AFL fans often know what they want. Their club is missing a key puzzle piece that could complete their premiership jigsaw whether it be for next year or five years down the track. For those coming off flag success, they want to be sure their draft selections maintain their position as the league’s best. But where do you start? In Compare the Pair, AFL Draft Central’s Matt Balmer and Peter Williams put a case forward for each of two players that are comparable in what they offer to AFL clubs. In other words, they will help AFL fans decipher between one midfielder and another, or players that might be linked whether it through position, skill set or draft range and try and decipher the key differences between them, as well as their own strengths and improvements which clubs will be wary of.
In the first edition of Compare the Pair, they look at Oakleigh Chargers’ Patrick Kerr and Dandenong Stingrays’ Josh Battle, both of whom have arisen as legitimate first round contenders. The two key position forwards are likely to attract plenty of interest, but if who would you pick? The taller, more athletic Patrick Kerr? Or the more accurate, footy brain of Josh Battle?
The case for Patrick Kerr
PATRICK Kerr is one of the few key positioned players in this draft pool who has performed in both his top and bottom age.
In 2015, Kerr jumped on the scene with a four-goal haul on debut for Oakleigh against Geelong Falcons, finishing 2015 with 12 goals at TAC Cup level.
His strengths were already obvious, with his overhead marking and ability to get distance between himself and an opponent the two obvious pointers taken from the tall.
Unlike some of the other key forwards in this year’s draft, Kerr has a real sense of presence inside 50, often taking the ball at its highest point.
Along with his strong marking ability, Kerr is one of the fastest key forwards over 10m which allows for him to draw a significant distance between himself and his defender.
Goal kicking in front of goal hasn’t been Kerr’s strength in 2016, with 7.7 (TAC Cup) and 9.8 (Under 18 Championships). When Kerr’s on, he’s on and is very hard to stop once he gets a run on.
His movement below his legs may have been questioned in the past, but Kerr appears to be over those question marks looking reasonable collecting the ball from below his knees.
At 194cm, Kerr should have no issues playing as a number one tall in the future.
Kerr’s bloodlines run to the Navy Blues after grandfather Lawrie played 149 games and is named in the Carlton Hall of Fame.
His leadership skills too should not be forgotten, where he has vice-captained the Oakleigh Chargers and skippered St Kevin’s College in the APS school football competition. He’s a fine speaker, there is no doubt Kerr will interview well with clubs.
For me, Kerr is going to be a strong player in the future and in my view could almost push Todd Marshall to be the first tall forward selected come November.
The case for Josh Battle
JOSH Battle is a prospect that has caught the eye for many people this season as one of the stand-out players in the 2016 draft crop.
For some reason, perhaps his size or question marks over his exact role at AFL level, Battle seems to have been pegged below both Todd Marshall and Patrick Kerr in the key forward prospects.
While Marshall deserves his number one spot, Battle should be every bit comparable with Kerr even though they are different in what they contribute to their respective teams.
It is true that at 192cm, Battle is unlikely to be that number one forward at an AFL club.
He is more likely to develop into the Jack Gunston type player that can kick a few goals a game, without having to compete with the opposition’s best defender.
One aspect that for me stands Battle heads and shoulders above most key forwards is his football IQ.
The football nous and ability to read the situation well ahead of time and make the right decision for his team is outstanding for a big bloke.
Many times, Battle will assess he is not in the best position to mark, and rather than being spoiled, he will tap the ball to a crumbing forward with more time and space.
If at ground level, Battle has been known to toe poke the ball forward if he believes it will benefit the side more than taking possession.
Along with his football brain, Battle also ticks the boxes needed for a key forward.
He is a strong contested mark, leads well and a reliable set shot for goal.
The other aspect holding him back is his movement as he is not the most agile player for a medium size, but his work rate and reading of the play is able to make up for his lack of agility.
Battle might not be the monster key forward that clubs cry out for, but he could very well boot 50 plus goals a year as a third forward simply because he does the basics right.
Throw in his football IQ and if he drifts into the second round, it is daylight robbery.
For me, Battle is a very strong prospect and would add to any forward line in the AFL, which is why I rate him as the best medium-key forward in the draft.
With Kerr you are getting a strong key positioned forward who can play as the number one tall going forward at AFL level. A strong overhead mark and quick on the lead makes him a tough opponent for any AFL defender.
With Battle, you are drafting a medium tall who will develop into that third tall forward. A strong contested mark and reliable set shot, Battle’s greatest attribute is his high IQ, which adds a point of difference to the mix.
Overall, both players offer plenty to AFL clubs and it will be interesting to see which one is plucked out first, and which one forges the more successful career.
Based on their junior development, both are ready to hit the biggest stage and have an impact, with fans of their future clubs likely to be delighted with whichever one they draft.