THE STURT Football Club demands three things from its players: you don't fall over, you take the ball cleanly and you give the handball on the up.

James Battersby is accomplished in all three areas, allowing the 17-year-old to play five League games for Sturt at the start of the year and to earn Under-18 All-Australian honours after an outstanding National Championships for South Australia.

Battersby's ability to take the ball cleanly, and use it constructively when under pressure, stood out above others.

"It's probably not a real surprise to us, we hold him in very high regard. He really is just a super kid," Sturt talent manager Colin Casey told

Despite his relative inexperience, Battersby did not miss a beat in pre-season training with the Double Blues.

He worked his way into the League side for the trial matches and impressed enough to be given a guernsey for round one.

That was as a midfielder. He excelled in an entirely different role from half-back during the Championships. The 17-year-old averaged 19.2 dispoals and operated at an exceptional 86.5 per cent efficiency through the carnival.

Victorious South Australia coach Brenton Phillips had used Port Adelaide draftee Sam Colquhoun in a comparable role in the 2012 carnival.

Though Colquhoun was given the licence to play more as a 'free wheeler', Phillips decided, for the betterment of the team, that he needed Battersby to defend as well as attack.

"I think that's what set James apart," Phillips told

"It was his ability to read the ball and read it quickly. He got off his opponent when he needed to and he was tight and aggressive on his opponent when we needed that also."

Battersby said he had enjoyed the shift to defence.

"I really relished the challenge. I just tried to beat my opponent first and be on the attacking side of things when we needed to," he said.

"He just listens. He's a typical sponge, you can't give him enough information," Casey said.

Alongside football, Battersby is completing Year 12 at Pembroke College in Adelaide.

During the day he hits the books and after school he utilises the gym facilities in readiness for the end of the year and the NAB AFL Draft.

He absorbs information from all the different channels he has access to.

As Casey puts it: "If you don't listen, you'll never learn," and James Battersby will never allow himself to stop learning.

Ben Guthrie is a reporter for AFL Media. Follow him on Twitter: @AFL_BenGuthrie