Thursday 26 August 2010
Brilliant wingman David James reaches another significant milestone in a stellar QAFL career by earning life membership of Southport in Sunday’s qualifying final at Fankhauser Reserve.
James plays his 150th game and is hoping for a similar result to his 100th match, when the Sharks beat Labrador in the first semi-final of 2007.
James is one of the elite players in the competition, having won three best and fairest awards at Southport despite being surrounded by so many other talented players.
Even more impressively, he has won two Syd Guildford Trophies for the best player in the competition as judged by independent QAFL observers. Those wins in 2005 and 2008 happened to be premiership years.
The only downside to 2008, which saw the Sharks overrun Morningside in a stunning grand final last quarter described by James as the pinnacle of his career, was a hip injury in that game that sidelined the dashing right-footer for almost nine months.
It took time to diagnose the exact problem and then the first operation was unsuccessful. After a second operation to take more cartilage out, he finally returned to the playing field in Round 13 of last season and was back in matchwinning form by late in the season.
“I could see it (150 games) coming but it took a little while to get here,” James admitted. “It’s definitely something I have thought about for the last few years.
“I think I’m here for life. I would like to play 200 games for Southport for sure.”
James added that he had made a number of lifelong friends since joining the Sharks in 2003 from Hastings in Victoria, where he played 89 games and ‘would loved to have played 100’.
One of those is the carpenter’ former Southport ‘boss’, premiership captain Darren O’Brien, who doubles as his workmate.
There is only one thing about the popular O’Brien that grates with the quietly-spoken James.
“I do get upset sometimes when I read in the paper about ‘veterans’ O’Brien and James,” James quipped. “He’s four years older than me, I’m only 29!
“But he’s still going alright.”
James’ class as a player is best reflected in some of the duels he has enjoyed with top rated opponents.
He has an exceptional record against strong Brisbane Lions Reserve sides, consistently being in the Sharks’ best player list over the past seven years against AFL-calibre players.
His 2006 showdown with the spurned Jason Akermanis at Carrara was memorable. The Brownlow Medallist kicked ‘three or four’ goals on James from a wing in a dominant team, but James hit back with ‘one or two’ goals of his own.
“It was a bit of a shoot-out there for a while,” he smiled.
James also went blow for blow with a young Rohan Bail from Mt Gravatt in 2007 and 2008.
“They call him the ‘running man’ at Melbourne now and I know why,” James said. “You definitely knew you had been in a game when you played on him.
“It was a good learning experience playing on those type of players – you thought you worked hard but then you would play on an Akermanis and realized they were going 20% harder again.”
Fast forward to the present and James is still giving plenty of grief to the best wingmen in the competition.
He will be high in the running for the Sharks club champion award again with Danny Wise and Darren Pfeiffer, and will be a key in the qualifying final.
“I think it has been a consistent year and I think statistically it has been my best,” James said.
The Sharks picked up outstanding recruits over summer and James admitted the talent is as good as he has seen in his time at the club.
“The calibre of players is right up there with 2004-05,” he said. “The competition is getting harder every year. Teams like Labrador and Redland have definitely improved, and even Aspley. You have to be on your game every week now.”
Despite the Sharks’ star power, James agrees the 2010 premiership race is wide open.
“There’s four genuine chances and you wouldn’t be surprised if any of them won it,” he said. “It would be hard for the (fifth-placed) NT to win it with four trips in a row to Queensland.”
As for the qualifying final, he believes the home ground advantage will give his side an edge over the Panthers, who have won just twice at Southport in 17 years.
“They would have had a lot more confidence if the games as at their ground, and vice-versa. We really wanted to get the home ground advantage,” James said.