SANFL Player Focus: Kade Herbert (Eagles)
WOODVILLE-WEST Torrens midfielder Kade Herbert rounded out his stint at senior level this year with another promising performance on Saturday, albeit in a heartbreaking loss after the siren. Playing his fifth League game, Herbert didn’t shy away from the fierce contest with 20 disposals and a goal.
The 2024-eligible draft prospect may yet feature in the Eagles’ Under 18s finals campaign given their League side did not qualify for the postseason. With no Under 18s action this weekend, we put his latest outing under the SANFL Player Focus microscope.
STORY SO FAR
Herbert has enjoyed an exceptional bottom-aged season, built on the back of a handy Under 16 campaign. He was part of South Australia’s title-winning run at the level last year, and cracked the state Under 18 in 2023. After nine SANFL Under 18s games and two in the Reserves, Herbert made his League debut and has not looked back since. He shapes as one of a few very promising Eagles prospects for next year, and is among the many highly touted midfielders in the 2024 crop.
2023 SANFL League: Round 18
Woodville-West Torrens 12.8 (80) def. by West Adelaide 13.8 (86)
#17 Kade Herbert (Woodville-West Torrens)
Stats: 20 disposals (12 kicks, 8 handballs), 9 marks, 4 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 1 goal
Rotating into the game and onto the wing, Herbert showed good accountability in the early stages by reacting well when the contest went either way and keeping his head on a swivel. He also chased well and applied tackling pressure, something which many juniors fall short of at senior level.
Though his defensive stuff was sound, the best feature of Herbert’s game in term one was his clean handling. In particular, a soaring mark from the side displayed his aerial nous, before a good take inside 50 led to him thumping a handball over the top for Will Pearce to give his Eagles the quarter time lead.
It was a high-scoring an entertaining opening stanza, which the youngster built into nicely. Though it wouldn’t be the case throughout the remained of the match, he arguably had a greater impact when rotated forward off his starting wing post.
The scoring began to dry up in term two, which allowed Herbert to show a different side of his game again. This time, it was his agility and composure with ball in hand which caught the eye as the bottom-ager found possessions in the expanses of Woodville Oval.
He sold candy on the half-forward flank and used a sharp turn of speed to gain repeat forward 50 entries, buying himself time on the ball and finding pockets of space with deft feints. Another positive note was that Herbert maintained his defensive acts, even while showcasing a touch more flair.
The heat was well and truly on in term three and it was not something that Herbert shied away from. West Adelaide dominated territory without capitalising and umpires were hot on the whistle, but Herbert continued to apply himself.
Though he was made to chase tail in the early stages, Herbert lived up to the speed of the game with ball in hand by moving it on quickly – like when he marked uncontested on forward wing, stepped inside and hit Connor Ballenden with a long kick to notch another goal assist.
His fast, direct and attacking use of the ball was often made possible by his ability to draw opponents in by hand and weave through traffic. Herbert also hit the scoreboard after a sensational third-up mark 20m from goal, rising high and taking the ball typically cleanly.
Having proven his ability to keep pace at senior level, Herbert accumulated a good amount of ball in the fourth quarter and was generally neat and tidy. He hardly did any more than he needed to in possession, apart from his only real mistake on a risky inboard kick.
His happy knack for notching up goal assists continued, as he sent a driving kick into the forward 50 hot spot for Ballenden to mark and give the Eagles a momentary lead once again. It was a quarter which aptly capped off the young gun’s solid overall outing with a few glimpses of brilliance.
It usually takes a heck of a player to rise to League level as a bottom-ager, and Herbert has the makings of a handy prospect. With a handful of games under his belt, he has proven capable of impacting with his possessions while maintaining the class and composure he shows in the junior grades.
There are plenty of midfielders looking like top-end talents for next year’s draft, and all have their unique traits. For Herbert, it is his agility and feints in traffic, super clean hands at the contest and above his head, and the versatility to play both sides of midfield or rotate forward. One to watch.