James 'Jim' Stynes OAM was a prominent Irish footballer who was best known for his amazing career as a professional Australian Rules football player and administrator. He was also a philanthropist, charity worker and writer.
Jim Stynes was born in Dublin, the eldest of six siblings, on 23 April 1966 and grew up in Rathfarnham. He began playing Gaelic football at the age of nine for Ballyboden St Endas at Under-11s level. He attended Ballyroan Boys School and at secondary-level De La Salle College Chruchtown. Here he played rugby, while continuing to play Gaelic football. His younger brothers Brian and David also attended the College.
In 1984, at the age of eighteen, Stynes was on Dublin's winning side in the All-Ireland Minor Football Championship. He aspired to a college education but lacked the financial means. In that same year Stynes responded to an advertisement in his local paper placed by the Melbourne Football Club that offered two scholarships - all expenses paid - to play football and attend college in Victoria, Australia. Stynes was selected.
Debuting in the Australian Football League in 1987, he played a league record 244 consecutive games between 1987 and 1998. Playing as a mobile ruckman, Stynes is credited as having changed the way that the position is played and, along with his Brownlow Medal (of which he is the only non-Australian to receive), his Australian Rules achievements included the Leigh Matthews Trophy, two-time All-Australian team selection, a night and day Grand Final and four Club Trophies for Melbourne. After his retirement he was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame.
Following his football career Stynes focused on youth work, using his profile to launch the Reach Foundation, which he co-founded in 1994. Reach believes that every young person should have the support and self-belief they need to work to discover who they are and who they want to be. As a result of his work with young people he was named Victorian of the Year twice, in 2001 and 2003, and with the expanded profile of Reach nationally, awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2007.
The Jim Stynes Medal was named in Stynes' honour and first awarded in 1998 to the best Australian player in the International Rules series. In 2000, Stynes received an Australian Sports Medal, and was named in Melbourne Football Club's Team of the Century. In 2001, he received the Centenary Medal.
Stynes also served as president of the Melbourne Football Club from 2008 to 2012. In 2009, Stynes was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma, but continued to work during his treatment. He participated in the filming of a television documentary about his life and his battle with cancer called 'Every Heart Beats True'. Stynes died at his St Kilda home on 20 March 2012, aged 45.
Jim Stynes and his wife Samantha had a daughter Matisse and son Tiernan.