I’ve obviously written just a tad on her the last three years, including when I identified her and Frew as the young ones to advance our team after 2019:
Let’s go back in time a bit. What you read below (yes, I’ve posted this previously) has since further escalated with many of the same themes: St Kilda train-on role not expanding and being snubbed in a third draft, before Gold Coast threw her a lifeline… but with bugger-all money and security.
Was badly missing the family (especially as a new aunt), and now she can be home (in multiple senses) AND get paid a living wage. Her parent are always there (I first spoke to them at the Willy watch-over-the-fence-due-to-COVID match).
She got her first AFLW games this year but they were nothing to talk about: stranded forward with little supply, and seemingly reactive. Took a couple games back here to wash the Suns form stench off her, but the last two weeks she’s massively stood up against the best midfields we’ve faced all year.
Alana Barba - the Mighty Bomber
Updated: Dec 21, 2020
"Never give up on your dream work hard, put in the effort and the extra hours. Your future self will thank you for it. You do not fail when you fall down, you fail once you have given up."
When it comes to gaining the attention of scouters, sometimes players must consistently put on strong performances before being recognised, while others make it onto an AFLW list on the back of a stellar breakout season. As for Alana Barba, she certainly fits into the former category—yet luckily she’s no stranger to putting in the hard yards.
In fact, even long before she was knocking on the AFLWs door, she was accustomed to hard work as she wouldn’t let her first taste of club level football dampen her footy dream.
“I had one training session with Craigieburn Eagles when I was about seven years old and my parents pulled me out straight away because the boys kept pulling my hair trying to catch me.”
However, while her first club experience was short and sour—that doesn’t mean she stopped developing her own game. As a matter of fact, “everything I know I learnt from my dad in the backyard”.
He must have taught her well because after a long hiatus, she returned to the sport and quickly made her presence felt. 2017 saw Alana get chosen to play for the Calder Cannons, and from there she signed with the Roxburgh Park Football Club.
It was also during 2017 that she claimed her first accolade, as Calder would go onto finish the season in top spot, claiming the premiership cup in the process.
Then in 2018, despite just having one season of footy under her belt, she managed to put together a breakout season which saw her claim the EDFL Division 2 Best and Fairest. Her Roxburgh Park side would also go onto finish runner-up to that year’s premiership, and likewise, she would also finish runner-up to the Roxburgh Park’s 2018 Best and Fairest.
As good as her performance was during 2018, she managed to reach a whole other level in 2019—which stands as her best year of football to date and one that shows just what Alana can be capable of achieving.
To start off with, 2019 marked her first time representing the state as she donned the double blue of the Victoria Metro side and travelled to the Gold Coast to play in the National Championship.
‘State Pride’ - image kindly supplied by Alana.
As well as state football she also found success at school, being named as Kolbe Catholic College’s Sports Person of the Year.
However, perhaps the biggest achievement of hers during 2019 was the fact that she finished with the second highest tackle count in the entire NAB League Girls competition. A feat that understandably saw her finish third for Calder Cannon’s 2019 Best and Fairest, and a feat that also saw her earn an invite to the 2019 AFLW Draft Combine.
But while 2019 was her best and brightest year of football to date, it also marked the end of a chapter for her as it would be the last time that she would get to play with the Calder Cannons—time with which she “absolutely loved”.
“… I made so many memories, from camps, our Thursday night dinners, and game day. I’ll cherish those memories for a very long time.” “My favourite thing and something I am very grateful for is that my team mates were my family, especially in my final year we were a very close knit group and I definitely made friends for life. “Calder Cannons played a huge role in my development and for that I will always be grateful. It was a bittersweet feeling when I aged out of the NAB League program, I was sad to leave all the wonderful people that I met behind, but so excited to start at Essendon VFLW.”
The closing of this chapter also marked a new and exciting one for Alana, because as hinted there, she was picked up by Essendon for their VFLW side.
But despite her first season with the Bombers getting cut short due to COVID, that hasn’t stopped her from relishing her new colours.
“Essendon has been amazing. I arrived at the club at the backend of the season in 2019 with four games left. The coaching staff and the girls made the transition for me very comfortable.” “Already, I have learnt so much being at Essendon and the club is so approachable and welcoming that I’ve slotted straight in. “Club Culture is a huge thing within the VFLW team and I think they have really excelled at that. The staff are very focused on helping the girls improve, whether that be by spending one on one time with your line coach, watching footage or just helpful tips you know you can reach out and the coaches will give their 110%, they are always willing to put in the extra hours. “I know it’s a cliche, but it’s the truth when I say the club has not only made me a better player, but an even better person and the fact that I’ve only been there for a short amount of time says a lot about the club.”
‘See the Bombers Fly Up’ - image kindly supplied by Alana.
While we didn’t get to see much of Alana during 2020—there was at least one other very positive sign for her footballing future. This being that she was also a train-on for St Kilda which she describes as being “a great experience”.
“… I’m really grateful for the opportunity. I really enjoyed witnessing firsthand what it was like to be in an AFLW environment.”
