SA football royalty – the James family (Part 1)

Brett, Roger and Paul James are the sons of Adrian and Janice, and are in a family of 8 with sisters Teresa, Caroline and Susan. Brett and Paul are 5th generation running the James’ orchard, specialising in apples, pears and sheep at the family farm about 15 minutes out of TT Gully (it still has  a real country feel about it). The James’ attended Kersbrook primary school and then Birdwood High.


Brett, Roger and Paul James are SA football royalty. Not only are they quality as footballers, but also as individuals. Their incredible longevity and remarkable love of the game has endured over 1,350 senior games (let alone junior games!).


Brett & Paul James at the family farm.



Played: 234 SANFL games (73 goals) with Norwood, 1990-93, 1997-98 and 2000-2006; 42 AFL games (26 goals) with Collingwood, 1994-96 and 76 AFL games (26 goals) with Adelaide, 1997-2000. Represented SA three times.

Honours: Adelaide AFL premiership team, 1997 and ‘98; Norwood SANFL premiership team, 1997; Norwood captain, 2002-2006; State captain, 2001-2002; Norwood best-and-fairest, 2002, 2003 and 2005; Norwood Hall of Fame.

Country Football: Playing coach at Hills Football League club Kersbrook 2007-current; 2008, 09, 2012 premierships.

Brett James Kersbrook FC Senior Games 221 Goals 287 Coached 4 flags


Brett started playing under 14s for Kersbrook FC at the age of 5 (geez Beefy how come it took you so long?.)Understandably, Brett admits he didn’t dominate straight away, but did kick a goal in his 1st year (fair effort that). Brett progressed pretty quickly and was soon invited to Norwood special squads from the age of about 12, and then playing in successive Under 17 Premiership sides in 88-89, and playing Teal Cup under the coaching of Allan Stewart in 89. He then progressed to make his league debut in 1990, quickly establishing himself as a assured league footballer in a variety of roles, roving on ball and in a back pocket.


Brett was approached by a number of VFL clubs and was selected by Collingwood with choice 31 in the pre-season draft, but opted to stay at the Parade and played in our losing grand final against Woodville West Torrens. I made the point re how much we trained that week, particularly on the Thursday night. Brett just smiled, and in typical understated fashion admitted, “hey I was young, it didn’t worry me, but geez we trained a lot that week”.


Brett went to Collingwood in ‘94 and says it was great  being forced to grow up away from home and playing in front of 80-plus thousand spectators against Carlton and Essendon.  In his 2nd and 3rd games he was an eye opener. Brett continued  working outside as a groundsman at Victoria Park, which he enjoyed. In particular, preparing the wickets and having a good pitch for cricket was something he took great pride in.


Brett arrived at Collingwood underdone, due to a foot injury, and a combination of lifting weights and not being able to train fully meant Brett quickly put on weight (he never lifted heavy weights again after 94). Brett was an established senior player under Leigh Mathews,  but fell out of favour when Tony Shaw was appointed coach in ‘96. Tony pushed the athlete and wanted pace, not the natural footballer (geez that worked).


Brett at Collingwood


Brett decided to come home and with Port starting up he had spoken with them.  He thought he was going to be a member of Port Power’s inaugural list. He was on Collingwood’s end of season trip in Mauritius, and admits he may have had a couple. He, probably wasn’t listening as intently as possible when he was handed a fax from team manager Eddie Hillgrove and just signed it. Three days later he received a message from his mum that he was now a Crows player (who said alcohol doesn’t have its benefits).


Brett was super fit and dominated on ball right from the start in 97 (1st game of the 97 season against Brisbane is the only Afl  game my wife Emma has attended). Brett played the majority of the year for the Crows, admitting it was bloody weird playing against his brother, Roger in round 18 (the game in which Troy Bond kicked the winning goal playing on his brother, Shane). Brett got injured the next week and his quad was worse than expected.


