Another Essendon VFLW star will join the AFLW with Alana Barba today signing with the Gold Coast Suns.
Following the success of July's draft, Barba is the seventh player to go through the Bombers’ women’s football program and on to an AFLW list.
Barba first joined the Bombers for four games in 2019 as a top-age player from Calder Cannons and signed with the club ahead of the 2020 season.
Due to COVID-19, she had to wait an extra year for a full season in the red and black but quickly solidified her spot in the Bombers’ midfield and impressed the Suns’ coaching staff.
For Barba, it feels surreal that she has made her way on to an AFLW list and was in shock when she received the call from Gold Coast head coach Cameron Joyce.
“It hasn't really set in yet. I think once I know it's really official and I get up there that's when it will probably sink in a bit more but it’s pretty surreal at the moment,” Barba said.
“I received a call from Cam and he basically just said that there’s a position available and that it was mine to fill so when I found I was kind of shaky and it was all a bit of a blur in the moment.”
It was Barba’s work ethic through the midfield and her determination at contests that stood out to the Suns.
Barba was a key part of the Bombers’ engine room this season with the 19-year-old averaging 16.4 disposals and 7.5 tackles per game.
Showing her versatility, Barba was also dangerous up forward where she scored 10 goals, including Essendon’s first major in the elimination final against Casey which sparked the Bombers’ come-from-behind victory.
“They liked that I was a hard ball-winner in the middle and that I cover the ground very well,” Barba said.
“But what stood out to me was the way they went about things. They were very honest with me from the get-go and they had a very warm feeling about them. I felt pretty comfortable instantly with them."
Although Barba believes her time at VFLW level has prepared her for the physical side of AFLW, it was the Bombers’ women’s program that has equipped her for the move to the top level.
“Coming up against the bigger bodies in the VFLW has definitely helped me prepare a little bit more,” she said.
“But just the elite environment that Essendon has provided for me has really set me up for when I do move to AFLW level.”
A key part of the Bombers’ program is head coach Brendan Major, who saw potential in Barba from when she was at Calder Cannons and instilled belief in the midfielder that she could perform at AFLW level.
“Brendan Major, he is the one coach throughout my whole football journey who has really wholeheartedly supported me and believed in me to go the next level,” Barba said.
“He took a chance on me when signing me as a VFLW player and I’m very grateful for him doing that because he is one of the only coaches who have believed that I could play at AFLW level.”
As Barba prepares to take the next step into the AFLW, she is embracing the opportunity to develop as a player and a person when she moves up north from her home state of Victoria.
“It's just a new experience and chance to up my game at the next level. When you’re playing against quality players, you’re only going to improve for the better so that’s what I’m excited about," she said.
“I think a new experience for me will be good. I’ll grow as a person and a player and I think that’s exactly what I need, a bit of a change.”
When Barba moves to the Sunshine State, she will be greeted by a familiar face at the Suns.
Fellow Bomber and reigning Gold Coast club champion Lauren Ahrens joined the Suns two years ago and played a role in Barba's decision to sign with the Suns.
“She definitely has had her input to try and persuade me but she is a great person and I’m excited to be teammates and run out with her again,” Barba said.
“Having Lauren at the Suns definitely eases my nerves a bit. It’s always nice to have a familiar face when you go into a new environment, let alone moving interstate, so I’m grateful I know at least one person.”
When Barba runs out as a Sun in the next AFLW season, there will be some familiar faces lining up against her, something she believes will feel strange to begin with but is looking forward to the challenge.
“Definitely Georgie Prespakis and Zali (Friswell), they were both drafted to Geelong so they will be tough to come up against," she said.
“But also Georgia Patrikios from St Kilda, she’s one of my best friends so I think there will be a bit of banter on the field with her.”
Barba joins Georgie Prespakis, Zali Friswell, Emelia Yassir, Tara Slender, Elizabeth Snell and Tahlia Gillard as VFLW Bombers drafted to the AFLW this year.