THE late Jim Stynes – arguably the game’s greatest story – has been chosen as the next athlete to be immortalised with a bronze statue outside the Melbourne Cricket Ground, as the latest addition to the Australia Post Avenue of Legends.
MCC president Paul Sheahan said it was fitting Stynes was named as the next member of the Avenue of Legends series – 30 years after he arrived from Dublin.
“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 he is one of the most extraordinary and inspiring figures in the history of Australian sport,” he said.
Australia Post managing director and CEO Ahmed Fahour said: “We’re delighted that Jim Stynes has been chosen to feature on the Australia Post Avenue of Legends. He was not only a great AFL champion; he was also an inspiration to many underprivileged and troubled youths during his career and later through the Reach Foundation.”
Stynes joins VFL/AFL coach of the century and six-time Melbourne premiership coach Norm Smith, plus Essendon goalkicking great John Coleman as other Australian Football greats in the Avenue of Legends. Cricket legends Shane Warne and Neil Harvey also feature.
Melbourne is also represented by the great Ron Barassi in the Tattersall’s Parade of Champions around the MCG. Those sculptures, made from 2003-06, also feature Australian Football greats Leigh Matthews, Dick Reynolds and Haydn Bunton. Other sporting legends include Sir Donald Bradman, Keith Miller, Bill Ponsford and Dennis Lillie (cricket) and Shirley Strickland and Betty Cuthbert (athletics).
Lis Johnson will be the sculptor for Jim Stynes. Johnson has been a full-time professional sculptor since 1992. She sculpted the statues of Smith, Coleman and Harvey.
A date for Stynes’ statue will be announced at a later date in 2014.
Stynes, who tragically passed away in 2012 after fighting cancer, made an indelible mark on Australian football.
Arriving from Ireland aged 18 as a promising Gaelic footballer, the tall and skinny Stynes joined Melbourne in 1984 via the club’s ambitious international recruitment program (now known as the ‘Irish experiment’) having never played the game before.
In a stellar 264-game career, which included 244 consecutive games from 1987-98, an amazing record that still stands today, Stynes became the first – and still only – non-Australian-born VFL/AFL player to claim the prestigious Brownlow Medal in 1991.
Stynes also won four Keith ‘Bluey’ Truscott Memorial Trophies in 1991 and 1995-96-97 – a joint Melbourne record with Allan La Fontaine – and was named All-Australian twice.
He was also credited with redefining the role of the modern-day ruckman.
In 2000, Stynes was named in Melbourne’s Team of the Century and in 2003 he was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame.
Away from the game, Stynes was even more inspirational.
In 1994, Stynes launched the Reach Foundation, which sought to teach life skills and help kids to realise new opportunities. Stynes was named Victorian of the Year in 2001 and 2003, and awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2007.
In 2008, Stynes became president of Melbourne and was a driving force behind the reestablishment of the close relationship between the MFC and MCC. In 2009, Melbourne returned as an MCC sporting section after almost 30 years.
Stynes was also instrumental as the man behind Melbourne’s ‘Debt Demolition’ campaign, when he returned as president. The Foundation Heroes program, which is now an integral part of Melbourne, was due to Stynes’ vision.
He remained president of the Demons shortly before his tragic passing in March 2012.
Stynes’ legacy will forever remain with Melbourne, Australian Football and the Australian sporting and wider community.