He made it back to play against Port Adelaide Magpies (remember them?).Tony Modra was injured in the prelim final for the Crows against Western Bulldogs, and Brett came back into the Crows side for the GF, starting on the bench. When Rod Jameson and Clay Sampson were injured, Brett played in the back pocket and produced a typically composed and assured performance, highlighted by his clean hands and elite disposal by foot.


Brett had, like his brother Roger, played just enough to qualify to play in the grand final for Norwood, so he pulled up stumps early on the celebrations. He said this was easy as his burning desire as a child was to play in a Norwood Premiership side, with the chance to play with Roger cream on the cake (I reckon Brett might have been in better knick than other returning Crow-Redleg Aaron Keating !). The Legs duly saluted absolutely smashing Port Adelaide. I don’t bet on footy and it will always be a regret that I didn’t back John Cunningham to win the Jack Oatey medal, as I had a feeling JC would salute he was 16-1 (JC has always said that was better than bank interest, Malcolm).


Brett & Roger celebrate a Norwood flag


I reckon Brett made up for missing out on some Crows celebrations. Brett in ‘98 again played a variety of roles, on ball, forward and back, playing every game from round 4 onwards. He kicked a ripper of a goal in the preliminary final. A few of us at the ground celebrated and rode that snap home.


Brett also performed in the grand final (thanks Geoff Wilson for the tickets. At the after match function at the ‘G, I’m not sure that West Coast Supporter enjoyed my memories and thoughts re drafting). Brett, with his footy smarts, adapted to Malcolm Blight’s change of game plan, playing from behind and not allowing Pagans paddock to eventuate. He was crucial. Brett assured me he really enjoyed ‘98 and soaked up the monumental achievement.


Brett played every game in ’99, and then somewhat surprisingly was let go by the Adelaide FC at the end of 2000. He headed back to the Parade. As expected, he was a key player at Norwood, winning the best and fairest in 2002,2003 and 2005, captaining the club from 2002 to 2006.Brett enjoyed the friendships at Norwood, but was frustrated with the lack of team success. The highest we finished was 3rd in 2002. Financially, Norwood struggled during this time and our talent identification was not as good as it should have been.


Brett decided to retire from SANFL footy at the end of 2006, as he couldn’t see a chance of the ultimate team success occurring. Brett returned to his junior club Kersbrook to coach, where this remarkable career continues to this very day, having coached 4 flags.  His influence on so many youngsters and the community of Kersbrook is profound. Iit is just so appropriate that Brett was inducted in to the SA footy Hall of fame at the same time as a fellow footy nut, Rodney Rocket Maynard.


I was privileged to be at the Norwood FC Hall of Fame night where Brett’s speech was brilliant. He pointed out that playing in Norwood’s 97 flag was the highlight of his senior career, as it was his boyhood dream ,and how special it was to play with Roger.


Brett is married to Alecia (surely Beefy, you didn’t think I was going to miss pointing out you’re a certainty to star in the next TV series re batting above your weight). He is the proud parent of Archie and Lily.


Brett, thank you for your enormous contribution to SA footy.


Brett in his Crows days (with a young Roo pictured left).



Paul James Kersbrook FC Senior games 255 Goals 326

Paul played 70 odd reserves games for Norwood and North Adelaide also.

Norwood FC 2001,2004-2006 54 League games 15 goals

North Adelaide 2002-2003 38 League games 26 goals

Hills Division 2 Mail Medal 2009

Kersbrook 6 x Best & Fairest, 4 x Runner Up Best & Fairest


Paul James


Paul James is a very good footballer in his own right, commencing at Kersbrook, winning the association medal in under 14s, then at Norwood winning the coach’s trophy in Under 17s in 97. He played state under 18s with a couple of guns in Mathew Pavlich and Shaun Burgoyne. He then played in the state under 20s side, which is as traditional in SA as playing the state under 18s side. Paul made the best players, with the Under 20s side winning easily.


Paul finally made his league debut in 2001, with two separate stints at Norwood, in 2001and then returning to Norwood between 2004-2006, ending up with 54 games and 15 goals.


