JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

'Stynes helped change the face of ruckwork in the modern game'

Stynes battles it out with Carlton's Steve Kernahan at Princes Park.

Stynes battles it out with Carlton's Steve Kernahan at Princes Park.

ONE of the most memorable stories about Jim Stynes stems from his very first experience of Australian football.

It was October 1984. The Melbourne Football Club had sent former Richmond premiership player, coach and president Barry Richardson, then a board member with the Demons, to Ireland to flush out potential recruits from the unlikeliest source.

Though Melbourne had already persuaded Sean Wight to switch codes, packing up and moving half a world away, the Demons' experiment was still being widely ridiculed.

And the sceptics would hardly have been persuaded otherwise had they clapped eyes on Stynes, an anaemic-looking, 18-year-old Gaelic footballer among a group of 16 kids at a clinic in Dublin.

"There was this tall, skinny kid in the long, baggy shorts the Irish wear," Richardson recalled years later. "He was white, iridescent white, and his arms hung like two pieces of cotton from his shoulders."

Stynes had seen Melbourne's advertisement offering a sporting scholarship in Australia in the local paper. All he knew of the game was what he'd seen in the film adaptation of the David Williamson play, The Club. "I saw blokes jumping all over the place," he would recall later. ''I thought it was weird, but it was exciting."

Stynes won all the endurance tests at the camp. But Richardson saw something beyond the numbers, namely a natural curiosity and a determination to master a completely foreign game. "At the lunch break one day during the camp, he left quietly 10 minutes before the others and I remember watching him trying to teach himself how to bounce the ball. There was just something about him.''

There certainly was. Indeed, Richardson's gut feel would prove probably the most judicious recruiting call in football history.

Former teammate and best mate to the end, Garry Lyon, has often called Stynes' transition to and mastery of a foreign game the greatest story AFL football has seen. It's hard to disagree.

In the near three decades since Wight and Stynes, now tragically both gone far too soon, broke the ice for recruiting from foreign shores, many more AFL players have emerged from other parts of the globe.

Another Irishman, Tadhg Kennelly, played an important part in a Sydney premiership in 2005. Irish recruits are scattered around several AFL clubs. Brazilian-born Harry O'Brien has played in a Collingwood premiership. North Melbourne youngster Majak Daw could be the catalyst for the burgeoning Sudanese community in Australia to embrace our indigenous game.

But if any can scale the football heights Stynes did, they will be doing very well. The pinnacle, of course, was Stynes winning the 1991 Brownlow Medal, five votes ahead of the runner-up.

Then there was his incredible durability, reflected in a record unlikely ever to be beaten, that of 244 consecutive games spanning an amazing 12 seasons, from 1987-98, long the stuff of legend.

In 1993, he damaged rib cartilage in a collision with teammate David Neitz and was given no hope of playing the following week. A searching fitness test saw him little short of being belted up by Demon tough men Rod Grinter and Martin Pike, ending in punches being thrown. But Stynes survived. And played.

In 1994, Stynes suffered a knee injury serious enough to have kept almost all his contemporaries on the sidelines for weeks, if not months. Again, he played.

But it wasn't just about the numbers with the loveable Irishman. Stynes helped change the face of ruckwork in the modern game, from an art dominated by tall but largely immobile giants who couldn't be counted on for more than the odd kick and handball, to one which necessitated a far more mobile and athletic beast, a role he filled to perfection.

But perhaps it was Stynes' biggest onfield setback which says as much as anything about one of the great AFL careers. In the 1987 preliminary final, just his 13th game of senior football, he committed a cardinal football sin, which may well have cost his side its chance at a first grand final appearance in 23 years.

With the Demons leading by four points, Hawthorn's Gary Buckenara marked right on the 50-metre line. Lining up to kick from about 55 as the siren rang, he then received the ultimate gift as a naive Stynes ran across the mark, costing a 15-metre penalty. Buckenara converted the shot, and an entire club was devastated.

