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John Hugh James
4 May 1890
Place of birth
Sale, VIC (3850)
23 April 1967 (aged 76)
Age at first & last AFL game
First game: 19y 25d
Last game: 33y 134d
Height and weight
Height: 185 cm
Weight: 89 kg
Richmond: 15, 4
State of origin
|Club||League||Career span||Games||Goals||Avg||Win %||AKI||AHB||AMK||BV|
AFL: 1,522nd player to appear, 745th most games played, 873rd most goals kickedRichmond: 40th player to appear, 39th most games played, 63rd most goals kicked
Hughie James affords a classic example of the value of persistence. He began his senior football career with Essendon Association but, after singularly failing to impress, he was released. His second port of call was Preston, where he also fell short of expectations. It was then that he joined Richmond, which had just finished its debut season in the VFL. This time, James hit his straps right away, and when he finally retired from football 14 years and 188 games later it was with the reputation as one the game's finest - and fairest - ever ruckmen.
Never flustered, Hugh James had that rare ability of always managing to be in the vicinity of the ball when it landed. A superb, one grab mark, he was poised and tidy in almost everything he did - with the notable exception of kicking for goal. James often used to joke about his woefully haphazard goal kicking, but given that he spent a large proportion of his career either resting or playing in the backlines, his career tally of 119 goals looks fairly respectable.
After playing for Richmond from 1909 to 1916, James spent the next couple of years on war service, during which time he was instrumental in organising an exhibition match in London featuring prominent footballers from the various armed services. At the front in 1917 he was awarded the Military Cross and bar, making him the most decorated senior footballer of the Great War.
In 1919 he was back at Punt Road as the Tigers embarked on their first sustained period of greatness since joining the VFL. In 1920, when Richmond overcame Collingwood in the Grand Final by 17 points, James led the first ruck, and was one of the best players afield. The following year brought a second consecutive flag as the Tigers held off a stern challenge from Carlton to win by four points, with James once again performing brilliantly, this time as support in the ruck to captain-coach Dan Minogue.
Admired by opponents and teammates alike because of his consummate sportsmanship, Hugh James retired at the end of the 1923 season, having just won his second Richmond best and fairest award, in order to concentrate on developing his building business.
Author - John Devaney