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We are Port Adelaide

Where are they now? Roger James

THIS week’s WATN looks at a frustrated golfer who runs an earthmoving business and lives in the Barossa Valley.

Roger James was a dogged midfielder who racked up 147 games for Port Adelaide after being drafted from Norwood in the SANFL.

The 2004 Premiership player was happy to sign with the Power for its inaugural list, despite the rivalry between the Redlegs and Port Adelaide.

“I signed a four-year deal at the end of 1995, along with a few other boys, to stay out of the draft so we could end up signing with Port Adelaide for the club’s start in 1997.”

“I could have gone earlier and I did speak to a fair few clubs but for me it was a chance to stay in Adelaide and when I looked at how good Port Adelaide was in the SANFL, I thought we would have a club that was really similar and it has turned out to be pretty successful.”

“I know a lot of the blokes on the list came from Port Adelaide but there was a mixed bunch with guys like Stewy Dew from Central and Josh Francou from North Adelaide, and once you get to the club, you are one of them.”

James could often carry the side on big occasions, none bigger than the 2004 Preliminary Final when he was immense under huge pressure from St Kilda, particularly early on.

Minor Premiers

But with the Power taking on Brisbane this week, we thought it would be ideal to discuss his memories of the Round 22 match in 2002 between the sides – an encounter that would decide who would be the Minor Premier that season.

James was his usual busy self, collecting 31 disposals, nine clearances and five tackles.

But none of his statistics were more important than his two goals, especially the match-winner with less than two minutes to play.

Brisbane was holding a one-point lead when Nick Stevens drove a long ball deep into the forward 50 but it was dropped by Peter Burgoyne.

James was on hand to hook around on his right boot to kick Port Adelaide to the club’s first ever Minor Premiership, and send the vocal crowd into raptures.

 “It was pretty tight up until half time and I think we kicked five or six in a row in the third quarter but they came out full bore in the last quarter and I think with about four minutes to go they hit the front,” James recalled.

“Lucky enough with a couple of minutes left I was the one who kicked the goal to give us back the lead and we went on to win.

“At the time the minor premiership wasn’t a huge thing for us, whether we won it or not, it was about knowing that we could challenge Brisbane and be around the mark.”

“Obviously the minor premiership is nice but it doesn’t give you anything towards the finals, but we did take some good form in because we had won.”

Career cut short

James’ career was cut cruelly short in 2005 because of a debilitating knee injury.

Having just celebrated being a huge part of the 2004 Premiership success, it was a bitter-sweet period in his life, as then coach Mark Williams told him his time at the club was over.

“I think it was about round 17 and I was with Peter Rohde and Choco, and Choco told me I wasn’t going to get a contract for 2006,” James said.

“It was shattering thinking you know I was only 29 and the knee didn’t seem that bad.

“I had gone from the highs of 2004 and winning the Premiership to one year later being told you were no longer wanted at the club so that was shattering, but in saying that I had troubles all year with my knee and only played nine or ten games, and in ‘06 I didn’t play anywhere it was that sore so the club probably did the right thing.”

Despite admitting he had no cartilage in his right knee and having to experience “bone on bone”, James ended up returning to the field to play at his local club Kersbrook with his brothers Paul and Brett.

“We were lucky enough to win two flags there in ‘08 and ‘09 and then I moved to the Barossa and Districts Football Club and I coached there for six years and was lucky enough to win two flags there as player-coach in 2013 and ‘14.

“The last two years in 2016 and ‘17 I was coaching Eudunda-Robertstown and at all of those clubs there have been great people and that’s what footy does for you, wherever you go you meet great people.”

Family focus

For the first time since 2006, James won’t have any involvement in football this year, choosing instead to spend more time with his three daughters Emjay, 12, Billie, 10 and Indie, 7.

“Paul still pressures me to play but I’m 42 and I’m carrying too much weight and that isn’t good for my knee,” James lamented.

“My brain still works but the body doesn’t.

“But two of my girls do gymnastics every Saturday so I can spend plenty of time with them.”

James still lives in Lyndoch with his wife Kirsten and he operates an earthmoving business “G and J Earthworks”.

Outside of work and family, he plans to get to more Port Adelaide games this year and spend more time on the golf course, although he admitted he wasn’t very good on the greens.

“I don’t know why people say it’s a relaxing game because I just get frustrated, but I still go out the next weekend and play again,” he said.

“When you’re coaching, especially out at Eudunda like I was, it’s a long way away and you miss a lot of AFL games, but hopefully this year I’ll get to a few more.”

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