ON TUESDAY night, Alyssa Bannan’s name was read out with the fifth selection in the NAB AFL Women’s Draft.
It was a life-changing moment that saw her officially join the Melbourne Football Club, but the celebrations couldn’t last long.
The 18-year-old’s attention had to turn back to her studies in a hurry, with the state-wide General Achievement Test (GAT) to prepare for the next day.
Currently in Year 12 at St Helena Secondary College, Bannan is trying to keep her exams at the front of mind, and while she’s glad to have ticked the GAT off her list, her concentration is being tested like never before.
“It was good to get back to school and get back to that testing environment, but I’m glad it’s over now,” Bannan told Melbourne Media.
“It was very difficult to kind of focus on my schoolwork knowing such an important night was coming up, and I definitely struggled to sleep in preparation for the GAT, but I’ve been very, very excited for the Draft and I’m so glad that I was able to achieve my dream.”
If there’s one thing the year 2020 has taught us, it’s that adaptability is of the utmost importance, and Bannan has discovered that the hard way.
It’s fair to say Year 12 is challenging enough as it is, but Bannan, and her fellow students across Victoria, have had to pack up their lockers and settle into learning from home.
And while it’s been an unexpected obstacle, the Demons’ newest recruit has made it work in her favour.
“It’s been interesting, having to change environments and learning styles and adapt to a different way of learning content and doing SACs,” she said.
“But I think having this time to myself to work on my work life/home life balance has been really good.
And there’s no doubt those traits can be utilised on the football field.
Bannan is a 177cm key forward with plenty of tricks up her sleeve.
And when asked arguably the most difficult question – to highlight her biggest strengths as a player – her response echoed that of the recruiters, which is a promising sign for Demons fans.
“I am very versatile – I think I have the ability to play in multiple positions on the ground,” Bannan said.
“Wherever the coach puts me I can get the hang of it pretty quickly.
“I have a very accurate kick – I’ve been working on that for a while and it’s been paying off which I’m happy with – and some pretty strong marking as well, which is important as a forward.”
While Bannan hasn’t had much of an opportunity to showcase her skills this year, she did enough as a bottom ager in 2019 to warrant the first-round selection from the Dees.
And despite missing the on-field competition, she has still found a way to develop her game in recent months.
“It was a bit difficult coming off last year – this year I definitely had a new focus wanting to make AFLW,” Bannan said.
“But as the year went on and we kind of knew the season was over, it was more just a focus on improving myself individually in strength and conditioning and in wellbeing with some mindfulness.
“I was given some training programs from some of my coaches which I followed up with, I caught up with a few of my fellow Knights players and we just got some of those sessions down to keep up the fitness.”
Bannan, who has played footy since Grade 6, hasn’t always dreamt of playing at the top level.
Initially, it was athletics that consumed the majority of her attention, but when her plans changed, she had some pretty handy attributes to take with her.
“I did sprints and jumps,” she said.
“It’s definitely been a big contributor to how I play on the field.”
These skills make her an exciting prospect for the coming years, with the potential to have an immediate impact for Melbourne in 2021.
But for now, she is just trying to take it all in.
“It’s still kind of crazy just to think about having this opportunity – it hasn’t really sunk in just yet.
“I’m still a bit overwhelmed with it all but I’m very, very excited.”
And just as a little public service announcement, Bannan’s phone has been going off of late, so if you’re awaiting a response from her, it may still be coming.
“I’ve had to put it on silent,” she said with a laugh.
“I’ve had a fair few messages, I’m trying to get through them one by one.”