SA football royalty – the James family (Part 2)

Following on from the piece on Brett and Paul, the next installment of the James family is Roger James.


In the under 17s under the coaching of Andrew Schofield in 1993, Roger struggled to get a game due to stress fractures of his left shin. It wasn’t until 1994 where he showed what he was capable of, winning the under 19s Best and Fairest, playing a combination of under 19s and reserves and really probably should have made his league debut.


In 1995 Roger made a big impression on SA footy, making the advertiser team of the year in his 1st season (very much a rarity) where Norwood lost the prelim final to Centrals.


Roger was approached by a number of AFL clubs but chose to sign a 4 year deal with the newly formed Port Adelaide and decided not to nominate for the draft along with Brendon Lade, Michael Wilson, Warren Tredrea and Peter Burgoyne. This was a very cunning move by Port and as esteemed administrator Brian Bucky Cunningham said in regards to the fine imposed on the club that it was, ‘the best 20 grand Port have ever spent’.


In 1996 Roger broke his collarbone and only played 9 games and missed the preliminary final loss and the Scott Hodges miracle goal game.


(I was in hospital and was really crook when Hodges kicked the goal a radio may not have survived. In runs this nurse hearing the bang, thinking I had collapsed. When I told her it was the footy, the lady replied, ‘ohh Football, that’s all’. My reply meant I was no chance to win the most popular patient of the month award).


In 1997 Roger missed Port’s first ever game against Collingwood through injury. He then played at Norwood making his AFL debut in Round 5 against the Brisbane Lions. Roger had a solid first year playing 17 AFL games but the highlight of his year was having played enough games to qualify played in Norwood’s premiership side with his brother Brett.


Norwood 1997 Premiership. Brett James (R) and Roger James (L).


It was a great day with Norwood 19-12-126 def Port 7-11-53 in front of 44,161 fans. Roger along with Brett had achieved a life time ambition of playing in a Redleg premiership side.




In 1998, Roger hurt his knee colliding with Nathan Eagleton and only played 6 games. Further injuries in 1999 also restricted Roger to just 10 AFL games.


Roger played in the 1999 SANFL Grand Final against Port where the Redlegs so nearly got up. The incredible spoil by Tom Carr saving Port Adelaide when Roger had passed to Andrew Pascoe so close yet so far a lot of if only’s.


BOMBSHELL time. Port Adelaide then decided they were going to trade Roger, who had met with Carlton and agreed to a trade. Roger was driving from Lyndoch to Alberton to sign the paperwork which had to be done by 1.30 pm but by the time Roger got to Modbury, he’d received a message that the deal had fallen through.


Carlton picked up Matty Lappin from St Kilda.


Current Norwood coach Jarrod Cotton was to be in the same trade deal and unfortunately ended up getting delisted (Good luck Sunday Cotts!). Ironically, Roger’s career took off from there, becoming Port’s key inside midfielder and a model of consistency playing 24 games in 2000, 24 in 2001 and 24 games in 2002. This included a fantastic overall game and kicking the winning goal to secure the minor premiership. He played 17 games in 2003 and then 19 in 2004. In 2004, Port were in the Preliminary final against St Kilda at Footy Park. After their failures of the previous 3 years, being so successful in the minor round but bombing out in finals, Port didn’t just have a monkey on their back they, had the whole zoo!


This game was really the crowning jewel in Roger’s career, especially in the 1st quarter. Roger single handedly kept Port in the game it is a amazing stat that of Ports 1st 12 possessions, Roger had 8 of them!



In this game St Kilda were on top early and Fraser Gehrig kicked his 100th goal of the season. From the resultant crowd invasion, Roger said the delay was absolutely vital allowing, Port to re-group and go on and win in a cliffhanger by a goal.


Roger had a very good Grand Final, again more than holding his own against Brisbane’s star studded midfield with Port running away with the game and winning convincingly by 40pts:  17-11-113 to 10-13-73. Roger deservedly won Port’s best in finals trophy.


(I blame Roger for ending the enjoyment for us and winning Port the flag. I have called him Lord Voldemort, having some fun for years now for those of you non-Harry Potter fans, Lord Voldemort is the baddy).


In 2005, Roger was restricted by his knee injury to just 10 games. A meeting was organised at Peter Rohde’s house and upon arriving there is chit chat and then Peter said Choco Williams will be here in a minute. Hello! The alarm bells hit and Roger is informed that, ‘hey, you’re struggling with your knee and we’re not going to offer you a contract for 2006 and you can retire or go back to Norwood.’.


Roger admits he was surprised at the time, only being 29 years old. So he went back to the Legs and and played 3 more games, ironically the last against Port at Alberton, before being honest to himself that he was struggling and he pulled the pin. Roger emphasises he was glad to be told in person and that the fact is,  his knee was too crook to play anywhere in 2006, Port’s decision was correct


Roger was an assistant coach at Norwood in 2006 and also coached under Andrew Jarman at North Adelaide in 2007 (he adds that was entertaining).


