ONE of the stars of York City Knights' season, Joe Batchelor, has rejected overtures from higher-league clubs to sign a new one-year deal at Bootham Crescent.

The back-rower arrived from minnows Coventry Bears at the turn of the year as a relative unknown but quickly nailed down a first-team berth and, as Player of the Month for June and man of the match in the heartbreaking Kingstone Press League One play-off semi-final loss at Whitehaven, he ended the season as one of the contenders for The Press Player of the Year award.

It is understood his rise in stock did not go unnoticed elsewhere, with Super League and Championship clubs showing an interest and at least one offering - and all but agreeing - a deal, before the 22-year-old decided to stay with the ambitious Minster city outfit.

Delighted head coach James Ford now reckons the strapping six-footer, who can also play at centre, could be a key man as the Knights plan a renewed - and stronger - assault on League One in 2018.

"I'm really pleased for Joe," he said. "He's put a lot of hard work in all year and it's pleasing to see him get a new deal on the back of that hard work.

"I knew Joe was a good player with a great attitude, and he was coming to an environment that could see him kick on - and he's done that.

"There's still room for improvement in his game but, with his approach, I'm very confident we will see him improve even more in 2018.”

On Batchelor turning down rivals to remain in the Minster city, Ford said: "I know clubs were looking at Joe, although I could not say what clubs they were or what offers were on the table.

"We just talked about York and the potential at this club and where we wanted to take it, and the part Joe could play in that journey.

"I'm delighted he's staying and showing loyalty, and I'm really looking forward to working with him again next season.

"I think he will be one of a number of key players next year."

Batchelor, the brother of Wakefield Trinity star James, first played under Ford in the Wakefield College team, before joining Sheffield Eagles' academy and then having a year in Australia.

After returning to England and signing for Coventry, he caught the eye enough for Ford to see something different and for the Knights to take a gamble on him.

Ford said: "You like to keep track of whoever you've worked with in the past and, at Coventry, Joe had some positive involvements whenever I saw him.

"I was aware he was improving and, combining that with his attitude and our facilities here, I thought there was a real opportunity he could kick on and be a real positive acquisition. His efforts this year proved that to be the case."

Asked if he was surprised by Batchelor's rise, Ford said: "I knew we had a player who would work hard at his game and who was intelligent and could understand things and understand what I wanted him to do and why.

"I also knew we were getting a really athletic player, and these are some really good ingredients for a player in terms of their development.

"Whether I thought I would have such an outstanding season from him is another question."

Batchelor had been handed the number 11 shirt after an eye-catching pre-season and he went on to make 21 appearances, scoring 15 tries.

Ford added: "Straight away when he came through the door we were really impressed with what he did.

"He was a really mature, serious bloke who wanted to work hard and improve and he understood everything we were getting at."

Batchelor's agreement takes the number of players signed on for 2018 up to 11, joining full-back Ash Robson, hookers Harry Carter and Andy Ellis, loose-forwards Tim Spiers and Joe Porter, props Adam Robinson and Ronan Dixon, back-rower-cum-centre Brad Hey, half-back Connor Robinson and the big new recruit from Hull KR, Ben Cockayne.

Ford added more notable arrivals were imminent. "We're working on finalising the squad and we've got a number of deals pretty close," he said.