James Battersby (Sturt)
Player comparison: Brett Deledio
Strengths: Handskills, ball winning ability
Weaknesses: Kicking, speed, size
James Battersby was hardly talked about before the Championships this year but after a series of excellent performances he has risen rapidly up many draft boards. Battersby gained All-Australian selection for his roles on a half back flank for South Australia despite being a very promising midfielder in the SANFL for Sturt.
Despite his small size Battersby has been holding his own for Sturt in the SANFL seniors. He is frequently in the top possession getters on the ground and certainly doesn’t look out of place against the bigger bodies. Alongside James Aish he has been the best performed of the few prospects who have played senior football this year.
Battersby plays his SANFL football as a midfielder, often starting off in the seeping role and is an excellent clearance player. He reads the ball well of the ruckman’s hands and can also rove to the opposition ruckman if he needs to. However a lot of his kicks out of the centre are quite rushed and as a result he tends to blaze away to nobody. His field kicking is neat enough but he tends to be quite hurried and gets underneath the ball, sitting it up on the head of his target which could be a problem at AFL level. He his one of the better kicks on his opposite foot in the draft this year and hits targets on his left side with ease. He backs himself on his left side and doesn’t carelessly kick it off one step as many young guys are prone to doing.
Battersby is not blessed with natural pace or acceleration and seems to get caught a lot which results in him rushing his kicks or having to dish off a last minute handball. Defensively he tends to be quite lazy and his tackling pressure is a little relaxed. His tackles are not the strongest and while they stick, he doesn’t have the size or strength to put people into the turf and make the really feel it.
One of Battersby’s best attributes is his vision and decision making, particularly in traffic. Countless times Battersby has looked like he was about to be dragged down by a tackle only for him to fire off a handball to a man in space. He has an exceptional ability to release runners into space with perfectly weighted handpasses. I find Battersby to much more dangerous when he handballs out of contested situations rather than throwing the ball onto his boot.
Battersby is exceptionally versatile and can play at both ends of the field and in the midfield and have an impact in all of these positions. As a forward he is dangerous because he reads the flight of the ball so well and is at the feet of the key forwards more often than not. As a midfielder he has elite ball winning ability and great decision making skills. As a defender he provides run and carry and is a great link up player, kick starting many forward thrusts for his team.
Battersby was taken by Geelong at pick 53 in the Bound For Glory News Rising Stars Phantom Draft because he provides midfield depth and can plug a hole wherever the Cats need him. He has a lot of upside and is likely to improve a lot in the next few years and eventually he will replace the likes of Joel Corey and Jimmy Bartel in the Geelong midfield.