FORMER Wodonga footballer Josh Bartel is a step closer to becoming an NFL punter after being selected in the Canadian Football League’s eastern division All-Star team.
Bartel proved one of the surprise packets of the league by averaging 42.8 yards in his rookie season with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats with mentor Nathan Chapman confident he will make further inroads next year.
The All-Star team was selected by 70 voters, including CFL head coaches, members of the Football Reporters of Canada and fans.
“He’s done a really solid job,” Chapman said yesterday.
“It’s well deserved.
“He exceeded their expectations but probably not his own.
“He has done a good job but he knows he can still do better.”
Bartel, who has spent almost two years pursuing his punting dream under Prokick Australia’s program, is now in contention to make the CFL All-Stars which will be announced next month.
His Hamilton teammates receiver Chris Williams, running back Avon Cobourne, guard Peter Dyakowski, linebacker Renaud Williams and kicker Luca Congi also made the All-Star team.
“Making the final CFL All-Stars would be cream on the top,” Chapman said.
“The conditions in Canada are really difficult and he’s done well already.
“We talk every week to look at his technique and do a lot of work over the internet.”
Bartel, who has a two-year deal at Hamilton with the option of a third, spent three months trialling in the US last year with the Green Bay Packers expressing some interest.
But a lock-out — when the NFL and its players could not agree to a new agreement — has been a major setback in his chances of being picked up.
Bartel played for Kiewa-Sandy Creek, Murray Bushrangers and Wodonga before quitting the Ovens and Murray in 2010 to pursue gridiron.
Former AFL players Sav Rocca, Ben Graham and Darren Bennett have been successful as punters in recent years.