06/21/2013 11:48 EDT | Updated 08/21/2013 05:12 EDT

Ticats punter Josh Bartel looks to build on impressive rookie season

HAMILTON - Hamilton Tiger-Cats punter Josh Bartel wasn't sure what to expect in his first CFL season.

He was new to the country and new to the Canadian game. It didn't take him long to catch on.

Bartel recorded a 42.8-yard average with the Ticats last year and was named to the CFL East Division all-star team. Not bad for a rookie punter who developed his kicking prowess by playing footy — or Australian rules football — in his native land Down Under.

"At the start of last year I was very nervous the first four to five games," Bartel said in a recent interview. "I was very nervous that I (might get) cut. So this year I'm going to go in with a lot more confidence and (will) be a lot more aggressive as well."

Bartel reached the semi-pro level in Australia and got his Canadian football break thanks to a former coach who had a contact with the Ticats. Bartel spent over a year working on his punting style and the team gave him a look at training camp last year.

He made the squad and was impressive in game action. Bartel played in all 18 regular-season games and finished third in the CFL in punting.

The six-foot-three, 200-pounder has the power to generate distance and hang time but he's also quite accurate. When punting from midfield, he'll often use an end-over-end style Australian rules drop kick to pin the opposing team deep in its own end.

"We've grown up since we were kids kicking that," Bartel said. "It's almost like walking for the Australian rules boys. It's good fun, it's easy to control, the risk for me is minimal. I'd like to use it a lot more."

Head coach Kent Austin likes Bartel's consistency.

"He's an excellent punter," he said. "He's very, very sound fundamentally and he has great height on his punts. He's a two-step punter so it's very, very difficult to block his punts. He also has the ability to directional punt extremely well.

"So he's kind of the full package."

Bartel, an amiable 27-year-old, has more of a feel for the Canadian game now that he has a full season under his belt. He's certainly more comfortable on the gridiron than this time last year.

"I remember my first week in training camp, the first training camp I'd ever been to. Probably didn't speak a word for the first week, I don't think," he said. "I was that nervous. I wouldn't say overwhelmed but just nervous pretty much. It was something different. My first exhibition game at Ivor Wynne (Stadium), my first four kicks I can't even remember them.

"I just caught it and tried to kick it as fast as I could before I got hit. I was very nervous that game. I'm just glad I got through it."

Steeltown is quite different from his hometown in Australia. Bartel previously lived on his family's dairy farm in a small town about a four-hour drive from Melbourne.

"I like the country life, I'm a country boy at heart," he said. "It's always good to get home in the off-season and catch up with family."

Playing pro football in the CFL was not the career path he expected to take.

"Five or 10 years ago I didn't have a clue what I was going to do," he said. "I'm pretty glad I chose this path because it's the best job I've ever had. You get paid nicely to travel around Canada and play this pretty cool sport. I love it actually."

And if he weren't playing football?

"I don't have a clue, I don't actually want to think about that actually," Bartel said with a laugh. "I was selling tires in town. ... I don't really want to go back there so hopefully this goes well."