Born in Shepparton, Kerber’s family moved to South Australia, where they have deep roots in the Adelaide Hills community, while Sam was still young. Before long, the family car was loaded up for a move back to country Victoria, where Kerber would complete his schooling. Trading the classroom for the big city, Sam then moved to Melbourne with cricket and further study in mind.
While playing Premier Cricket and attending Deakin University, a chance encounter 725 kilometres away began a chain reaction that would eventually lead to Kerber bowling to Marnus Labuschagne in the Marsh One-Day Cup, before notching a half-century in his first-class debut with the Redbacks.
It began in 2016 when younger brother Dan, having relocated to South Australia to be closer to family, took a walk with his father along the River Torrens. Spotting a game of cricket taking place at the picturesque home of Adelaide University Cricket Club, they wandered over for a closer look.
“My Dad and my brother went for a walk and just happened to see a game happening at the Uni Oval. They popped in to say g’day and got talking to Ash Woodcock and Andy Delmont. I’d played with Dell at Richmond CC in Melbourne. It seems there is some sort of an unofficial connection with Richmond and Adelaide Uni because quite a few guys have played for both.
“That’s how Dan got involved, and then at the backend of the 2016 season I couldn’t see things progressing in Melbourne and my family were in Adelaide, so I thought about making the move across and trying to get things going over here. Not just cricket but work and study as well, while being a bit closer to home.”
That decision changed much more than the surrounding landscape and peak-hour traffic density for Kerber, with both his on and off field ambitions taking a positive turn from the moment he emerged from Adelaide airport onto the fortuitously placed Sir Donald Bradman Drive. Joining Adelaide University and climbing to the position on vice-captain, Kerber, already armed with an exercise and sports science degree, began studying physiotherapy during his time away from the game.
The 2020-21 season was simply remarkable for Kerber, with his prolific form helping guide Adelaide University to the decider in all three formats. Kerber averaged a remarkable 108.75 in first-grade cricket last summer, more than enough to make him the highest run-scorer of the season ahead of Uni teammate Will Bosisto. Kerber also tied for the most runs in the Premier Cricket One-Day Cup, sharing the honour with Jake Brown of Kensington. Amazingly, Kerber’s brother Dan also climbed onto the podium with the third-highest tally.
Far from an anomaly, these numbers only added to the incredible 2019-20 season Kerber put together. That summer, Kerber scored 817 first-grade runs at the stunning average of 90.78, in the process breaking a record that has stood in the halls of Adelaide University for 99 years by registering five centuries in just 12 games.
Never one to reflect on personal milestones over team achievement, Kerber speaks passionately about the culture and environment that Adelaide University CC have built in recent seasons.
“It’s been amazing to be a part of the growth of the club. Seeing us progress as a team on and off the field. We are getting around each other and building really good camaraderie.
“We’ve got that connection and the knowledge it takes more than 11 or 12 players to win a flag, let alone get into three finals. It’s a great environment. The lads challenge each other, push each other at training in terms of competition for spots. It’s a competitive and challenging environment, but everyone just wants to the get the best out of each other.”
This attitude, combined with pure weight of performance, saw Kerber called up to the Redbacks squad late in the summer of 2020-21, resulting in appearances in both the Marsh Sheffield Shield and One-Day Cup. Having spent time with the Emerging Redbacks squad, as well as sharing the Uni changerooms with several State players including Bosisto, Nick Winter, Wes Agar, Jake Weatherald and Joe Mennie, the leap to domestic cricket did not overawe Kerber. A recurring theme throughout the 27-year-old’s journey is the ability to see each new opportunity as a learning experience that should be enjoyed.
“It was like life was in fast forward. One minute you’re shaping up for Uni in the finals, you think the season is about to end, and then suddenly the season is extended. I think having been around the Redbacks guys and seeing their professionalism really helped when I went to the next level.
“I just went back to my process. It’s about continually striving to bowl the best ball or watch the ball as closely as possible when batting. In a way, it just simplified everything for me. It was about going out and playing and focusing on the task at hand. I just tried to keep it as simple as that. The outcome doesn’t always go to plan, but that’s cricket. There are so many learning opportunities which is what is exciting.”
Every cricketer at some point imagines the moment they are told they will be making their debut, but few would have envisioned it playing out the way it did for Kerber. Having travelled with the Redbacks to Queensland ahead of a Shield clash against the Bulls, it was against a backdrop of torrential rain and howling wind that Kerber was informed by Jason Gillespie that he would be making his first-class debut the next day.
Weather permitting of course.
Unfortunately, the elements conspired against Kerber that week, sending him instead to Victoria the following week to receive his baggy red as the 644th South Australian representative in first-class cricket. While Kerber was on the road, the prestigious Bradman Medal count was held at Adelaide Oval, crowning the best Premier cricketers in the State. At the conlusion of a tense count that Kerber followed online with his Redbacks teammates, a tie was declared that saw Kerber share the triumph with good mate Brad (Bobby) Davis.
“That was quite an astonishing week. I was set to make my debut, but in the end it didn’t quite work out with the weather. Then following the Bradman Medal online with the lads was good fun, and an honour to receive such a prestigious award and even better to share it with such a quality person in Bobby. We’ve managed to sit down and chat about it since and it is so special for him because he and his old man both have won one which is awesome. To win that medal is an honour and it’s really cool to share it with Bob.”
Kerber has since had the opportunity to catch up with past winners and some of the greats of South Australian cricket at a lunch to celebrate the achievement.
“It’s something that I think you truly reflect on at the end of your career. That was one thing, getting to go to that Bradman Medal lunch and meet some of the past winners. Guys that have played such a big part of the game in South Australia. Now, being the 150th year, to sit in that room and talk to the fellas and soak it up was an amazing experience. It’s something that will stick with me for the rest of my life.”
With another domestic season rapidly approaching, Kerber is simply thrilled to have been given the opportunity to show what he is capable of, while always looking to improve. Armed with life experience, runs on the board and an inspiring outlook, Kerber will be looking to build on the strong foundation of a half-century against Victoria in his maiden first-class innings, as well as three wickets with the ball in an impressive debut outing.
Now in the midst of his first full pre-season with the Redbacks, Kerber is always looking ahead with positivity and excitement.
“Every day I am champing at the bit to get out of bed and get to training knowing that I can continue to get better. I’m loving the opportunity and the challenge to be tested at the next level.
“I am aware of not having the experience that comes with being a Redback for five or ten years, however, I’m appreciative of the base I have from playing Premier Cricket and being involved within the Emerging Redbacks program which has given me a balanced and level-headed approach for what’s to come.
“I’m embracing the privilege of being able to train at Adelaide Oval, and the honour of representing South Australia. With support from the coaching staff and the other Redbacks, I’m definitely looking forward to what is possible!”
09 August 2021