01/03/2024

Alana Barba and Tara Bohanna are officially Gold Coast Suns. (Photos: St Kilda FC; Essendon FC)

After being overlooked in the AFLW Draft three times, the Gold Coast Suns have officially drafted Essendon VFLW mid/forward Alana Barba and Southern Saints forward/ruck Tara Bohanna.

After being overlooked for the third time in three drafts, Essendon’s Alana Barba is officially a Gold Coast Sun.

It was an emotional scene at Windy Hill after the Bombers went down by 28 points to Geelong in the VFLW Preliminary Final. Barba made the announcement to her teammates after the siren, giving them something to celebrate regardless of the result.

There were not many better games to announce it after, Barba performing nearly the strongest she had all year.

The aggressive midfielder/forward was constant in her attack on the footy, one of the Bombers best of the day. She finished the match with 18 disposals, five tackles, three clearances and kicked 1.2.

Barba’s pathway to AFLW level hasn’t been an easy.

She didn’t play any footy between the ages of seven and 15, but slowly began her development after joining the Calder Cannons in the NAB League.

Her 2019 was a quiet year for the Cannons, playing 11 games and averaging 12 disposals and only kicking three goals. Her tackling and pressure game was already of note however, averaging seven tackles a game.

Barba would play three games for Essendon in the VFLW that year, not making much of a splash.

As such, she was overlooked by all 14 clubs in the 2019 AFLW Draft, and looked toward the VFLW again to continue to improve her craft.

AFLW DRAFT WATCH: Alana Barba
Barba playing for the Calder Cannons (Photo: AFL)

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2020 was meant to be Barba’s first full year with the Bombers, but like most players, COVID put an end to her hopes of proving herself to recruiters once again.

Pre-season 2021, and hopes were high. Her teammates and leaders couldn’t speak higher of her coming into the year as a 19-year-old, and she proved them right.

Barba averaged 16 disposals, seven tackles and kicked 11 goals in her 17 games as one of the most consistent members of the Essendon side that nearly reached the Grand Final.

There’s no doubt that she proved herself as both a contested machine, and a regular goalscorer.

Coming into the last matches of the regular season and the finals, she averaged 11 tackles over a month long period. Barba kicked more than a goal on two occasions, and only managed to completely miss the scoreboard twice.

With the already exciting additions of Charlie Rowbottom and Teagan Levi into the midfield and Ashanti Bush into the forward line, Barba completes an already strong draft hand for Gold Coast.

She adds another versatile player who can rotate into the forward and midfield lines. Barba’s pressure and attack on the footy should translate perfectly to AFLW level, and will be the support needed to allow the likes of Rowbottom, Ali Drennan, Hannah Dunn and Jacqui Yorston to utilise their clearance work and disposal out of the centre.

When forward, she’ll be a player who can crack in and create stoppage after stoppage inside 50. Her eyes for the goals will complement Bush’s natural goal sense, and will work off the talls at ground level.

Bohanna meanwhile was picked up after a monstrous end to the season with the Southern Saints that saw her win the club best and fairest.

VFLW: Saints down Demons
Bohanna (R) celebrates a goal. (Photo: St Kilda FC)

Over the final round of the season and two finals matches, she averaged 21 disposals, seven hit-outs, and kicked five goals. This added to her overall tally of 19 goals for the season, equal second highest in the competition and highest for all ruck/forwards.

Bohanna’s journey started at the Saints in 2018, where she kicked 15 goals in 14 matches. She followed this up in 2019, kicked 10 goals in 12 games.

At 178cm, she’ll offer her strong marking hands both up forward and around the ground for the Suns. Her ability to pinch-hit in the ruck will be vital in supporting in young ruck superstar Lauren Bella.

There aren’t many tall forwards who find the footy like Bohanna, and she’s a player who’s just as capable of winning the contested ball in the forward half stoppages as she is presenting on the lead.

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