Local Footy: Mourners flock to Beechworth to see off country sporting legend

Terry Bartel had several nicknames. In his home town, Beechworth, he was known as Ferret because he was small and lively and because he loved to send ferrets down burrows after rabbits. In Wangaratta, where he roved to Mick Nolan in premiership teams with Wangaratta Rovers, he was known as Gipsy because of his penchant to wander. In Geelong, he was known to some teammates at St Mary’s Cricket Club as Kermit because he was said to share the nose of Kermit the Frog. His best mate at St Mary’s, coach and later president Tony Rigg, simply called him Terry.

Everyone who gathered in his name at the Christ Church Anglican Church in Beechworth remembered a great sportsman and generous soul. Bartel died aged 60 on Friday 7 May, after a 20-month battle against cancer. About 700 mourners, a huge congregation in a town of 4000, spilled out of the church as they paid their respects to a man who generated many tales, through his sporting feats, his ability to do lightning calculations when he was a car salesman, his cheek, his flair and his general good humour.

Tony Rigg spoke to the congregation without notes, regaling tale after tale of his friendship with Bartel and their many deeds together in their St Mary’s cricket years. Rigg spoke of Bartel’s whirlwind innings and his capacity to lollop in off an unmarked run-up and make the batsmen hop. Rigg gave an indication of his late friend’s love of a deal when he described a trip a year ago in which Bartel bought a compressor for $500 at a garage sale in Wodonga. On the way back to Beechworth he got on the phone and sold the generator for $700.

In the late 1960s, Frank Marriott was the parish priest at St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Beechworth. During that time, he was Bartel’s teammate at the Beechworth footy and cricket clubs. Now Monsignor Marriott and based in Bendigo, Monsignor Marriott returned to Beechworth to speak at the funeral. His tales included that of a cricket match in which he heard an opposition batsman call his fellow batsman for “an easy two”. Bartel swooped on the ball forward of square and shot it in to wicketkeeper Peter Negri, who whipped off the bails with the batsman well out. The batsman walked off shaking his head.

Monsignor Marriott also spoke of a footy match at King Valley in which he took a diving mark before sprawling forward. An opposition boot was about to meet his head when Bartel put his own boot in the way. The King Valley player kicked Bartel so hard in the ankle that he missed six weeks of footy. Monsignor Marriott told the congregation that his teammate might well have saved his life.

Early this year, Bartel amazed Monsignor Marriott by recalling the details of the match and many of the players in the King Valley team. His memory never failed him to the end.

Vic Rowlands was Bartel’s coach and teammate at the Beechworth Cricket Club as well as the deputy principal at the high school when Bartel was a student there in the mid-1960s. Rowlands was unable to travel from his home in Leongatha to Beechworth for the funeral because his own family matters forced him to Ballarat, but former Beechworth teammate Robert “Tree” Forrest read a eulogy from him.

Rowlands’ eulogy mentions tales of sporting feats as well as the great respect between him and the teenager he believed could have played Test cricket. Relationships between teachers and students who are sporting teammates can be uneasy beyond the school environment, but Rowlands said Bartel was always friendly and respectable even if he, as a teacher, had been forced to tell Bartel off at school because of one of his frequent absences.

To the wider sporting world, Terry Bartel is known as the father of Geelong midfield champion Jimmy. Jimmy went to Beechworth to see his father just before Terry’s death.

The turn-out at Terry’s funeral indicated the love and support he enjoyed from friends and family throughout Victoria.  After the funeral, about 400 retired to the Nicholas Hotel in Beechworth for the wake. Stories were told about Terry Bartel into the night, and they’ll continue to be told for many years.


  1. Peter Flynn says

    Nice Daff.

  2. Andrew Starkie says

    Great piece, daff. Very respectful

  3. Geoff Welch says

    Thank you for your articles which have presented the Terry Bartel that I knew, loved and now fondly remember. There are many thing that could be said about Terry, depending on personal viewpoint, but you have respectfully detailed those things that needed be said about a good person who was unique in so many ways.

  4. Thanks Geoff,

    I appreciate your comments.

    I enjoyed meeting Terry, and wish I could have seen him play footy.

  5. Hi Paul,
    Thankyou for writing Terry’s stories. It gives me comfort to re-read them while sitting at my home with Terry’s photo on display.
    This man is one of the “Most Valuable Friends” I have ever been lucky enough to have met. We met only about 18months before he passed, whilst both sitting in hospital hooked up to chemotherapy. I am a youngish widow with 2 children and without his love and support I dont think I could have survived the gruelling treatment that we underwent. I was fortunate enough to be with Terry and Rona in the last days, he was still caring and worrying about his friends, I have never met anyone so kind and caring as Terry Bartel!

    We spent so much time together in those 18 months and always said we wished we had of met earlier. I am so priviledged to say that Terry was one of my dearest friends and I miss his friendship. I was at his house when you did the first interview and loved hearing his recount of all the great times he had in his younger years.

    Thank you again for telling his story… He will not be forgotten.

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