AN EX-AUSTRALIAN RULES footballer has today apologised for a stunning attack on Jim Stynes, who died earlier this week at the age of 45 after a long battle with cancer.
The Dublin-born footie legend will receive a state funeral from Victoria after a glittering career in the oval with Melbourne Demons as well as a philanthropic life in retirement.
But one former rival Jason Akermanis told radio listeners to Mix 92.7 FM in Queensland that the outpouring of grief was ‘overkill’.
Akermanis quickly released an apology, in the face of a massive public backlash.
“Firstly, I want to apologise wholeheartedly for my inappropriate words this morning, regarding Jim Stynes,” the statement reads. “I am truly sorry for the ill feeling I have caused.
“In reality, my feelings are quite the opposite and I just didn’t express my thoughts, feelings and words very well.
“I deeply apologise to the Stynes family, the public and everyone involved with Jim throughout his life. I would like to take this opportunity to clarify my true thoughts, and I hope that you will forgive my stupidity.”
He has been sacked by the radio show — but insisted afterwards he planned to quit anyway. The Stynes family have criticised his comments but said that if Jim Stynes himself were still alive he’d pick up the phone and invite ‘Aker’ for a beer.
This comes after Akermanis claimed the Ballyboden man ‘was a nasty man in his day’. “He had a nice turn of phrase and he made sure you knew how he felt”.
“What amazes me is yes, he was a legend of the game and did a great job and wonderful things with kids, but you know there are a bunch of people who have done just as much who don’t get any recognition. I just think it’s a bit out of kilter.
“He got a state funeral – do all football players get a state funeral? There’s something about it all that just made me feel uncomfortable. Jim’s good, but is he that good?”
Stynes passed away in the early hours of Tuesday morning following a long and public battle against the disease, which he was diagnosed with in 2009. He moved to the Melbourne Demons in 1984 as one of the pioneers of the AFL’s “Irish Experiment” to recruit GAA talent.
In 1991, he became the only overseas-born player to win the prestigious Brownlow Medal, awarded to the “fairest and best” player in the league, and continued to devote himself to the game and charity work following his retirement in 1998.