Tributes have been flooding in for former Dublin minor footballer and AFL legend Jim Stynes after he lost his brave battle to cancer at the age of 45.
The Melbourne legend passed away peacefully at 8.20am on Tuesday morning Melbourne time surrounded by family and friends in his adopted city after a brutal two-and-a-half year fight with the disease.
Stynes had tackled the illness, which had spread to many parts of his body, with a zealous determination, giving graphic details of his crusade in a TV documentary as well as regularly updating his Twitter followers about his well-being.
Despite his frail figure, he tossed the coin at the first International Rules Test with his brother Brian between Ireland and Australia at the Etihad Stadium last October.
In November, he revealed he was using a trial drug which he hoped was his “saving grace”.
However, he had also come to the saddening realisation he was going to die.
“Sometimes I sit with Sam and I’ll start crying because I know what I’m going to miss out on and that gets hard,” he said.
In a statement, Stynes’ wife Sam said her husband had been able to join his son Tiernan at his seventh birthday party.
“Jim was pain free, dignified and peaceful. Matisse and Tiernan were present,” she said.
“Not surprisingly, in his last week of life Jim continued to defy the odds and lived his life to the fullest [including] 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.”
Sam also thanked those who had supported Stynes in his valiant attempt to rid himself of the disease.
She added: “Jim, in his passing, has made us see that in our grief that we can smile in our hearts for a beautiful man who will forever hold a special place in the hearts of many. Jim’s lesson is that life was to be challenged and treasured.”
Stynes was an Order of Australia recipient and a Victorian and Melbournian of the year following his sterling charity work with his organisation The Reach Foundation.
The Ballyboden man, who won an All-Ireland minor medal with Dublin in 1984, went on to enjoy a sparkling career with Melbourne, winning a Brownlow medal, the highest individual accolade in Australian Rules, in 1991.
He also holds the record for the consecutive amount of AFL games with 244. Stynes was a passionate supporter of the International Rules, representing both countries in the series as well as being an Australian selector in recent years.
Stynes’ death follows that of Kerry’s Sean Wight who passed away last June from lung cancer. He was also also part of the “Irish experiment” at Melbourne.
Former Dublin star and selector Paul Clarke, Stynes’ captain in ’84, last night said: “When we organised the ’84 reunion a few years ago we Skyped him. He was ill, he was bald but he was still Jim Stynes.
“He entertained 24 of us for a half of hour, speaking to us either individually or in twos and he was great. I’m glad we did it.
“We had heard he wasn’t well in recent months but you just thought, watching that documentary, that he was bulletproof.
“It’s a shock but we’ll remember him for the great he was.”
On Twitter last night, cricketer Shane Warne and cyclist Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor, expressed their sympathies for the Ballyboden man.
Warne tweeted: Very sad news with confirmation that Jim Stynes has passed away.. Condolences to all the Stynes family & friends, he was an inspiring man!”
Lance Armstrong wrote: “RIP Jim Stynes. We’ll miss you mate.”
Laois’ Carlton AFL player Zach Tuohy tweeted: “Jim stynes doesnt just make me proud to be part of this sport and country, makes me, as he should make every irish person, proud to be irish!”
The audacious and remarkable rags-to-riches story of Jim Stynes
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