The love of the game and the chance to play with Brett and Paul at his home club of Kersbrook was too good to ignore for the brookers faithful. It was like winning a golden ticket to the chocolate factory with Roger playing mainly up forward kicking regular bags of goals and playing in flags in 2008 and 2009.


Roger then felt it was time to have a crack at head coaching himself and went to Barossa Districts FC, coaching the club from 2010 to 2015, having some fantastic success with flags in 2012 and 2013. In 2015, the club had a lot of senior players retire and were struggling. They were on the bottom but lifted for 1 game in particular and defeated Gawler Centrals, who were on top and that night was just like winning a flag. This is one of his favourite footy memories. In 2016 and 2017, Roger coached Eudunda Robertstown with their highest place finish of 3rd in 2016.


Roger’s body had finally caught up with him and he was restricted to playing a handful of games with increased work commitments with his company G and J Earthworks. Roger called stumps on his footy career to spend some more time with his wife Kirsten and children Emjay who is 12, Billie 7 and Indy also 7.


Roger made the point that the highlight of his time in football was the magnificent people you meet and friends you make along the way. His most significant influences are his parents Adrian and Janice. The patience and support from Kirsten was also important to him and his playing highlights of course are the flags.


Roger rated Peter Rohde highly as a coach also enjoyed the involvement of assistants Brenton Klaebe and the Mayor’s Parlour Superstar, Alby Menzel.


Port Adelaide wise, John Cahill was a magnificent motivator, Mark Williams was astute and Alistair Clarkson was an assistant coach who had the ability to mix socially and have fun, especially playing cards. But he knew exactly when to push the buttons and be serious. When Alistair spoke, you listened. The late Phil Walsh was the master tactically, he was able to explain structures and ball-up set ups succinctly but simply.


I probably spent more time with Roger than Paul or Brett because of his friendship with Josh Francou who was teaching at PAC. There was the odd Friday night at the Hackney, not in footy season, that I was with Roger and I made the point, Roger was one of the few players I had seen go from an outside wingman to a gun inside midfielder. Roger was pissed off with me at the time and we have had many a laugh about it since when he realised I meant it as a compliment. At Norwood he played mainly as a wingman and back, then basically as a wingman played that role out wide.


Roger had exquisite skills and was so clean with his hands but also had a very good disposal by foot.


He has made a fantastic contribution to footy both state and nation wide thanks Roger.





• 76 games & 67 goals for Norwood 1995-2005
• 147 games & 87 goals for Port Adelaide (AFL) 1997-2005
• 53 games 262 goals for Kersbrook 2006-2009, 2016
• 79 games & 143 goals for Barossa District 2010-2015 (playing Coach)

• 1997 SANFL Premiership Player (Norwood FC)
• 2004 AFL Premiership Player (PAFC)
• 2008-9 Premiership Player (Kersbrook)
• 2012-13 Premiership Player/Coach (Barossa District)


2016-17 Coach of Eudunda Robertstown


Read more of Rulebook’s pieces – especially about Norwood HERE


  1. Rory Champion says

    When the history of Port in the AFL is written in a hundred years, then Rogers true ability and courage will by recognised. He really was the best player we had in the 2004 finals, his skill and speed were very telling.My god i wish we had players who could dispose like that now.

  2. Martin Rumsby says

    Good sequel to part 1, Malcolm. Interesting info about the potential Carlton trade for both Roger and Cotts. A sliding doors moment for both of them.

  3. Excellent read Malcolm. I had a lot of time for Roger as a no nonsense get on with the job underated midfielder

  4. His work rate was always reliable and appreciated. I always thank the Footy Gods that he was there in the first quarter of the 2004 prelim final, to make up for half the team that did not get a smell of the ball in that stanza.

  5. A captivating article on Roger James. On top of the games Roger played during his career, I can recall being at Footy Park in 2002 when Port beat Brisbane in the Final Round to win the minor Premiership. Roger’s poise, class and finishing in front of goal was huge that day (he did indeed kick the winning goal). He has had quite a career! Well done again Rulebook on another fine article.

  6. Another Redleg (see KT and whoever gave them a loan in the ’80s) who saved Port’s hide. Just as well for them that we don’t hold grudges…

  7. Gary Bennett says

    just completed reading your great coverage of Roger’s footy career – most enjoyable and informative. Incidentally Andrew Scholefield was an old classmate of mine at Norwood High (1A, 2A, and 3A) in the fifties. Andrew often has letters to the editor in the ‘Tiser. Anyway, I still remember, with great fondness, Roger’s silky skills either bursting out from half back or on the wing. What a great player. Thanks to Walshy I have some great highlights of the James boys, along with Macca etc, on video.

  8. Robert Bryson says

    A great player and a very nice person. His whole family were wonderful people and supported their sons during their playing careers.

  9. Great read Mal awesome player and iwas so priviliged to play with him..Have no idea why port took so long to realise how good he was thankfully he got to play with us and win a premiership with Brett because they did..One of the nicest people as well..Thanks Mal i got stuck for a while watching the 97 granny on the youtube …Oba

  10. Another excellent read again. Shame he’d just stopped playing AFL and SANFL just as I was first getting into it as a kid. Sounds like a fantastic player and great contributor to South Australian footy.

