THE AFL have paid an emotional tribute to Jim Stynes after he lost his long battle with cancer this morning aged 45.
An AFL statement said: "The AFL Commission, executive and staff wish to pass on their deepest sympathies to the family of Jim Stynes OAM, after the Melbourne Football Club president and former champion player passed away this morning.
"Stynes fought a determined struggled against cancer over the last two and a half years.
"He was a devoted husband to Sam and father to Matisse and Tiernan and will be remembered for a contribution to Australian life that is matched by few in the history of the game."
AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou said: "Stynes' tireless work for youth, through the Reach Foundation, saw him admired across every part of the community, after coming to Australia as a young man to play a game he had never experienced."
Dublin-born Stynes first played football with local club Ballyboden St Enda's, and won an All-Ireland minor football medal with the Dubs in 1984.
He moved to Australia later that year, and his remarkable AFL record of 244 consecutive games between 1987-98 stands as the high-water mark in AFL history, as part of a 264-game career with Melbourne that saw him win the 1991 Brownlow Medal and earn a place in the Australian Football Hall of Fame.
On retirement, Stynes' commitment to building communities saw him named Victorian of the Year in 2001 and 2003.
He returned to serve as president of Melbourne Football Club in 2008 and continued in the role through ill-health.
"Jim Stynes lived a remarkable life of service and achievement," Demetriou added.
"The story of a young man coming to Australia to try his luck at a foreign game has enriched our sport, and Jim's remarkable qualities as a person have greatly enriched the lives of everyone he has touched.
"We feel deeply for his wife Sam and children Matisse and Tiernan and Jim's wider family on their loss."
The AFL is set to make an announcement on appropriate recognition for Stynes' contribution, already marked by the Jim Stynes Medal for the best Australian player in Australia v Ireland International Rules games.