When Sean Wight and Jim Stynes came to Australia as part of the “Irish Experiment” (Wight himself was Scotland-born) the legacy they would leave for AFL, for friendship, and for cancer patients around Australia could not have been guessed at.
Sean Wight was one of the first AFL players recruited to the Melbourne club as part of the “Irish Experiment”: a push to bring Gaelic footballers Down Under in the 1980s to try their hand at the Australian game. Jim Stynes, another budding young Gaelic Footballer also came to Australia as part of this program.
Wight and Stynes became two of the most famous players in this era of Australian football and even after retiring from the game, the pair made their lives in Australia.
Sadly however, both of these athletes followed the same path through a battle with cancer. They were both diagnosed in their 40s, and after a brave fight, they passed away within a few months of each other.
When Wight was undergoing treatment, family and friends held a cancer fundraising event last year. Part of the proceeds were dedicated to supporting Wight and his family through their medical expenses, but the ACRF was also humbled to recently receive the rest of the proceeds. A generous $10,000 from the money raised will thus go towards world-class cancer research and will leave a lasting legacy in Sean’s name.
“We had a night at the Bentleigh Club for Sean and it was a great night. It was a reflection of the thing that underpins the strength of our game, and that’s relationships from staff, players, supporters or key stakeholders.” said General Manager of Melbourne Football Club, Chris Connolly.
“In the end, it became a big event, which sold out very smartly. I reckon we could’ve filled the place up five times over if that was what needed to occur. It was a pretty full-on night.”
Diane Lynch, who was the main organiser of the event and a close friend of Sean’s, said “I had an idea about a fund raiser and I soon started planning. I was very quickly amazed at the support and the willingness of so many people.”
“As we arrived [at the Bentleigh Club], Sean asked me to stop as he could hear Jimmy Stynes speaking to the audience. When Jim finished speaking about Sean, we entered the room to a standing ovation. The room was heaving with love and the atmosphere was so emotional with well over 350 people standing and clapping for Sean.”
“Sean never expected that there would be so much support and love for him. Melbourne Football Club were fantastic supporting the event and helping in many different ways. I was overwhelmed!”
This Sunday the 22nd of April, is The Jim Stynes Tribute Game which will be held at the MCG. It provides a chance for all Victorians to gather in celebration of his contributions to football and the greater community.