HOURS after being overlooked in a third successive NAB AFLW Draft, despair turned to jubilation for midfielder Alana Barba.
She received a call from new Gold Coast coach Cameron Joyce offering her a spot on the club's list to replace an inactive player (one of Annise Bradfield or Emma Pittman).
It meant moving states and leaving her job with her family's concreting business, but the soon-to-be 20-year-old didn't hesitate to say yes.
"I found out a couple of hours after the draft, Cameron Joyce rang me and said there was a spot available if I wanted it. It was quite surreal, I thought I'd misheard him when I got off the phone, but it was all real and I was shaking a bit, I was so excited," Barba told womens.afl.
"I'd gone into a different room to answer the phone call, so when I came back out to my parents there were lots of tears of joy, a really proud moment for them.
"All three years I've been eligible, I've nominated for the Victorian draft, but it was a very easy decision to make and one I made very quickly. I didn't have any hesitations whatsoever when I got the call, I just walked out, told my parents what had happened, and said, 'I'm going'."
The Suns didn't make the additions to their list (Southern Saint Tara Bohanna has also moved north) public until a month after the draft, meaning Barba had to keep it as quiet as possible.
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"It's been a very tough secret to keep. I had questions about the draft, and I'd just say, 'maybe next year', but deep down it was eating at me. It was a big secret to keep, but it was one I was happy to keep," she said.
"Especially with everything that's happening in Victoria at the moment, I think this move is just what I need, as well as for my personal growth. There's been a few bumps in the road, but I'm really excited to be here."
Barba's junior footy career ended as soon as it began after some boys thought it would be funny to pull her pony-tail in an attempt to tackle her in an early training session, so she switched to basketball.
She returned to footy in her mid-teens, playing local footy with Roxburgh Park and NAB League with Calder Cannons, before breaking through to Vic Metro in her top-age year.
But it was at Essendon that Barba truly thrived, joining the club's VFLW team following the conclusion of that 2019 Cannons season.
She has steadily worked on developing her game, finishing third in the club's best and fairest count this year after the team qualified for a preliminary final.
"Being at Essendon, I've really enjoyed my football this year. The coaching staff have put a lot of effort into me and have helped improve my knowledge along the way. I've also been working on cleaning up my skills and having clean hands and I think that's showed in my footy," she said.
"They really cared for me when no one did. It's really prepared me for this next stage, playing against pretty great AFLW players in the VFLW, the professionalism and club culture at the Bombers has also given me an advantage in going into the next level.
"Brendon Major, the head coach, he really believed in me from the get-go. He always had faith in me, threw me into the midfield straight away and gave me the belief I needed.
"Lauren Ahrens, who will be my teammate again at the Suns, she's helped me a lot, as well as my close friends in the Bombers program in Courtney Ugle and Eloise Ashley-Cooper."
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After coming through the talent pathways and being on the cusp of an AFLW spot for the past few years, Barba is raring to take her chance at the top level.
"Being overlooked in the past three years, it just gave me more motivation, to be honest. It was kind of a positive as well, I've had two extra years to work on my craft and learn more about the game," she said.
"I'm really excited to get this opportunity to go to the Gold Coast, I'm really grateful to them for believing in me."