On Wednesday, October 19, Jimmy Bartel announced his retirement from AFL football.
While there was the possibility for Bartel to continue into 2017 at the Cats, with an option for a further 12 months in his contract, he and the club made the call for the 32-year-old, 305-game veteran to hang up the boots.
Bartel made his debut for the Cats in 2002, after being selected with Geelong’s first selection, pick eight overall in the 2001 AFL Draft from the Geelong Falcons.
He played 11 games in his debut season, however, it took until the second half of 2004 for Bartel to fully establish himself in the Cats’ best 22, and he excelled in doing so, polling 13 Brownlow Medal votes from Round 11 onwards that year.
In Round 19 in particular, Bartel shone brightly, cracking the 30 disposal barrier with 35 disposals against Richmond at the MCG. He went to another level in the pressure-cooker of finals football in Geelong’s 10-point Semi Final win over Essendon, with a team high 33 disposals, including 20 contested, and eight tackles.
From then on, Bartel’s durability shone through, as he never played less than 20 games in a season until 2015, where he suffered a medial ligament tear which sidelined him for much of the season.
It’s easy to look back on the accolades and awards he received over his time in the game, with three premierships, as a two-time All-Australian, and winner of the 2007 Brownlow Medal and 2011 Norm Smith Medal, but that doesn’t tell the full story.
The sight of Bartel often in a long sleeved Cats’ guernsey harked back to a different era. He was seen to be one of the best wet-weather players in the game, and when it really mattered in front of goal, Bartel would get the job done more often than not.
It isn’t all that difficult to imagine Bartel plying his trade in the Cats’ premiership teams of the 1950’s and 60’s and fitting in without missing a beat, he was that sort of player.
Kardinia Park was always a happy home for Bartel, so much that during his 15 years of senior football, he only played in 13 losing sides.
Importantly, despite the Cats’ surrendering to the Sydney Swans in the Preliminary Final, Bartel still was able to have an impact on the game with 26 touches and a clever goal.
Often when players exit the game it is not on their own terms, one only has to look at North Melbourne and the departure of games record holder Brent Harvey, but it is always nice if a player still has some juice left in the tank.
It is better to have people question if they could have gone on, as opposed to asking, why did they go on?
Jimmy Bartel has become one of the games most loved figures and his retirement from AFL football is sad to a degree, but also offers an opportunity to see how else he can inspire others with his deeds and actions off the field.
It has been a great ride, and we are all the better as footy fans that we were able to witness it.
Indeed, we wish farewell to a football great in Jimmy Bartel.