A statue of Irish AFL great Jim Stynes has been unveiled outside the Melbourne Cricket Ground while his wife Samantha, children Matisse and Tiernan and parents Brian and Tess watched on.
The life-sized bronze sculpture of the 1991 Brownlow medallist was opened to the public in front of some of the AFL’s biggest names, including Ron Barassi, along the Avenue of Legends in Melbourne’s Yarra Park.
The statue depicts Stynes in his No. 11 Demons jumper, with a football in his hands and a trademark look of steely determination on his face.
Samantha Stynes was overwhelmed by the beauty of the tribute to her late husband, who died of cancer in 2012 at the age of 45.
“I can visualise Jim playing when I see that,” she said.
“It takes me back 15 years ago seeing him on the field – the level of detail with the glove and the thigh pad and we’ve still got those boots.”
Ireland’s Ambassador to Australia Noel White has welcomed this latest recognition of Stynes’ legacy.
“It is an excellent tribute by the AFL to one of their finest sons and I’m proud to see it,” he said.
Arriving aged 18 as a promising Gaelic footballer, Stynes joined Melbourne Football Club’s (MFC) international recruitment programme in 1984 having never played the game before.
The Dublin-born ruckman played 264 games for Melbourne, including 244 in succession – a record that Stynes’ close friend and former Demons teammate Garry Lyon said would never be broken.
“Wherever I go and whenever I speak people want to know about Jim,” Lyon said. “He was a man of great dignity that gave so much back.”
Lyon recalled Stynes’ arrival at the club. “It’s appropriate that we’re here because our first training session as an under-19 group was about 250 metres away,” he said.
“It was about 37C and he walked in, spoke a few words, but we had no idea what he said.
“If you’d have told me that this man would be sitting out here 30 years on with his own statue, we would have said you were crazy.
“His story needs to be told for generations, because of where he came from. In that story you talk about his life post-footy, which is just as impressive, effective and as important.
“That’s why I love it.”
Stynes won four MFC best and fairest awards, twice earned All-Australian selection and was credited with redefining the role of the modern-day ruckman. In 2000, he was named in MFC’s Team of the Century and he was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2003.
Melbourne Cricket Club president Paul Sheahan said it was appropriate that Stynes was placed among the sporting legends, such as Shane Warne and Norm Smith, who have a permanent home at the MCG.
“A true gentleman of the game, Stynes is an exceptional individual whose achievements as a non-Australian born player remain unmatched. There is no doubt that he is one of the most extraordinary and inspiring figures in the history of Australian sport,” Sheahan said.