By PAUL MILLAR
JIMMY Bartel doesn’t fit the bill of a high profile AFL star preparing for his 250th game.
Something’s seriously missing.
There was no swagger, no cockiness as the 30-year-old prepared for a milestone appearance in the Cats’ AFL season opener against Adelaide on his home patch.
Bartel is the well-grounded local boy who plays down the accolades; he quietly acknowledges his achievements yet prefers to credit others for the glories of his team and how he escalated to become regarded as one of Geelong’s best-ever players.
Nobody has a bad word for the former St Joseph’s boy whose talent was obvious when he played at Bell Park. The Norm Smith medallist is more inclined to praise others than take a cheap shot, on and off the park.
He’s carefully watched the evolution of former teammate Gary Ablett into superstar status, like a spectator of the game who finds pleasure in the success of others.
“I’ve probably enjoyed his success and watching him play more than my own,’’ Bartel said this week.
When he first entered Kardinia Park as a prospective player, not a ticket holder, he was apprehensive – it was the same stadium where he had stood on the terraces in awe of his idols.
He recalls kicking the ball to club legends during training sessions.
“I was not quite sure what to call them. I didn’t feel like I had earned the respect to call them by their nickname, it was first-name basis,’’ he said.
He admitted doing it tough in the early days, taking more than two years to find his place at the club.
Again he credited his teammates for his success and development, rattling off a roll-call including Matthew Scarlett, James Kelly, Corey Enright, Joel Corey and Cameron Ling.
“I’ve been around a lot of good players that have made me look good,” Bartel said.
“I’ve made friends for life ever since I walked in the door.’’
Those friends extend beyond the inner-sanctum of the club, with spectators hoping he will kick on until he reaches the 300-game mark.
But, in football parlance, Bartel is still taking it one game at a time.
“I’ll just get 250 done with”.