GOLD Coast rookie Louis Herbert is building form in the NEAFL as he establishes himself as a versatile long-term option for the Suns.
The Suns have used the South Warrnambool recruit as a leading forward — his regular position as a junior — in his 10 NEAFL games this season after drafting him last November following a standout season at half-back for TAC Cup club North Ballarat Rebels.
Herbert, 20, said he enjoyed playing in defence but understood it was important to play a variety of roles if he wanted to make it at AFL level.
The former Emmanuel Hawk said he’d love to make a surprise AFL debut this year but was focused solely on improving himself and pushing for senior elevation in 2015.
“You never know, I have been playing some good footy but more realistically this is a development year for me,” Herbert said.
“I am signed on for next year already so I am looking forward to getting a full pre-season under my belt.”
Herbert was named in the winless Suns’ best in their past two reserves losses to Northern Territory Thunder and Redlands.
The 188-centimetre utility gathered 16 disposals and 10 marks against the Thunder a fortnight ago in what was his best game for the club and has kicked nine goals for the season.
Herbert said the Suns’ reserves had endured a number of heavy losses and were anchored to the foot of the NEAFL table.
“It’s a learning year for me to develop into a leader in difficult circumstances,” he said. “We played Redlands at the weekend and lost by 40 but we were up by two points at half-time, so we’re starting to put competitive performances together.”
Herbert had his appendix removed after Christmas which delayed his pre-season.
The former Vic Country representative opted to remain at the club in a bid to settle into his new environment instead of retreating home to Warrnambool to recover.
“I still hung around the club. It was my first year and I wanted to try and blend in with the group and try and get any information on the club I could,” he said.
Herbert, who is relishing Queensland’s weather and lifestyle, said he’d used Suns development coaches Josh Fraser and Aaron Rogers and teammates Tom Lynch and Sam Day, who have established themselves as dangerous key forwards, as sounding boards.
He said he also felt physically stronger after eight months in the AFL system.
“I have put on a lot of weight,” Herbert said.
“The coaches and fitness staff have been surprised with the way I have trained and put on seven or eight kilograms already. When I was first at the club I was 76 kg and now I am 84. I think my legs are still trying to catch up a bit because I think I have lost a bit of speed.”
Gold Coast is fighting for its first finals spot since joining the AFL in 2011.
Herbert said it was exciting to be a part of a fledgling club with a talent-laden list which includes two-time Brownlow medallist Gary Ablett.
“At the start I was a bit intimidated and still couldn’t believe I got to hang out with him every day,” he said.
“I just see him as one of my mates now. He is a great leader at the club.”