Irish-born Australian rules football star Jim Stynes, who lost his battle with cancer, will receive a state funeral in his adopted home country.
The 45-year-old died at his home in Melbourne last night surrounded by his family and friends, including wife Sam and children Matisse and Tiernan.
A former Dublin minor footballer, Stynes played 264 games with Melbourne and remains the only player recruited outside Australia to win the Brownlow Medal, awarded for the “fairest and best” player in the Australian Football League.
Warm tributes were paid to the sportsman in the Australian parliament in Canberra by prime minister Julia Gillard and leader of the opposition Tony Abbott.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter, who was a guest at the parliament with Ireland’s ambassador to Australia, Noel White, said he was deeply saddened to learn of the death.
“Through his immense sporting achievements in the AFL and as a Brownlow Medallist, and subsequently through his work with young people with the Reach organisation, Jim touched the lives of many people,” said Mr Shatter.
“The decision of the Australian authorities to honour Jim with a state funeral is an indication of the high esteem in which he was rightly held and a fitting tribute to a man who devoted his life to the wellbeing of others.
“His death is a great loss which will be deeply felt by his many friends and admirers in Ireland and in Australia, but most of all by his wife and family to whom I express my deepest condolences.”
Mr Shatter is in Australia as part of the St Patrick’s Day programme of events.
GAA President Christy Cooney said Stynes was a hugely respected and admired figure.
He won an All-Ireland minor football medal with Dublin in 1984 and was on the first Ballyboden St Endas Juvenile team to win a championship – U16 football 1981 – before embarking on a long and hugely successful career in Australia.
He also had strong links with the International Rules games, assisting both Ireland and Australia in different series.
“You only have to take note of the massive outpouring that has accompanied his passing to fully understand the regard he was held in – on both sides of the world,” said Mr Cooney.
“He fought his illness the way he played his football – with honesty, integrity and consistency – and, on its own, his successful transition from our game to AFL footie was a statement about the man.
“Needless to say, his influence spread far beyond the playing arena and his work in the areas of both charity and of course AFL administration, especially with the Melbourne Demons, are to be lauded.
“I offer the deepest sympathies of wider GAA community to his family circle and of course his many friends, and hope his memory and the very public way in which he battled with his illness serves as an inspiration to others.”