One of the game's most iconic photographs is of Stynes entering the Melbourne rooms, with Demon coach John Northey pointing furiously at the 21-year-old, screaming: ''Don't you ever do that again, Jim.''

It could have broken any player, let alone one whose first steps in the indigenous game were rightly more tentative than most. But it didn't break Stynes. Indeed, one could argue, not only in a football sense, it was instead the making of him.

1 comment so far

  • Jim Stynes was a giant human being in every sense of the word and the rest of us should be proud and honoured to have walked the earth at the same time as he.

    Commenter
    Monaghan
    Location
    Perth
    Date and time
    March 21, 2012, 1:22PM

    Make a comment

    You are logged in as [Logout]

    All information entered below may be published.

    Error: Please enter your screen name.

    Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

    Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

    Error: Please enter your comment.

    Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

    Post to

    You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

    Thank you

    Your comment has been submitted for approval.

    Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

    Related Coverage

    AFL 2015

    Round 1
    Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
    CAR 78vs RIC 105 Report Stats
    Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
    MEL 115vs GCF 89 Stats
    SYD 72vs ESS 60 Stats
    BRI 74vs COL 86 Stats
    WBU 97vs WCE 87 Stats
    Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
    STK 78vs GWS 87 Stats
    ADE 140vs NTH 63 Stats
    FRE 75vs PTA 68 Stats
    Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
    HAW 123vs GEE 61 Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 2
    Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
    WCE 131vs CAR 62 Stats
    Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
    RIC 66vs WBU 85 Report Stats
    GWS 101vs MEL 56 Stats
    COL 63vs ADE 90 Report Stats
    GCF 76vs STK 104 Stats
    PTA 44vs SYD 92 Stats
    Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
    GEE 60vs FRE 104 Stats
    ESS 78vs HAW 76 Stats
    NTH 133vs BRI 51 Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 3
    Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
    COL 140vs STK 66 Stats
    Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
    CAR 84vs ESS 105 Stats
    ADE 80vs MEL 55 Stats
    SYD 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
    NTH 105vs PTA 113 Stats
    BRI 58vs RIC 137 Stats
    Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
    HAW 127vs WBU 57 Stats
    GEE 105vs GCF 96 Stats
    WCE 81vs FRE 111 Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 4
    Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
    RIC 51vs MEL 83 Stats
    Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
    STK 81vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
    ESS 49vs COL 69 Report Stats
    GWS 119vs GCF 53 Stats
    PTA 99vs HAW 91 Stats
    FRE 74vs SYD 60 Stats
    Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
    BRI 65vs WCE 118 Stats
    GEE 67vs NTH 83 Stats
    WBU 125vs ADE 68 Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 5
    Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
    CAR 45vs COL 120 Stats
    Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
    RIC 76vs GEE 85 Stats
    SYD 73vs WBU 77 Stats
    GCF 118vs BRI 54 Stats
    NTH 70vs HAW 130 Stats
    WCE 120vs GWS 33 Stats
    Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
    MEL 50vs FRE 118 Stats
    STK 80vs ESS 82 Stats
    ADE 91vs PTA 115 Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 6
    Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
    COL 59vs GEE 100 Stats
    Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
    NTH 109vs RIC 74 Stats
    WBU 87vs STK 94 Stats
    GWS 108vs HAW 98 Stats
    GCF 78vs ADE 119 Stats
    MEL 50vs SYD 88 Stats
    FRE 80vs ESS 52 Stats
    Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
    CAR 75vs BRI 84 Report Stats
    PTA 68vs WCE 78 Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 7
    Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
    ESS 82vs NTH 93 Stats
    Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
    ADE 119vs STK 73 Stats
    HAW 155vs MEL 50 Stats
    CAR 57vs GWS 135 Stats
    SYD 120vs GEE 77 Stats