Brett sums it up well, if we had recruited a 22 year old who had come 4th in another club’s best and fairest, and who hadn’t been at Norwood before, he would have been given every opportunity in the world. Unfortunately, I think the Chappell’s are a very good analogy in that Trevor was a very good player, but suffered due to his last name being compared to Ian and Greg. The same occurred to Paul re comparisons with Brett and Roger. In my opinion, he wasn’t judged on his own talents anywhere near enough.


Paul Marden James (sensational middle name apples) crossed to North Adelaide in 2002 and 2003, playing 38 games, kicking 26 goals, finishing 4th in the B&F in ‘02.


Paul had the courage to speak up re North Adelaide deciding to sack Darrel Hart. The accusation was made that Hart had lost the full support of the playing group. Paul disagreed with that and spoke up. As we all know footy clubs don’t like someone not toeing the party line, so that ended his career at Rooster land.


Paul decided to return to Kersbrook to play under Brett and has had a fantastic career -255 games, 326 goals, 6 B&F’s, runner up 4 times, and winning the association Hills Div 2 Mail Medal in 2009, Brett backs Paul to the hilt, and maintains Paul could have achieved similar results in his career if given the same opportunities as Roger and himself.


Paul is married to Taryn and has children Skyla, Shaylee and Oakley (certainly can’t be accused of having old fashion names).


Redleg faithful, you will be happy to know that on the night when Brett was inducted in to the Norwood Hall of fame, I chased up all 3 re NFC Past Players and Officials Membership. They weren’t escaping!


Summing up, Paul has also made a significant contribution to SA footy, and as the instigator and collector of fines at the Kersbrook FC, I fancy and hope there are some good come backs and stories left by the Brookers faithful below.


For more of Rulebook’s Norwood articles, CLICK HERE:


Read our latest Port Adelaide article by Swish Schwerdt who looks back at Port in 1998:


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  1. Jason Kendle says

    Great article again Malcolm, love reading these. What a sporting family, all 3 fantastic players and from what I’m told, great blokes! Every now and then when I’m forced to suit up, still proudly wear the testimonial tie from Beefys night of acknowledgement.

  2. Cameron Glenn says

    Another good article. Great to hear about past players for Norwood. :)

  3. Good read Malcolm. Still seems a mystery why Paul left at the end of 2001.

    Another instalment to come with Roger’s story?

    Interesting to compare the players drafted under the old system (and stay home for a few more years), compared to the current setup, where they go as 18 year olds. Generally they seemed to adapt better with those few more years of maturity.

  4. Martin Rumsby says

    Thank you Malcolm. What a fantastic contribution the James family has made to South Australian football and to Norwood in particular. Brett had elite disposal skills, especially by hand, and his commitment to Norwood was never in question. Looking forward to part 2 of this story.

  5. That is a really insightful read. Thanks, RB

  6. Luke Reynolds says

    Fantastic read Malcolm. What a brilliant career Brett James has had back at his home club, incredible.
    Fond memories of watching him line up in a forward pocket next to Saverio Rocca in 1994 & 1995, he seemed to kick plenty of goals at our Sherrin Stand end. Sad that he left.
    Was thrilled for him to play in the Crows flag teams. Was great to read about his Norwood career.

  7. Good research Rulebook!

  8. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Jason how awesome was Beefys speech accepting his elevation in to our hall of fame,not sure Alecia enjoyed my company when,Beefy told me see the boss re Past Players and Officials Membership.
    Cameron thank you.Bill for mine some understandable frustration re lack of opportunities yes,Roger to come and yes totally agree rate of percentage of players who made the transition definitely higher help re mental health as well.Martin yes disposal by the James family in general was a huge strength I admit there is a bombshell re Roger to come something I had never even heard a whisper about.Smokie thank you.The James brothers are fantastic examples of a genuine love for the game remarkable longevity glad you enjoyed his exploits at pie land thanks folks

  9. Glyn Hopkins says

    Great read on a great footy family Malcolm,never knew much about Paul thanks for filling in the gaps.

