Champion footballer, selfless philanthropist, respected writer, inspiring youth worker, qualified teacher, passionate chairman, loving husband, caring father and most of all, a role-model to thousands. The Jim Stynes name means many things to many different people.
Some think of the footballer who, with no prior knowledge of the game, travelled from Ireland to Australia as an 18 year old as part of the Melbourne Football Club’s “Irish Experiment”, to eventually win the game’s highest individual honour and set a record for endurance that will never be broken. Many will be reminded of the man who, alongside friend and then fellow school teacher Paul Currie, started the Reach Foundation in 1994 with a vision to try and inspire young people to believe in themselves and get the most out of life. A vision that now touches the lives of more than 30,000 young Australians every year. Or you may be reminded of the man who so very publically fought his illness, with a resilience, strength and dignity that inspired so many others in a similar situation.
Whichever Jim Stynes you think of, whichever words you use to describe Jim Stynes, it’s certain to be of a positive nature.In his lifetime and beyond. Jim Stynes the man and Jim Stynes the name remains and represents as an Irish-Australian icon of sport and charity work.
“I love life. There’s always something to overcome,
new people to meet… You’ve just got to find
your bliss and go after it. That’s where the drive is,
that’s how you find your special place.”
Awards and Recognition
April 23, 1966
James Peter Stynes born Dublin, Ireland.
Moved to Australia, aged 18, as part of Ron Barassi’s program to recruit Irish football players to Melbourne.
Transferred to VFA club Prahran to learn more about the AFL game.
July 25, 1987
Melbourne v Geelong (Waverly Park). First senior AFL game for Melbourne Football Club.
September 19, 1987
Melbourne v Hawthorn (Waverly Park) Preliminary Final. Ran across the mark in the Preliminary Final.
Completed Bachelor of Education.
September 24, 1988
Hawthorn v Melbourne (MCG) Grand Final. First Grand Final (lost by 96 points). Named Melbourne’s best player for the match.
Appointed Melbourne Vice Captain. Melbourne Best and Fairest winner. Brownlow Medal winner (25 votes) – the first (and so far only) player recruited from outside Australia to win. Selected in the All-Australian team.
Selected in the All-Australian team.
Co-founded the Reach Foundation with film director Paul Currie.
Save the Children Foundation’s White Flame Award winner. Melbourne Best and Fairest winner.
Melbourne Best and Fairest winner.
Appointed Member of the Victorian Premier’s Youth Suicide Task Force. Melbourne Best and Fairest winner.
Retired from AFL after 264 games – played 244 consecutive games from Round 17 1987 to Round 4 1998 (AFL record). Appointed Anti-Racism Officer for AFL. Jim Stynes Medal announced and named in Jim’s honour – awarded to the best Australian player in the International Rules series.
Appointed Australian International Rules team assistant coach. Appointed AFL Racial Vilification Officer.
Appointed Melbourne Football Club Assistant Coach. Selected in the Melbourne Team of the Century. Australian Sports Medal winner – awarded by the Governor-General to people who have contributed to the nation’s sporting success.
November 4, 2000
Married Samantha Ludbey, his girlfriend of three years, in St Kilda.
Awarded Victorian of the Year. Awarded Federal Government’s Centenary Medal for founding Reach and supporting youth development – established in 2001 to commemorate the Centenary of the Federation of Australia and honour people who have made a contribution to Australian society or government.
September 2, 2001
Daughter, Matisse Stynes, born at Cabrini Hospital.
Inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame. Awarded Victorian of the Year. Australian of the Year Finalist.
Member of the Federal Minister for Youth’s Youth Advisory Consultative Forum Committee.
March 13, 2005
Son, Tiernan Stynes, born at Cabrini Hospital.
Appointed member of the Federal Minister for Education’s National Youth Careers and Transitions Advisory Group.
Inducted into the Melbourne Football Club Hall of Fame. An MCG function area, the Jim Stynes Room, is named in Jim’s honour – located in the Olympic Stand on Level 2 and renamed the Jim Stynes Grill in 2014.
Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) recipient – awarded in recognition for service to youth through the establishment of Reach, as well as his standing within Australian Rules football as a player, coach and selector.
Appointed Melbourne Football Club president.
Diagnosed with cancer and given a nine month life expectancy.
January 1, 2010
His wish for the year is to see Christmas.
April 4, 2010
Jim’s condition worsens. He has surgery three days later to remove five brain tumours.
August 28, 2010
Named Melbournian of the Year by Lord Mayor Robert Doyle. Cr Doyle noted that “while Mr Stynes’ name is synonymous with his successful AFL career both on and off the field, it’s his philanthropic endeavours that have earned him this prestigious award. Mr Stynes has devoted much of his life to helping adolescents.”
January 26, 2011
Notes that his arduous treatment is “a marathon” yet a “blessed journey”.
August 3, 2011
Admitted to hospital where doctors decide not to remove a life-threatening tumour.
Awarded Doctor of the University by The Australian Catholic University. The ACU’s highest honour was awarded in recognition of Jim’s service to the community, particularly in the areas of youth depression, homelessness and suicide.
December 25, 2011
Travels to Colombia, Panama and Mexico for a cherished family holiday.
Further brain surgery to help extend life expectancy.
February 2, 2012
Retires as president of the Melbourne Football Club. Undergoes minor surgery.
March 20, 2012
Passes away pain free, dignified and peacefully surrounded by his family.
Federal government commits $3 million to establish the Jim Stynes Scholarship for disadvantaged youth, with the AFL committing an additional $150,000 per annum. “Through these scholarships, Jim will continue to inspire some of our most disadvantaged children to gain confidence and find their place in the world.” – Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
AFL introduces the Jim Stynes Community Leadership Award. Presented annually on Brownlow Medal night to a current day player demonstrating the same values as personified by Jim.
The Jim Stynes Bridge is opened along the Yarra River by Lord Mayor Robert Doyle. Two bronze plaques adorning each end outlining Jim’s achievements.
A statue of Jim is unveiled on the MCG’s Avenue of Legends in the Yarra Park. Jim’s statue sits alongside other icons of Australian sport including Shane Warne, Neil Harvey, Norm Smith and John Coleman.