Dean Bailey.

Dean Bailey. Photo: indiesauce.com

ADELAIDE On his deathbed, Dean Bailey delivered a parting message the Adelaide Crows say will guide them not just through football, but life.

Bailey died at 2am on Tuesday after showing what Crows coach Brenton Sanderson was remarkable courage in his battle against lung cancer.

"His courage was just incredible. He just kept fighting and that is something we can all learn from," Sanderson told reporters.

"I feel really at peace now that he's no longer in pain."

The 47-year-old Bailey, whose coaching career spanned five clubs in three states, issued one final message to his latest club, the Crows.

"His direct message is really clear: we have a responsibility to do what he can't," Adelaide's chief executive Steven Trigg told reporters.

"To learn, to develop, and to leave no stone unturned to be as successful as we can be.

"That is our responsibility and one we have already talked to the players about. ... we will respect Dean's wishes to forge ahead."

Bailey, realising his fate, didn't want the Crows to label the looming season as his tribute or memorial year.

"The theme for us, as he would want, is the sense of responsibility to pick up a rope that he can't pick up anymore," Trigg said.

Bailey, a former head coach of Melbourne and assistant coach at Essendon and Port Adelaide, was diagnosed with cancer last November.

Despite chemotherapy, Bailey turned up to training as recently as January, when Adelaide's entire coaching staff shaved their heads in sympathy for a man Sanderson described as "a great mate".

Bailey's wife Caron and sons Darcy and Mitchell were at his side when he died.

"His passing has shocked all in football, coming so soon after he was first diagnosed," AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou said in a statement.

The AFL last year banned Bailey for 16 games for his role in alleged tanking when he was Melbourne's coach.

"I hope he's remembered not for that though," said Sanderson.

"I hope he's remembered for his commitment to the game and what he gave to so many players and coaches."

The Demons' co-captain Jack Grimes said Bailey had protected Melbourne players.

"There were probably times when he had to look out for himself a bit more instead of looking out for everyone else," Grimes told reporters in Melbourne.

The AFL Coaches Association, AFL Players Association and numerous clubs paid tribute to Bailey, perhaps best summed up by Melbourne's football manager Josh Mahoney.

"The guy was just honest ... he was infectious with his love for the game," Mahoney told reporters in Melbourne.

AAP