  10. Kevin Lewis. says

    Great article Malcolm on Brett and Paul
    Loved watching Brett play , just peed off he wasn’t picked up by the Power in there inaugural squad.
    Paul a underrated player but a very good footballer also.
    Looking forward to reading your article on Roger ,is right up there as my favourite Power player.
    What I loved about the James brothers was the way they played the game,no histrionics when they played.
    Not like a lot of current Prima donnas .

  11. Pleased you are going to add Roger (thought you may have forgotten him like Port did on many occasions). Have the privilege of knowing these guys by living in Kersbrook. All excellent footballers and proud Brookers.

  12. John Topperwien says

    Once again a fantastic article, many years ago I used follow the Norwood Under 17 and under 19’s and can remem the James family following the boys

  13. Great article Rulebook. Brett James was one of a number of players who excelled under Malcolm Blight’s tenure as coach of the Crows. He and Roger were invaluable cogs for their respective sides and it appears Paul was more than handy during his footy career too.

    PS. Brett James’ snap in the ’98 Prelim Final against the Bulldogs was memorable. Moments like that ensured the Crows were headed off to the big dance against the Kangaroos.

  14. Two of the best blokes you could ever meet – made being a footy nerd – cool
    Great article

  15. Charlie Brown says

    I didn’t know the Paul James story Malcolm so thank you for sharing. There were certainly some dark days post Hart’s sacking.

  16. Gary Bennett says

    Bloody hell Malcolm, you’ve done it again. What a fantastic account of part 1 of the James boys. I can hardly wait for installment 2 abut Roger. Where do you find the time for you’re research. Obviously a labour of love. No wonder you can’t find time to go fishing. Anyhow, let’s hope the Legs do us proud on Sunday in the Big Dance.

  17. `Being an Eagle supporter I don`t know much about these brothers except maybe I`ve booed the a few times! Great post once again mate thank you.

    It would be interesting to see how many brothers have played SANFL even in this century not many I`d think.

  18. Can confirm, Rulebook, that I was in a popular Adelaide nightclub on the Wednesday night between the 1997 AFL and SANFL Grand Finals, and that a player who played in both the Crows and Redlegs premierships that was not Brett James was having a very good time. The James boys have always improved every team that they’ve played in and I know you’re doing Roger next but without him Port would not have progressed past the 2004 prelim.

  19. Great article RB – interesting story on how Brett signed for the Crows. Glad he did regardless, and it was great the bothers got to share in a Leg’s premiership together.

    I was at that ’98 Prelim against WB and the roar made by the Crow’s faithful when Brett snapped that goal was fantastic.


  20. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    As always, plenty of inside detail that is of interest to many. Thanks ‘Book

  21. Brett James hardest bloke I ever played with, champion bloke.

  22. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Glyn thank you.Kevin well said yep no crap with the James family.Droop great blokes and very proud brookers.John thank you.Paul I was the g with mates who were all Redlegs Supporters as well we made that known when Beefys snap went thru.Jeff v much so love your comment.Charlie thank you and v much so.Gary yes can’t deny they do take a while had been crook this week so did have time to do some writing
    yes v nervous re tomorrow I am not the most relaxed spectator.Jill thank you I will have to do some delving.Dave I am not surprised that,Keats dominated off field a genuine characterBG thank you and go the legs.Swish thank you.Gary well said thanks folks

  23. Barry Solomon says

    Beefy, roj and apples, outstanding young blokes in every department. To have watched their football artistry and off field their humbleness….just magnificent.

  24. Brad lees says

    Played under beefy at Kersbrook one of the best coaches I have has was lucky enough to live 2 minutes around the corner from.beefy so I was a regular passenger on the way home could sit and pick the blokes brain for days love playing in back to back flags with rog he was my mentor as a forward and I credit him and beefy with how my footy turned out can’t forget apples either the bloke is an absolute legend spent many a night at apples and taz place after footy feel.very priveledged to have won 3 flags ay kersy with these legends #brookersforlife

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