“Comparing the differences and similarities across all three levels of NAB League, VFLW, and AFLW I think has prepared me well if I ever get the opportunity to take the next step into the elite level of AFLW.”
Speaking of the next step, what does the future have in store for this hard-working Bomber?
“Ultimate goal is to play AFLW, to continue improving as a player, and to be happy with where I’m at in life.”
While it is certainly unfortunate that we didn’t get to see much of her during 2020, we can at least learn from her past few years of footy.
And going by what that tells us, it is safe to say that Alana Barba has the dedication and the passion to keep knocking at the AFLWs door—and it is only a matter of time before someone answers.
ON the weekend Essendon topped off a splendid 2022 VFLW season with a premiership, and a crucial part in that win was Lisa Hardeman medallist Alana Barba. Although many expected other Bombers to come away with Best on Ground honours, Barba’s game was one of those that was crucial, but also under the radar. This Player Focus will take a look at her performance in the Grand Final.
Barba was certainly around the contest for much of the first term, and subsequently got plenty of the ball, leading her side in the disposal count for the quarter. However, there were many other positives she showed in the first term.
Her running ability is exceptional, and that was evident all quarter. She is capable of running all over the ground and does not look tired, which is exactly what you want from a midfielder. She is a solid tackler, who is also not afraid to get in and under at the bottom of contests.
Late in the term she laid a solid tackle in the Bombers forward line, which earned her a holding the ball free kick and a shot at goal. Unfortunately for Barba the subsequent kick only went through for a minor score.
As the Bombers spent much of the quarter under a lot of defensive pressure, Barba’s tackling pressure was again on show in the second there. There was a particular moment on the wing where she was able to lay two tackles in a row in the space of about 15 seconds.
Late on in the quarter she clunked a really strong mark, which in turn started a chain that lead to a goal that really made the Saints pay for their missed opportunities in the quarter.
One thing that was really evident in the second quarter in particular was how Barba is one of those players that is not like a seagull to a chip, as the old saying goes. She often spends her time around the pack, but will not jump on the ball just for the sake of it.
Barba spent a good chunk of the beginning of the quarter, but once on the ground she quickly got to work. She laid several strong tackles in the quarter and her handball set up one of Essendon’s many inside 50s for the quarter. Unfortunately despite it being a solid forward 50 entry it did not result in a score.
In the fourth quarter Barba continued to show many of the positive aspects to her game that she had shown all game. She landed a really strong tackle early in the quarter, but it was unfortunately too high and she gave away the free kick. Barba continued to show how tough and solid she is in a contest, and also continued to show how much of a running machine she is, to finish best afield and claim the Lisa Hardeman Medal.
Alana Barba after the VFLW grand final. (Essendon Football Club)
by Tara Murray
It’s been all about football for Essendon midfielder Alana Barba in recent weeks and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Barba played a key role in helping the Bombers Victorian Football League Women’s claim their first premiership, named best on ground in the grand final.
The celebrations quickly ended, as she started training with Essendon’s inaugural AFLW side ahead of the season getting underway next month.
“It took a little while to settle in,” she said. “The grand final high was an unbelievable feeling that you can’t describe.
“Then training the next day. It was a bit surreal. I don’t think there has been a year like it. I’m thankful to be part of it.”
Rewind six months and Barba, who played her junior football at Roxburgh Park and the Calder Cannons, was in Queensland playing for the Gold Coast Suns.
She was added to the Suns list as a replacement player and would play two AFLW games. Barba said it was an experience that she would never forget.
“It was my first ever AFLW opportunity and I’m grateful and honoured to have had the chance,” she said.
“I made lifelong friends and moved out of home when I was 19, which I never envisaged doing. I grew as a person and a player and moved out of my comfort zone. I was humbled to get an opportunity and played two AFLW games.
“It was fun and enjoyable.”
Once the season finished Barba was unsure what her football future held. She wasn’t sure whether she would get another contract with the Suns.
With that in mind she came back to Victoria, keen to get some more football under her belt.
The perfect place to do that was with Essendon’s VFLW side where she had previously been playing.
“The Bombers are home,” she said. “To get into the grand final was pretty amazing.
“The season itself was amazing. I was back with some new players and old friends as well. I did miss the Bombers while I was away.”
While the VFLW season was still going, Barba was delisted by the Suns meaning her AFLW future was up in the air.
During the AFLW delisted free agent period, there was one club speak to her about playing in the upcoming season, Essendon.
“Essendon said they were really keen to have me,” she said. “I was very happy and very relieved as It’s where I wanted to play AFLW.”
With her future secured, Barba just continued on playing good football. A best on ground performance in the grand final capped off her VFLW season.
“I was very surprised,” Barba said “I was holding the Go Pro thinking who will win it, I said I think Renee Tierney will win it and holding the Go Pro facing her.
“The whole team played so well.”
Having had her foot in both the VFLW and AFLW programs, Barba is enjoying getting to focus on the AFLW season
She said the group was starting to gel and build a strong culture.
For Barba personally, this season she just wants to continue her development.
“I’ll keep working hard and hopefully get a spot in the line up
“I’ll push myself and the ultimate goal is to play one game. I want to develop as a player, that’s my main goal.”