DOB: 5 October 1976
From: Ballarat YCW/Ballarat U18/Old Xaverians, Selection 51, 1996 Rookie Draft
Games: 251 (264 total)
Goals: 56 (60 total)
The younger brother of Anthony and Alex (a younger brother played in the VFL with North Ballarat) had a hard road to senior football and had to fight a battle against chronic fatigue syndrome before eventually being selected by the Demons with a speculative late rookie draft pick after being spotted playing in the amateurs.
He instantly impressed and was promoted from the rookie list to debut in 1997 after Paul Prymke was forced onto the long term injury list with a back complaint. As a hard-working midfielder he became a consistent member in the side but was unlucky to miss the 2000 finals series after seriously injuring his knee in the round 19 clash with St. Kilda.
Returning in 2001, McDonald reestablished himself in the side over the next few years, finishing second in the 2003 Best and Fairest before having his best season in 2006. He broke the AFL tackle record and was named an All-Australian as well as playing in the Aussie International Rules team. On the home front he took home his first best and fairest award before repeating the feat a year later.
With the retirement of David Neitz early in 2008 McDonald was named co-captain, alongside Cameron Bruce for the rest of the year and was given the role in his own right for 2009. He retained the job for 2010 but announced his retirement on August 19 of that year, the week that he became just the 7th Demon to play 250 games.
The McDonald brothers were only the third set of three brothers to play 100 games of VFL/AFL football, after the Morwoods and Danihers.
In February 2011 McDonald joined Greater Western Sydney as a mentor for their Melbourne based players and joined the AFL tribunal Match Review panel. After playing for Old Xaverians during the season McDonald announced that he would make a comeback in 2012 with GWS as a playing assistant coach.
He was selected by the Giants with pick 87 in the 2011 National Draft and made his debut for them in their opening match. He played 13 matches for the season before retiring for a second time at the end of the year to move into an assistant coaching role. He retired from coaching at the end of 2014 to join the Agribusiness industry, and returned as a senior coach for Old Xaverians in 2017.
|Round 9, 2001||Wrestling||$1200 fine|
|Round 9, 2003||Wrestling||$2500 fine|
|Round 2, 2004||Wrestling||Not Guilty|
|Round 8, 2005||Melee||$1500 fine|
|Round 6, 2010||Striking||Reprimand|
"Not one to die wondering" - The Sunday Age 16/07/2000
"Demon stalwart McDonald to retire" - The Age 19/08/2010
"Veteran James McDonald has been lured back to AFL by GWS" - The Australian 15/09/2011