Mark Heenan 6 March 2003

Copyright of Mark Heenan (mark_heenan@hotmail.com). Mark is currently studying Journalism (in Mass Communications) at Holmesglen TAFE and is an inspiring sports Journalist. Mark has worked in the sports department at K-Rock, Channel 7 and Channel 10. He can be contacted at the email address given above.

In a time where a majority of AFL clubs place an enormous amount interest in drafting some of the best young talent available in the country, the Geelong Football Club is no exception. The young Cats who have performed admirably this season, with Mark Thomson's philosophy on throwing youngsters into the AFL limelight so early in their career, has paid immediate dividends."

One youngster who has risen to that challenge is 18 year-old James Bartel. James came to prominence in Round 4 of this season against St.Kilda when the former Geelong Falcon and dual U/18 All Australian was awarded a Norwich Rising star nomination.

Bartel was the Geelong Football Club's first pick in the 2001 National draft, and despite his football allegiances going back with local Geelong Football League club Bell Park, the talented on baller is yet another graduate of St.Joseph's College in Geelong. Bartel joins Cameron Ling, Matthew Scarlett, and retired Cat Barry Stoneham whom all have attended the all-boys College institution."

James Bartel's reflects on his Schooling days at St.Joseph's College. "St.Joeys - I did not know what to expect when I first went there, being an all boys school and everything but in the end it was probably you know six of my best years of my life. Like they provided me with a lot of opportunities through sport and as well as academic that was suited for me, I met a lot of great people there, still friends with them all who are great support to me actually outside of football. I can't speak of highly enough of St.Joeys."

In 2000 and 2001, James was an integral part of the Geelong Falcons football club. The Geelong Falcons is one of 14 clubs that make up the VFL U/18 TAC Cup competition, which is recognised as Australia's premier junior football competition. Geelong Falcons Regional Manager and former Geelong champion Michael Turner says the Falcons has a proud history of nurturing a number of quality AFL footballers.

Mick Turner on the Falcons success rate of developing AFL footballers " Later in the year we pick a team of the decade, it will be a team that's definitely capable of playing finals if not winning a premiership that's how good the side it is, when you've got your Scott Lucas's and Heffernan's, Jonathon Brown's and Hodge's and all those sort of players, you put them in the one side, it's a pretty good team. We're certainly in the top 4 clubs in Australia of providing AFL players to clubs, so we've been pretty successful at it and that's our main aim. "

James Bartel thoughts on the Geelong Falcons " Guess to play with the best from Geelong down to Warrnambool was incredible that's had some quality players across all lines. Just real really good quality football, I think we were a pretty successful side, like a very strong side in my two years their. It made it a lot more enjoyable knowing that sides coming against the Falcons they had a real feeling that we were going to be a dominant side against them. I think just the history of the Falcons is pretty outstanding I think this only is the first year maybe even the second that they've missed the finals in what eleven years. It's a proud club I was just happy to be a part of it. "

In 2000 James aspirations to play at AFL level were significantly boosted after winning the Falcons Best & Fairest and being a member of their Premiership side.

Comments from Mick Turner about knowing when James was ready to play AFL footy. " We pretty much knew when James was 17 and playing really well for the Falcons, as a 17 year-old and that year when we won the Grand Final and we pretty much then I mean he would of got drafted that year, we pretty much knew when he was 16 or 17 you know he was going to play AFL footy."

In 2000 James was selected in the Victoria Football League's U/18 Team of the year, represented Victoria Country, was named as the No.1 player at the AFL U/18 championships and earned an All Australian Under 17 guernsey. As a result James gained a lot of leadership skills out of this experience with a captain's role beckoning in 2001 at the Geelong Falcons. James also had the honour of leading the Vic Country side at last year's Junior National Football Championships. "

James Bartel speaks about his captaincy at the Geelong Falcons & Victoria country" I kept doing my usual thing, but, obviously you've got to be a leader in the way you do it, but thing is I understood different players appreciate different sort of warm ups, some players like to be really quiet in the corner and some like to be psyched up I sort of adjusted for different people, but when it came time to speak everyone really respected me which I liked and I had a listen when I spoke and think that's why I got the Vic Country leadership as well. In my second year when I got named captain, people get named captain of any state side like under age level your always remember as a captain and it almost goes before they say your name, it was a massive honour."

Geelong Falcons coach Damien Christensen says James may have been a quiet leader at first, but as soon as his confidence grew in his own football ability, many of his other team mates began to developed a new found respect for him.

Comments from Damien Christensen on James Bartel's leadership skills " Look James is a very quiet sort of a bloke initially and grew into the captaincy's role as his confidence grew in his own football. Look he was a good captain in that he lead on the field very well, off the field he set good examples you know he wasn't such a 'raahhh rahhhh' sort of a player, he just had a great desire to win and that feed through the club. "

As well as juggling a promising AFL career with the Cats, and a having a job within the club's social welfare department James Bartel is still your average teenager that attends to University. After completing his VCE education at St.Joseph's College in 2001, James is now studying a Bachelor of Social Work at Geelong's Deakin University.

James Bartel on juggling his study commitments with an AFL career " I am doing a Bachelor of Social work and that also ties in within some of the work I do for the club and I really that sort of thing. Studying in the first semester it wasn't too bad because when I think about it it's going to probably to take me 6 or maybe more years to actually finish a degree because it's only two subjects part time and that's all you can manage to fit in between training and your travelling back in forth. In my second year where it's finals around finals time I'll take Uni off, and I do a bit of labouring work just to keep the fitness up again for the off season. You know just trying to make time for study, but it's tough you only do two subjects where you get them done and you slowly you get your way through it."

