On the sidelines of any Saskatchewan Roughriders practice, spectators will notice athletic trainers, piles of equipment and cases of water bottles.
A few feet away will be Josh Bartel.
Chances are the Roughriders punter isn’t alone. Wherever Bartel goes, conversation and laughter usually follow.
That’s part of a punter’s job – especially during the rigours of training camp – keep the mood light and don’t take yourself too seriously.
It’s also helped Bartel get the reputation as the Roughriders’ funniest player.
“There’s a couple other reputations getting around that I’m not too proud of, but I’ll take this one. The funny one is good,” Bartel said.
What are those other ones?
“Don’t worry about, it’s all good,” he added with a chuckle.
That’s how the conversation with Bartel started. It provided a fitting example of a man who speaks honestly at every turn.
“I suppose being the punter, I’ve got a little time to clown around, so this job suits me perfectly. With my personality, it just ties in nice.”
Bartel isn’t a typical professional football player.
Making his way to the CFL from Kiewa, Australia, the 33-year-old is one of a select group of Aussies to lace up for football teams in North America.
In a country where Australian rules football (more affectionately known as footy) and rugby reign supreme, Bartel made the transition to gridiron football later in life. With some help from Google, Bartel’s mother was able to find a kicking coach in nearby Melbourne.
After compiling a video of his kicks and workouts, Bartel’s coach was able to send the video to Drew Allemang, an executive with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Bartel adapted quickly to football on this side of the planet, earning East Division all-star nods in his first two seasons.
He said kicking in the CFL game has been easier, as he doesn’t have to worry about getting levelled in the high-speed collisions common to rugby and Aussie rules football.
“It was pretty easy because all I gotta do is kick it really and I get paid for it,” he said with a grin.
After six years in the CFL, Bartel isn’t losing any of his comedic momentum, or his audience among teammates. All he does is share some common Aussie catchphrases to get some laughter:
“Take the piss out of me.”
Those are just a couple sayings he uses to get teammates smiling in confusion.
So, where does that sense of humour come from?
“Well, it’s definitely not Hus, he’s not rubbing off on me at all,” Bartel said. “He tries jokes, but he’s just terrible.”
That’s a jab at long-snapper Jorgen Hus, the player who gets to spend the most time with Bartel on and off the field.
After five years in the CFL, Bartel was promised off-season visits by dozens of teammates. Hus was the first one to make the trip. Just in time for Bartel’s wedding.
“He was pretty dangerous, he went on a pretty good run,” Bartel said of Hus’ impression on his Australian family and friends.
Hus said his cause was aided by introducing Bartel’s fellow Australian friends to beer darts, the popular backyard summer game.
“It turned into this backyard phenomenon,” Hus said. “60 people were playing at some point, it went all day, all night.”
Spending time with his punter in a different continent gave Hus a different perspective of Bartel.
“He’s a funny guy and I get where he gets it all from,” he said. “His family was all the same way.”
“Everyone’s joking, just taking the piss out of each other.”
It’s evident how Bartel rubs off on his closest teammate. Two years together and Hus is already talking like an Aussie.
Hus remembered wondering how on earth he ended up paired with the humorous punter when he first met Bartel.
“When he got here, I couldn’t figure him out. He was just joking around all the time. I couldn’t stop laughing,” Hus said.
Hus, Bartel and placekicker Tyler Crapigna lived together last season and plan to do the same this season.
One might think spending every moment of practice together, then going home with the same group throughout the season would strain a relationship.
Not for these three.
“It would be a little bit awkward if we didn’t see eye-to-eye, but I just think it’s a special (teams) thing,” Bartel said. “We spend so much time together, you get along with each other or it’s going to be a long season.”
“Plus, this is one of the best jobs I’ve ever had and ever will have, so that makes it easy.”
After delivering the praise for his teammates, Bartel even managed to end his interview with a wisecrack:
“You’re making me sound all emotional and mushy, we have to delete this.”