Jimmy Bartel managed to clock over 300 games for his AFL team Geelong before retiring last year, but it's been adjusting to life as a new dad that has proven the biggest shift. There have been more sleepless nights than the 33-year-old cares to remember, but his son Aston (now 18 months old) could be forgiven for putting Bartel's body clock out of whack. "I really enjoy being a father and I want to be a good one for my son," Bartel says. "I'd never say no to a few more hours to sleep though."
When Bartel played his final game in 2016, he didn't walk onto the field knowing it would be his last, preferring to focus on the preliminary final against the Sydney Swans. But the Cats lost that day and Bartel started thinking that the time was right to move on. In his 14-year career, he played the AFL Premiership three times, won the Brownlow medal in 2007, was inducted into the Geelong Hall of Fame in 2009 and took out a Norm Smith Medal in 2011. "Being acknowledged is certainly a boost to your confidence, but it's not the reason you do what you do as a footy player," he says.
Keeping the family close
Bartel met his wife Nadia at an Australian Grand Prix party in 2008. The pair soon started dating and tied the knot in 2014. She regularly tops best-dressed lists and runs a successful blog Chronicles of Nadia. Living on Victoria's Bellarine Peninsula suits the Bartels. Nadia's parents purchased a home around the corner to be close to their grandson and help with the child minding.
"They always host everyone over on a Monday night. It's our ritual to go over there with Aston and Nadia's brother and sister come along with their partners and it's a great thing to do," he says. "It's usually a beautiful Italian feast and it's about family which is what I'm all about. My mum [Dianne] lives in Geelong so we're all relatively close to one another."
Facing the past
Bartel was recently appointed as an ambassador for the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, following the work he's done raising awareness of domestic violence with The Luke Batty Foundation and Bethany, a Geelong-based family services organisation.
Bartel has never shied from talking about the domestic violence that marred his own upbringing. While he remains close to his mother and sisters, he severed ties with his abusive father Terry who died from cancer in 2010. Witnessing the destruction of alcohol addiction never spurred a desire for the younger Bartel to follow a party lifestyle, preferring to chase his footy dreams and focus on being the best bloke he could be. "The sad reality is that once I spoke about my own experience witnessing domestic violence meant that many others would come up to me and say they had experienced the same thing," says Bartel. "That was an affirmation that I had to do more to raise awareness as so many people related to my story. It's not just a stereotypical case of domestic violence only happens in struggling parts of society – it also happens in the top end of town."
Being a spokesperson comes naturally to Bartel. "I find it hard to say no to organisations I know are overworked and doing the best they can."
He also juggles commentary gigs on 3AW, RSN Radio and Channel 7, and was involved in the Just Think campaign teaching young people to drink alcohol responsibly. "It's not about saying you shouldn't drink at all, but you should do so respectfully of yourself and others," he explains.
"Take care of each other, look out for your mates and don't punch another person with a strike that could end their life, affect yours and everyone involved. You've got to live with the consequences of your actions and senseless violence doesn't rate."
Knowing his priorities
There's a no-nonsense easiness that comes with being Bartel. He's achieved so much for his relatively young years. But there is an area he has been neglecting – and that's putting the finishes touches on his business degree. "I do keep postponing my studies, but it's not out of sheer avoidance. I have many other things going on," he says.
You can add part-time underwear model to his list of achievements, too, as he and Aston have become the latest faces of Bonds in a high-profile campaign launching later this month.
But for now it's all eyes on Aston and focusing on his family. "Becoming a father has taught me that little else matters," he says. "Every decision you make revolves around that child's needs and Nadia and I always put him first and everything else trickles down. Work is important, but family is always number one."