In addition to his part-time University commitments, the constant travel that goes with being an AFL footballer is something that James Bartel has had to become accustomed to. This was best exemplified when the Geelong youngster flew to Perth as an emergency for the Fremantle match in Round 20 this season and then had to travel to Bendigo the next day to play for Geelong's VFL side.

Adjusting to the travelling of AFL Football " That Perth trip was a funny one, I had to go over I was the one emergency just in case I didn't get to watch any of the game against Fremantle as soon as they ran out I jumped in a cab half an hour to the airport, flew back, come back from Melbourne to Geelong and then jumped on a bus to Bendigo to play. It was a bit tiring I hit the wall late Sunday night, I had to sleep for the next day but I don't know you just have to adjust football is football, that's part and parcel to how we play now, so if you can't adjust you can't be really in it, you will might as well go and play local footy where it is a 5 minute trip. "

Whilst James is a very promising and dedicated footballer, he is very much aware of the positive influence his family has had on his career. In particular his mother who has driven James across the state with various sporting commitments.

People who have had the most influence on James Bartel's career so far like his Mum " Yep Mum's been fantastic Mum raised myself and I've got two older sisters and I think she has done a magnificent job as well as being a primary school teacher and all that I think also helped her keep me in line. Mum was brilliant for a woman she knows a hell of a lot about football my Mum and Dad never pressured me or anything if I wanted advice or anything you know it's easy to come to them and speak to them. The amount of times Mum's had to get up early and drive me to football and cricket across the state, it was just amazing. You don't understand it or comprehend how much they go to help you out. "

The mother of James Bartel, Mrs Bartel says despite giving up a lot of her own time to ensure James was able to play representative sport, she believes in the end it was a positive because it gave her more opportunity to spend time with her son.

Comments from the mother of James Bartel about her involvement in transporting James across Victoria with his sporting commitments " It is a huge amount of time, but it's something that I guess any parent doesn't really look at, as in your giving up you know some of your own time to do this, it's a package deal it's part of being family. It's not so much what does it take out of you, what does it take away from you it's so much, it's probably a plus because you get that little bit more enrichment from, just spending that time sharing something with them. "

As well as being a top line junior football player, James was also a gifted cricketer in his days at St.Josephs College. He represented the school in first eleven cricket with distinction, winning the school's batting average in 2000 and 2001. However James claims that Football was always his first preference because he enjoyed that physicality and the team orientation.

Why James Bartel's chose football over cricket. " I like the aggressive side of football and I also like the team spirit and all that, yeah you like get that in cricket. Cricket to I reckon a huge extent is still an individual game where all the individuals bring the scores and wickets together. "

James admits that he has enjoyed playing in a variety of different positions whether it has been club or representative footy, but the 18 year-old says he would love nothing more than to be the starting centre at Geelong one day.

Bartel's position in the Geelong side and why he likes to play " I love being the centreman I like the pivot or you know being like in that key post there. Instead of playing centre and then onto the bench I've been you know Centre onto a back flank played a lot a cross the backline which I like, a bit up half forward trying to kick a few goals which I don't mind half forward because I played a lot of it in school football, so that never phased me but probably the centre, I like to be the starting the centre one day. "

Michael Turner is of the view that James will have to play somewhere near his best to tie down a regular position on the ball in the next couple of years, with an influx of depth in young talent available at Geelong.

Mick Turner's prediction where the Cats will be in the next couple years with James Bartel in the Geelong's mix " Look Geelong will have very good midfield because they've got James Kelly you know Corey Enright, Joel Corey and Cameron Ling and James Bartel and Gary Ablett and Kelly and those fellows and David Spriggs coming back off injury so you know they are going to have a fantastic on ball division but at the same time he is going to have to fight for his spot look he will, once you have played well at AFL level you will be able to do it again, because the only that will stop you is maybe a bit of lack of confidence and injury, as he gets older, he doesn't turn 19 til December so he's still 18, by the time his 22 Jimi Bartel will be a great player. "

Damien Christensen says while he expected James to play AFL senior footy this year, the Falcons coach believes James can improve next season by going away and working on his opponent's strengths.

Damien Christensen on James Bartel's performance this year and where he can improve in the future:

" I expected him to play league footy this year, I expected him to do a little less through the midfield and little bit more off and on the bench, probably would have seem him in different roles rather than start on the ball in the midfield and go head to head with players I thought that was a great learning curve for him. I just think he could go away at the end of this year just work on the opponents he met so far and their strengths and what he needs to do to get to their area. "

James main goals in the next few years is to get bigger and fitter, but the ambitious teenager says he's not interested in just making the minor improvements.

Bartel's goals ambitions in the next couple years. "Pretty much get bigger and fitter which happen this year. (4 second gap) I was probably 70 per cent better player than I was last year and I like to get another 80 per cent on top of that. I wanted to take leaps forward I don't want to slowly just get gradually forward, I want to take over really quickly which I have always wanted. I hate gradual improvement I like to really work my arse off and get twice as good "

In 2002, James played a total of 11 AFL senior games for the Cats, won a Norwich Rising star nomination, polled 3 votes in the Brownlow Medal and was a member of Geelong's VFL premiership side that defeated Port Melbourne.

James has certainly made a promising start to his AFL career for Geelong this season and with his hard work ethic and desire to reach the top, the 18 year-old looks set to be a star of the future.





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