  11. Wonderful read as always Malcolm.
    Tremendous footballer, from an exceptionally sports gifted Hills family. Quite remarkable!!

  12. Malcolm, great sequel to the James Family Story.

    Incredible record at Kersbrook by Roger…..average of 5 goals a game?

  13. Michael Rehn says

    A great read about a great Norwood family. Not only hugely talented footballers but highest quality characters as well. People like the James brothers have enormous positive impacts on football clubs !!!

  14. Jason Davidson says

    As a Glenelg/Crows man i rate Roger James one of my all time favourite players. Despite playing for Norwood and Port his ability to create time and space for himself and teammates was outstanding. Then his ball use was exemplary

  15. Beautifully written as always Malcolm.
    What a truly remarkable Hills sporting family. The Kersbrook sporting Clubs were truly blessed with this family as locals.

  16. Nathan Watson says

    Great work as always Malcolm . Such a great and famous family the James. I loved Roger as a player at Port. Roger James was seriously an under-rated player at AFL level, he was phenomenal in the first quarter of the 2004 preliminary Final.

  17. Great work Malcolm. Terrific read. Really enjoyed this two part series. What a talented family.

  18. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Rory yes Roger had a incredible finals series elite disposal skills.Martin Cotts admits that wasn’t a question he wasn’t expecting and v much so.Raj v underrated.Derek one of the great individual quarters of footy.Paul thank you.Dave us Redlegs carrying that port mob again.Gary thank you yes.Andrews letters are interesting reading at times.Robert fantastic family.Oba yes we were blessed to have the James family and more than a tad bewildering it took,Port so long to recognize his talents glad you enjoyed the highlights being included.Campbell and Dave thank you.Bill yes Roger certainly must have dominated up forward he certainly kicked some regular bags.Michael v well said.Jason yes exquisite skills v good decision maker and user of the ball.Nathan v much so.DBalassone thank you.thanks folks

  19. Cameron Glenn says

    Another great article. Not often you see someone beat Port in a grand final and also win one with Port. Would not be many in that group especially the team you beat Port was Norwood. Keep up the great work.

  20. A very good player and, in my view, almost equal best with D. Hardwick in the 2004 finals series of the Appalling Football League. Under-rated often happens because players are not “fashionable”, whatever that is, but if the bottom line is getting the ball with courage and disposing of it well, he was a champ. I wish we had a few more like him now.

  21. Luke Reynolds says

    Great article Rulebook on a fantastic player.
    Fascinating insight to his failed trade to Carlton, something I’m sure is very little known.
    Fair goal average for Kersbrook!

  22. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Cameron thank you.Bucko the James trait just so clean and users of the footy geez yes we would all love a few more,Roger James.Luke yes incredible and definitely not known widely amazing that a failed trade instigated by Port ended up winning them a flag and yes for the brookers in reality just about on one leg simply incredible thank you

  23. Andy Jeaks says

    Great article thanks for sharing. Personally I think Roger was Ports best ever player and without him we don’t make the GF in 2004. My favourite Port player in AFL. I have the caricature from the banner of his 100th game and my number plates on my car are Port 38. Love the man with two first names

  24. Pete Bennetts says

    Roger didn’t look that quick but some blokes just seem to have a lot of time like Greg Williams Darren jarman etc roger to me was in that class of player . Sometimes I think players like him might not get drafted because of all the testing they do but roger was a natural footballer with all the skills

  25. Both great articles Malcolm Ashwood and have shared both via Kersbrooks fc Facebook page.
    A few of us mid year on a cold Thursday night at the end of training had the privilege of watching this man have shots on goal outside 50 with a breeze left to right and slightly incoming did not miss and I am not talking a couple it was shot after shot.
    Thank you for you’re efforts in writing these articles they are very much enjoyed.
    Go go you Redlegs on Sunday

  26. Ray Higginbottom says

    A detailed article as always Malcolm taking us behind the scenes aswell, enjoyable also as i have an infinity with Roger through his coaching stints at Barossa District and Eudunda Robertstown,having umpired his teams he is quite unassuming and respectful on and off the field.Head Coach of Freeling FC for 2020 if the season gets going.

  27. Angelo Quici says

    Malcolm Brilliant! A most informative article, very comprehensive and well researched Malcolm. I personally love reading the fine details in such articles as they give a much better view of the subject matter. Roger James is a hero in every sense of the word. He is brave, reliable, humble and selfless imo. He twice kicked scores to elevate the Power to minor premiership in 2 yrs. His unbelievable prelim final performance was stuff of champions and he is certainly one. Roger was underrated by the Vics to there detriment and loss…to that l say stiff @#$%. He is a Port Adelaide’s treasure!

  28. David Hayter says

    Roger James along with Tyson Edwards are the two greatest unsung heroes of South Australian AFL.

    When the chips were down and the fan was covered in brown stuff, James was Port’s go to guy. The same with the Crows and Edwards.

    How many times Roger James pulled Port back from the brink of defeat is incalculable. He was an absolute gun. Superstar.

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