Former Melbourne AFL star and club chairman Jim Stynes, whose legacy extended far beyond football, has died from cancer. He was 45.
Stynes passed away with his wife Sam and children Matisse and Tiernan by his side at 8.20am (AEDT) on Tuesday after a two-and-a-half year battle with cancer.
Born in Dublin, Stynes was one of the most remarkable stories in the history of Australia's home-grown football code.
He was recruited in the mid-1980s by Melbourne as part of the "Irish Experiment'' and went on to become the program's most outstanding success.
Graduating from one of the club's most enduring and resilient players to its chairman, Stynes became the first international player to win the Brownlow Medal in 1991.
He holds the AFL record for the greatest number of consecutive games - 244 - and played a total of 264 for the Demons after making his senior debut in 1987.
Stynes also won a club-equalling four best and fairest awards.
He was awarded an Order of Australia in 2007 and was Victorian of the Year in 2003.
He had a remarkable effect on the community, especially through his leadership of the Reach Foundation, which was instrumental in helping put young at risk people back on track.
When Stynes replaced Paul Gardner as Melbourne chairman in mid-2008 the club was in dire financial straits.
By the time he handed the reins to close friend Don McLardy earlier this year, the oldest AFL club of all was once again on a stable footing.
Stynes fought a very public battle against cancer, undergoing some 20 operations, including many to have tumours removed from his brain.
All the while he kept fans and supporters updated on his condition and remained positive with messages via Twitter.
Stynes' approach to his terminal disease was uplifting and philosophical.
"I have had an experience that in some ways I am very blessed,'' he said at one point.
"I have had an insight that not many people get.
"When you are faced with that prospect it does make you sit back and stop and go, 'okay, what is really important now?'
"You realise your family - my kids and my wife Sam - they are everything to me. It's not just enough to say it - you've got to live it.''
McLardy paid tribute to Stynes' courage in a statement.
"If there is a positive to be found from the last three years, it is that we have already had an opportunity to tell Jim in person what an impact he has made on our football club, and indeed our country,'' McLardy said.
"There are few places in Australia that have not heard of or been touched by the legend of Jim Stynes - the affable Irishman who left his homeland to chase a dream, and succeeded beyond anyone's expectations.''
Sam Stynes wrote on her Facebook page that her husband was "pain-free, dignified and peaceful'' when he died on Tuesday morning with his family by his side.
"Not surprisingly, in his last week of life Jim continued to defy the odds and lived his life to the fullest attending the Melbourne vs. Hawthorn football match, his son Tiernan's 7th Birthday celebration, The MFC Blazer Ceremony and a casual Friday night dinner at Topolinos in his much loved suburb St Kilda,'' said Sam Stynes.
"In his final days Jim was immersed with insurmountable love and tenderness surrounded by his family and some close friends in the comfort of his own home.
"On behalf of Jim my heartfelt thanks to all those who have so generously cared for, guided and supported Jim throughout his challenging cancer battle.
'' ... It is an incredibly sad time, however Jim in his passing, has made us see that in our grief that we can smile in our hearts for a beautiful man who will forever hold a special place in the hearts of many.
"Jim's lesson is that life was to be challenged and treasured.''