He’s one of round 19’s less significant milestone men, but Jimmy Bartel’s 300th AFL game is still very much worth savouring.
Brent Harvey’s 427th match and Matthew Pavlich’s 350th leave Bartel in the shade on a weekend where the AFL will celebrate the longevity of several legends of the game.
Bartel isn’t even the most celebrated player in his own milestone match.
On Friday night against the Western Bulldogs, defender Corey Enright will take the mantle of most games played in a Geelong shirt from Ian Nankervis with his 326th appearance.
But Bartel isn’t fussed, saying he’s delighted to be sharing the occasion.
“I couldn’t think of any better way to do it, especially (with) Corey Enright, an absolute legend of the game,” he said.
The 32-year-old said he could still remember his debut in 2002.
“Playing on Smokin’ Joe Misiti. My first kick was a clanger. A smother. About five minutes later Dustin Fletcher cleaned me up,” he laughed.
“And we lost by 10 goals.”
More than a decade on, Bartel has made up for a scrappy first game.
A key cog in Geelong’s premiership machine, he has three flags, a Brownlow and a Norm Smith medal in the trophy cabinet.
Bartel says he’s found motivation from the very few who have taken pot-shots at his ability, who’ve called him “not athletic”, too slow or “not skilled enough”.
“I’ve always had people telling me what I can’t do in football. I have had to prove a lot of people wrong throughout my career,” he said.
“I sort of enjoyed that. It has always given me a little bit of a chip on my shoulder.”
As he nears the end, Bartel says he’s unsure whether to play on in 2017, insisting he hasn’t thought about it as he focuses on a fourth flag.
But he knows he won’t be around to challenge Harvey, or perhaps even Pavlich.
“Playing another 130 games than what I’ve got now? No thanks.”
In a career jam-packed with highlights, Bartel says the premierships and the camaraderie sit on top of the pile.
“I’ve got to play with some absolute legends of the game,” he said.
“That’s something I can brag to my kids about. I wasn’t a hack. I actually got to play some footy with these champs.”