WHEN Louis Herbert kicked eight goals in a TAC Cup game this year it was a standout performance which underlined his undoubted potential.
Lining up for North Ballarat Rebels, the South Warrnambool forward bobbed up with 8.5 against Murray Bushrangers.
He took a season-high 12 marks and collected 17 touches. It was during that purple patch where Herbert started to believe a long-held dream to play AFL football could become reality.
“There were a few games where I played really well and I got the call-up for Vic Country and it all started going my way, so I reckon around then I sort of started thinking about it,” he said.
“But I haven’t really thought about it too much, just focused on playing good footy and school.”
Herbert kicked 39 goals in the TAC Cup season, finishing third in the goalkicking award.
The former Emmanuel Hawks junior excited Rebels coach David Loader with his ability to perform under pressure.
“Louis kicked five goals in our first final and that certainly holds him in good stead, being able to perform in important games against finals opposition,” Loader said.
The coach, Rebels region manager Phil Partington and former South Warrnambool under 18 coach Gerard Sully believe Herbert has the attributes AFL clubs are looking for.
He’s a clean-marking forward with crisp skills, agility and speed.
Like most players with an X-factor, inconsistency is one of Herbert’s bugbears, but Partington said he had a lot of upside.
He said recruiters would have noticed the creative forward’s improvement training once a week with the TAC Cup side and would be excited about his prospects in a full-time AFL environment.
Sully, who coached Herbert at the Roosters in 2011, was full of praise for the 18-year-old.
“The one thing I found with Louie is he would listen to instructions and was very coachable because he’s keen to go further with his football,” Sully said.
“He’s a beautiful mark, a beautiful kick. An intelligent footballer.
“He attracted a lot of attention down forward, even as a bottom-ager.
“I am certain down the track he will develop more, you don’t want to be pigeonholed as a forward.”
Herbert knows that at 186cm he couldn’t hold down a key position in the AFL.
“If I was to make an AFL club list, I don’t reckon I’d be a tall forward, because I’m not tall enough,” he said.
“I reckon I’d predominately play half-forward or wing, that’s where I see myself.”
Herbert played four games for the Rebels as a bottom-ager.
He had a chance to move to Ballarat this year and board at Ballarat Clarendon College but opted to finish his schooling at Emmanuel College.
It meant he only trained with his Rebels’ teammates once a week, training Tuesday nights with South Warrnambool.
“Over the past three months I have been boxing with Rodney Ryan two, maybe three times a week too,” he said. “It was really good, it got my fitness up.”
Herbert has followed the traditional pathway to a potential AFL career.
He played junior football for Emmanuel Hawks before joining South Warrnambool last year and playing three senior games for the Hampden league club.
The well-spoken teen always wanted to follow his father Peter into the AFL system.
“He got drafted to Fitzroy when he was about 18 and he stayed there for about three years I reckon,” Herbert said.
“He decided to come home because he was homesick.
“He didn’t play any games. He was about to play a senior game and he had to have ankle reconstructions and shoulder reconstructions.
“He was more of a midfielder-backman and I’m more of a forward-midfielder but we are similar in height.
“We sort of play similar, so I have heard.”
Herbert tested well at the AFL draft combine in October, finishing equal-top three in the kicking test with 27 out of 30.
He rated the beep test “the hardest I have ever done”.
“It was 31 or 32 degrees at that time with the sun beaming down on us and on slippery floorboards too. It was terrible,” he said.
“I got mid-13s. My best is 14.1.
“At the time when I was about to do the beep test I thought that I was in the best fitness I could possibly be in but I don’t reckon that beep test really showed how fit you are.”
While football consumed Herbert’s winters, cricket was his sport of choice in summer.
A talented batsman, he played in Nestles’ Warrnambool and District Cricket Association division one grand final side last season before opting to concentrate soley on football.
It was a wise decision — Herbert has spoken to 12 AFL clubs ahead of the draft.
“I spoke to nine clubs and then St Kilda after draft camp and North Melbourne and Hawthorn before,” he said.
Herbert will watch the draft from his Warrnambool home with his family and friends.
“I am just going to go into the draft calm and relaxed and not really expecting too much,” he said.
“If I don’t get picked up I will probably go to Geelong or Ballarat uni and study exercise science and try and get on a VFL list.
“The VFL coach at North Ballarat Roosters contacted me and asked me to train with them in the pre-season.”