the plate.

In between this busy life Sam and he did find time to add the name Stynes to a new generation with daughter Matisse born in 2001 and son Tiernan in 2005.

Now this is where the story of Jim Stynes becomes a heartbreaker.

In June 2009, he was diagnosed with melanoma cancer after finding a lump on his back and wass given nine months to live.

In Jim's mind he says 'is this a problem or a challenge?' and so Jim, being the determined and stubborn Irishman that he is, took on the challenge every bit as determined as a crocodile not letting go of his prey.

So Jim wass now juggling four balls in the air, he had to try and live a normal family life, while he wass fighting to have his beloved Melbourne Football Club free of debt as promised, fighting on all fronts to raise money for the Reach foundation and, last but not least, fighting to save his life.

To anyone else it would be meltdown time but not for the Dublin giant.

Always quick with a smile and an it's just another day attitude Jim did everything with style and grace.

First, he rid the Football Club of its debt then he wooed the Prime Minister of Australia to turf in some money in to help the Reach Foundation to get onto solid ground and guarantee its future.

All this was done in between him having trying to live a normal family life while being admitted to hospital on a number of occasions to have multiple tumours removed from his head.

But to Jim Stynes this was no different to preparing for a big match, just another day at the office.

It was not the challenge of life that wore this great warrior down.

Jim Stynes' coffin is carried out of St Paul's Cathedral after the State Funeral (INPHO)

Finally, it was the cynical cancer that refused to fight the fair fight and cowardly hid itself inside his body and changed this amazing athlete's status from a onetime Irish roughie to almost sainthood here in Australia.

All sports in Australia held a minute's silence this weekend in respect for the tall lanky Irishman, who came across the world to steal their hearts away and replace them with the most wonderful memories of one who was so generous in giving joy and hope.

It's 11am on Tuesday March 27 and it's a beautiful sunny autumn day as the bells ring out for all to come and share in the celebration of an extraordinary Irishman who came across the world just to kick a football and ended up being the most celebrated Irishman to ever come to those shores.

The TV stations relayed the service to those at home and at their work while the TV screens in Federation Square relayed the service to the large crowd who were unable to squeeze into the already packed St Paul's Cathedral.

The who's who of politics, sports and society were all in attendance.

Jim's mom, Teresa and dad, Brian, along with his siblings travelled from Ireland and it must have given them great joy to see how this nation embraced their son.

The eulogies, though emotional and moving were no surprise as Jim's life and achievements are well documented.

The Reach Foundation and his beloved Melbourne Football Club formed a guard of honor as his coffin was led to the hearse that would take him on his last journey to the MCG Stadium where he played so many great games and so, in death, a new legend is born to Australia: Jim Stynes, RIP. Long live his legend .

The Herald Sun said, "Australia is a better place because of an Irish boy's willingness to follow a dream to the other side of the world." I guess that sums it up for all.

Until next time, be good to those who love you and slainte from Downunder.

You can catch me on

Follow irishexaminerus on Twitter




Subscribe to this blog's feed
[What is this?]



Copyright ©2006-2013 The Irish Examiner USA
Terms of Service | Privacy Policy
Website Design By C3I