JIM Stynes brought Australia to a standstill today as tears openly flowed at his state funeral.
The Dubliner was remembered as a man who had left a "six-foot-seven gap" in the lives of those closest to him.
Around 16,000 football fans and ordinary people lined the streets of Melbourne during the service.
His wife Samantha and children Matisse (12) and Tiernan (7) waved to the crowds and wept as they followed the 45-year-old's coffin.
"We've all been influenced by Jim, his gentleness and his passion for life," Sam told mourners.
She said she woke up hoping that if she clicked her heels together three times, she would discover her husband's death was all a bad dream
As the funeral parade slid through a guard of honour formed by Melbourne Demons players, a ripple of claps rose to cheers, thundering applause and whistles for a true Irish-Australian hero.
Jim's number 37 jumper and the boots he wore the year he claimed the Brownlow medal had been placed at the front of the church.
In one of the most moving moments of the ceremony, Jim's brother Brian said: "I tried following in his footsteps but they were always too big."
Brian recalled how devastated his family were when Jim decided to leave Dublin in 1984 to try his luck at Australian Rules football. He said the weekly highlight was the phonecall home.
"He leaves a six-foot-seven gap in our lives that will always be empty," he said.
Stynes' best friend and former Melbourne teammate Garry Lyon told the funeral that nobody had inspired so many on the football field as well as off it.
"Big Jimmy would have loved this. He thrived on a big crowd," he told the 1,200 mourners inside the church.
"I sat down and wrote a list of things that best described him as a footballer. Consistent, reliable, dependable, trustworthy, honest, strong, loyal, durable, courageous, caring and resilient.
"They are wonderful qualities to possess in a footballer -- they're even more significant qualities to possess as a man.
"What I find most amazing of all is that of all the kids from around the world we could have attracted to the game ... we found him, Jim Stynes."
Mr Lyon added: "And as a result we may now never questions the boundaries of what one man is capable of achieving on the playing field but also never question the ability of the same man to have the same impact away from it.
"There never has been anyone like Jim Stynes and there never will be, which is why we loved him and we miss him so much today."
He said that if Jim had been at his own funeral he would have "us all standing up waving our hands above our heads, and singing, and turning to the person next to you giving them hugs and shoulder massages".
"It's the sort of weird stuff he did, and it took us a long time to get our head around it. He loved to take people out of their comfort zone, to get them to do things that they didn't think that they were capable of."
Mr Lyon said Stynes had stepped out of his comfort zone consistently throughout his life and his career, moving from Ireland to Australia and thriving on the experience.
Sam Stynes said she was privileged "to have been close beside Jim through his more recent battles. Jim made sure during this time that we shared that we grew together through love".
She then recited a poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye, which she said reflected Stynes' wishes for her and their children.
Stynes was one of the GAA's most promising young footballers when he played for the Dublin minor team in the early 1980s but decided in 1984 to try making it as a professional footballer in Australia.
He won the 1991 Brownlow medal, four Melbourne best and fairest awards and was twice named in the All-Australian team.
As well as being named in Melbourne's team of the century, he saved the ailing club when he took over its presidency in 2008.
He also co-founded the Reach Foundation charity which has helped thousands of disadvantaged children.