    WCE 135vs GCF 43 Stats
    Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
    WBU 88vs FRE 101 Stats
    RIC 105vs COL 100 Report Stats
    BRI 102vs PTA 65 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 8
    Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
    GEE 140vs CAR 63 Report Stats
    Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
    STK 78vs WCE 131 Report Stats
    GWS 108vs ADE 84 Report Stats
    GCF 63vs COL 132 Report Stats
    HAW 69vs SYD 73 Report Stats
    FRE 115vs NTH 42 Report Stats
    Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
    ESS 136vs BRI 78 Report Stats
    MEL 103vs WBU 64 Report Stats
    PTA 43vs RIC 76 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 9
    Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
    SYD 122vs CAR 62 Report Stats
    Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
    HAW 93vs GCF 40 Report Stats
    MEL 54vs PTA 115 Report Stats
    WBU 113vs GWS 68 Report Stats
    RIC 72vs ESS 59 Report Stats
    ADE 57vs FRE 68 Report Stats
    Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
    BRI 86vs STK 108 Report Stats
    COL 112vs NTH 95 Report Stats
    WCE 120vs GEE 64 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 10
    Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
    FRE 70vs RIC 97 Report Stats
    Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
    CAR 90vs ADE 99 Report Stats
    GCF 41vs SYD 93 Report Stats
    ESS 53vs GEE 122 Report Stats
    PTA 100vs WBU 62 Report Stats
    Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
    GWS 97vs BRI 67 Report Stats
    NTH 85vs WCE 75 Report Stats
    STK 69vs HAW 132 Report Stats
    Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
    MEL 85vs COL 110 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 11
    Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
    PTA 69vs GEE 92 Report Stats
    Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
    GCF 46vs FRE 53 Report Stats
    WCE 96vs ESS 46 Report Stats
    NTH 75vs SYD 91 Report Report Stats
    Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
    COL 119vs GWS 77 Report Stats
    STK 85vs MEL 83 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 12
    Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
    ADE 85vs HAW 114 Report Stats
    Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
    RIC 70vs WCE 90 Report Stats
    Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
    CAR 110vs PTA 106 Report Stats
    GWS 61vs NTH 117 Report Stats
    WBU 146vs BRI 74 Report Stats
    Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
    GEE 89vs MEL 113 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 13
    Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
    FRE 80vs COL 73 Report Stats
    Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
    SYD 77vs RIC 95 Report Stats
    Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
    HAW 114vs ESS 76 Report Stats
    BRI 69vs ADE 82 Report Stats
    STK 56vs WBU 62 Report Stats
    Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
    CAR 103vs GCF 69 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 14
    Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
    SYD 94vs PTA 84 Report Stats
    Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
    COL 91vs HAW 101 Report Stats
    Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
    RIC 78vs GWS 69 Report Stats
    GCF 125vs NTH 70 Report Stats
    WBU 64vs CAR 53 Report Stats
    MEL 60vs WCE 114 Report Stats
    Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
    ESS 52vs STK 162 Stats
    ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
    FRE 84vs BRI 48 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 15
    Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
    PTA 66vs COL 63 Report Stats
    Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
    RIC 71vs CAR 41 Report Stats
    Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
    ESS 69vs MEL 60 Report Stats
    WBU 95vs GCF 73 Report Stats
    NTH 120vs GEE 79 Report Stats
    WCE 147vs ADE 91 Report Stats
    Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
    GWS 84vs STK 49 Report Stats
    HAW 115vs FRE 43 Report Stats
    BRI 49vs SYD 70 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 16
    Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
    NTH 93vs ESS 68 Report Stats
    Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
