YORTA Yorta man and All Australian footballer Des James passed away on June 27, 2024 at Royal Hobart Hospital. With a cheeky, boyish smile, the younger brother of the AFL's 2023 Sir Doug Nicholls Round honouree, umpire Glenn James, Des was known for his skills and dash from the back pocket. 

Born in 1952 in Shepparton, Victoria, Des commenced his football career with the Lemnos-Shepparton club in the Goulburn Valley Football League. His talent for football was noticed early as he won the GVFL thirds best and fairest and would finish third in the seniors three years later, despite missing a third of the season.    

But it was in 1974 and with his commencement with Sandy Bay Football Club in the Tasmanian Football League that the quietly spoken James would make a name in football. It was at the Seagulls that James would play in several finals campaigns with premiership wins in 1976, 77 and 78. James' ability to read the play, combined with his skill and speed made him an incredibly dangerous player.   

As his TFL opponent, current Brisbane coach Chris Fagan recalls: "Just when you thought you had the ball, Des would cut in front of you." Known for his fairness and sportsmanship, James earned a state guernsey no less than 24 times. So impressive was James in the 1979 State of Origin carnival in Perth, he was named in the All-Australian side, the only Tasmanian player picked while playing his senior football in the state. Fellow Tasmanians Michael Roach and Daryl Sutton were representing VFL clubs at the time.

After 11 seasons with Sandy Bay, James joined Clarence for two years before retiring in 1986. 

Named as one of Sandy Bay's best 25 in 2001, he was also shortlisted among the 35 players for the AFL's Indigenous Team of the Century.  

Des James 

209 games for Sandy Bay, 1974-84
34 games for Clarence, 1985-86
Sandy Bay captain, 1983-84
Sandy Bay TFL premierships 1976, 1977, 1978
24 representative matches for Tasmania, 1976-84
Tasmanian State of Origin Carnival representative 1979 (Perth), 1980 (Adelaide)
State of Origin Carnival All Australian, 1979 (Back Pocket)
12 representative matches for TFL, 1974-84
Weller Arnold Medal, 1977 (Best TFL representative player)
Brighton coach (SFL Premier League), 2003-04
Selected in "Sandy Bay's Best 25 – 1948-97"
Short-listed for Indigenous Team of the Century, 2005