AFLPA Regional Manager Jimmy Toumpas played two seasons with newly-signed Gold Coast player James Tsitas at Woodville West-Torrens in the SANFL. Toumpas has penned this column for aflplayers.com.au to offer an in-depth insight into the character who has the self-appointed nickname of the ‘cheat code’.
Words from Jimmy Toumpas
Halfway through the 2020 SANFL season, our coach (Woodville West Torrens coach Jade Sheedy) gave me a call and wanted to get my thoughts on whether we should get James Tsitas to the footy club.
With the VFL season cancelled because of the ongoing lockdowns that were going on in Victoria, James – who had signed with Williamstown for the 2020 season (after several seasons with Geelong’s VFL side) – was looking to continue to play footy in another state.
I remembered his name being in the Vic Country squad, because he was a year behind me in the AFL Draft, but I didn’t know him well at all.
‘Sheeds’ gave me a bit of a rundown on what he had accomplished in his football career. At that point we were super excited to get him on board, but we didn’t know him from a bar of soap.
I remember giving him a call when he was in isolation in a hotel in Adelaide and I got off the phone to him 45 minutes later because he wouldn’t shut up and that was my first experience with ‘Changa’ (Tsitas).
When he got out of isolation we had our Wednesday main training day and he got there about an hour and a half earlier than everyone else.
Before we actually started training, he’d run almost six or seven kilometers. He’d finally got out of ‘iso’ so he was like a kid in the candy store and he was super excited to show us what he was about.
Despite acknowledging to me before the session started that he was ‘gassed’, I watched him through training and he was the best player on the track.
The leadership group came together after training and we knew he didn’t have much behind him in terms of training, but we all recognised that he was that impressive and that we had to get him into the senior team straightaway.
He ended up playing that week and played really well against West Adelaide.
‘Changa’ is a very out there, confident and bubbly person and that confidence and energy built up over those six months he was with us in 2020, and when it came to the 2021 season everyone knew what he was about and he was just able to be himself and play his natural game and that’s what he was able to do in 2021 to win our best and fairest award and the Magarey Medal (the SANFL’s best and fairest award).
Initially he can be a bit confronting because he’s not afraid to tell other players what to do and push people to be better in different aspects of the game or at training. But once you do get to understand his character and his drive he only wants the best out of himself and his team.
He calls himself the ‘Cheat Code’ in third person, which is different, but as a personal trainer away from footy he got some of the boys on board and they started doing some ‘Cheat Code’ PT sessions with him.
He has this inner belief that he can match it with the best, so after proactively contacting clubs at the top level after the 2021 season it is little wonder Gold Coast filled their last spot with him via the AFL’s supplemental selection period.
Knowing how hard he’s trained and the way he changed our team’s culture with his work ethic and determination, I know he’s going to make the most of the opportunity that’s been given to him.
Changa’s going to be a big loss for us at Woodville, but I can’t wait to see what he achieves in his AFL career at the Suns.