The times, they are a’changin’ in the AFL at the moment, and a tumultuous Trade Period has just seen another turn with the announcement that Geelong champion Jimmy Bartel will retire effective immediately, after a glittering and perhaps unparalleled career at the Cattery.

Bartel had been mulling his options over since the conclusion of the season and at one stage seemed like playing on for one more year, but the prospect of spending time in the VFL in his final footballing season was not exactly an attractive one. His retirement today brings to a close a 305 game career that reaped 202 goals, 3 AFL Premierships, two All-Australian selections, a Norm Smith Medal in 2011, and a Brownlow Medal in 2007.
Bartel was selected seventh overall in the 2001 AFL Draft, the so-called “superdraft” that also yielded future legends of the game like Luke Hodge, Chris Judd, Luke Ball, Steve Johnson, Nick Dal Santo, James Kelly, Sam Mitchell, Leigh Montagna, Gary Ablett Jnr, and Brian Lake, laying the foundations for success for not only Geelong, but Hawthorn and St Kilda as well.
Recently, Bartel had been utilising his public profile to raise awareness and support for family and domestic violence, growing his hair and beard for an entire twelve month period in a display of solidarity and recognition of his own familial experiences with DV as a child; efforts that were rewarded at this year’s Brownlow Medal count with the highly regarded Jim Stynes Community Leadership Award.
In a statement made on the Cats website, Bartel was at pains to stress how long this decision took for him.

“I wanted to take my time once the season finished before I made this decision. I am forever grateful to have been drafted by the Cats and I hope in some way to have repaid the faith that was shown in me all those years ago.”

“While I feel I still have more to give, I understand the bigger picture and respect the direction the club wants to move in. So therefore I have decided the time is now right to retire from the game.”

“Over the past 15 years I have played out every dream I ever had and I leave the game satisfied that I have given everything I had in every game. To have played with my home town club and to have shared in the success we have had has been an incredible experience.”

Meanwhile Cats senior coach Chris Scott paid tribute to the retiring 32-year-old, lauding him as an “icon” of the club.

“Jimmy is the embodiment of what a footballer should be. He was fearless, could play multiple roles for the good of the team and was adaptable in a changing game.”

“Jimmy will rightly go down as an icon of the Geelong Football Club, and he has left a lasting mark on all those that he has played with over the past 15 seasons. [He] was always prepared and as history has shown, he was at his best in the biggest moments and the biggest games.”

At this stage, Bartel has not (at least publicly) indicated a desire to maintain a post-retirement role in the AFL, whether it be coaching or associated support staff.

But for the time being, for a champion and universally respected player of Bartel’s calibre, a well-earned retirement, and the Hall of Fame, now awaits.
Cheers, Jimmy. One of the few who left the game richer than when he found it. Football owes him a great debt.

Photo: Adam Trafford/Getty.