    GEE 72vs WBU 64 Report Stats
    GCF 79vs GWS 94 Report Stats
    COL 56vs WCE 87 Report Stats
    SYD 57vs HAW 146 Report Stats
    FRE 95vs CAR 53 Report Stats
    Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
    MEL 60vs BRI 36 Report Stats
    PTA 113vs ADE 116 Report Stats
    STK 73vs RIC 89 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 17
    Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
    CAR 35vs HAW 173 Report Stats
    Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
    GWS 42vs GEE 69 Stats
    ADE 125vs GCF 80 Stats
    RIC 78vs FRE 82 Stats
    ESS 116vs PTA 129 Stats
    BRI 38vs NTH 110 Report Stats
    Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
    WBU 104vs COL 86 Report Stats
    MEL 46vs STK 83 Report Stats
    WCE 103vs SYD 51 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 18
    Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
    HAW 53vs RIC 71 Report Stats
    Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
    GEE 113vs BRI 57 Stats
    COL 54vs MEL 91 Report Stats
    SYD 117vs ADE 65 Report Stats
    CAR 54vs NTH 118 Report Stats
    GCF 83vs WCE 83 Report Stats
    Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
    PTA 112vs STK 49 Report Stats
    ESS 40vs WBU 127 Report Stats
    FRE 84vs GWS 63 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 19
    Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
    ADE 88vs RIC 52 Report Stats
    Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
    COL 105vs CAR 87 Report Stats
    WBU 128vs PTA 64 Report Stats
    BRI 100vs GCF 114 Report Stats
    GEE 95vs SYD 63 Report Stats
    WCE 74vs HAW 88 Report Stats
    Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
    MEL 92vs NTH 127 Report Stats
    GWS 93vs ESS 61 Report Stats
    STK 59vs FRE 96 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 20
    Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
    SYD 87vs COL 76 Report Stats
    Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
    ESS 59vs ADE 171 Report Stats
    NTH 120vs STK 83 Report Stats
    PTA 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
    GEE 85vs HAW 121 Report Stats
    BRI 131vs CAR 67 Report Stats
    Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
    RIC 138vs GCF 55 Report Stats
    WBU 153vs MEL 55 Report Stats
    FRE 80vs WCE 104 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 21
    Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
    HAW 86vs PTA 108 Report Stats
    Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
    COL 56vs RIC 147 Report Stats
    GWS 44vs SYD 133 Report Stats
    GCF 97vs ESS 95 Report Stats
    STK 97vs GEE 97 Report Stats
    ADE 131vs BRI 44 Report Stats
    Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
    NTH 94vs FRE 83 Report Stats
    CAR 78vs MEL 55 Report Stats
    WCE 162vs WBU 85 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 22
    Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
    GEE 62vs COL 110 Report Stats
    Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
    GWS 132vs CAR 51 Report Stats
    HAW 134vs BRI 62 Report Stats
    NTH 73vs WBU 96 Report Stats
    ESS 47vs RIC 74 Report Stats
    GCF 51vs PTA 88 Report Stats
    Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
    ADE 126vs WCE 69 Report Stats
    STK 38vs SYD 135 Report Stats
    FRE 108vs MEL 54 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 23
    Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
    RIC ($1.29)vs NTH ($3.60) 19:50ES
    Sat, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
    GEE ($2.50)vs ADE ($1.53) 13:05SS
    BRI ($4.50)vs WBU ($1.20) 13:45G
    PTA vs FRE 15:50Adelaide Oval
    HAW ($1.01)vs CAR ($17.00) 16:40MCG
    SYD ($1.04)vs GCF ($11.00) 19:20SCG
    WCE ($1.04)vs STK ($11.00) 19:40Domain Stadium
    Sun, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
    MEL ($3.20)vs GWS ($1.36) 13:10ES
    COL ($1.28)vs ESS ($3.70) 15:20MCG
    View All Fixtures
    AFL 2015
    Overall standings
    Team P W L D % Pts
    Fremantle 21 17 4 0 125.10 68
    West Coast Eagles 21 15 5 1 143.00 62
    Hawthorn 21 15 6 0 156.77 60
    Sydney Swans 21 15 6 0 124.11 60
    Richmond 21 14 7 0 121.39 56
    Western Bulldogs 21 14 7 0 116.76 56
    Adelaide Crows 20 13 7 0 119.10 54
    North Melbourne 21 13 8 0 109.08 52
    View all
     

    Follow Us on Facebook

    HuffPost Australia

    Featured advertisers