Former Southern Saints co-captain and reigning best and fairest winner Tara Bohanna is excited to begin the next chapter of her football journey as she gears up for her first pre-season as an AFLW player with the Gold Coast Suns.
Photo by AFL Media
Just weeks after winning her first Southern Saints Best and Fairest award in a tight vote count with midfielder Hannah Stuart, Bohanna was rewarded for a breakout season with her first AFLW contract.
Having nominated for the draft six times and missing out six times, it was a “surreal” feeling when she finally earned her first opportunity at the elite level.
Despite missing out again on AFLW draft night, Bohanna was aware of the Suns interest in her and spoke to coach Cameron Boyce about the possibility of making the move up to the sunshine state.
“They had a couple of girls that through injury or otherwise were going to potentially be inactive for the season, but there was nothing concrete,” she said.
“I had a feeling it wasn’t going to happen in the draft but you take the opportunities as they’re presented to you and that’s how it went for me this year.”
Photo by AFL Media
The ability to make the most of key opportunities was a hallmark of Bohanna’s 2021 campaign, as she elevated herself into the top echelon of key forwards in the VFLW competition with 19 goals from 16 games and career-best averages in tackles, marks and hitouts.
An emphasis on fitness and a difference in mindset allowed her to enjoy her football more in 2021, leading to some inspirational on-field performances.
“During the 2020 COVID year, myself and a few of the girls put in an effort to get our fitness base up,” she said.
“If I look at the year before with the AFLW coming in at St Kilda, I guess there was a lot of pressure around that whether it was self-inflicted or external but probably for myself I do put a lot of pressure on and expect a lot of myself.”
“This year I took that off myself a little bit and wanted to focus more on enjoying it, and I think with our culture it was just such a good feeling around the group and that gets the best out of you as well.”
Bohanna also praised the impact of first-year senior coach Dale Robinson’s on her development throughout the year.
“Dale coming in as coach was huge and she’s always been a big support for me and Sammy (Sam Calogero) as well as the forward line coach,” she said.
After a few months of uncertainty and several delays in travelling to Queensland due to COVID border restrictions, Bohanna is looking forward to joining her new teammates over the coming weeks.
“I finally found out the other day that I’m going on Sunday,” she said.
“Originally we were meant to fly up in the last round of the men’s season and we had an AirBnB ready to go with us five girls in Victoria, but that got canned the night before we were ready to go.”
The opportunity to move interstate to fulfill her AFLW dream is one she gladly accepted, despite living and playing all her football in Melbourne.
“You just take every opportunity you can, no matter where it is,” she said.
“It’s a big move but I do have a few other girls like Ali Drennan and Claudia (Whitfort) who moved up there just recently which definitely makes it easier, as it’d be a lot more challenging if I didn’t know anyone.”
With a strong Southern Saints flavour at the Suns, Bohanna has no shortage of support as she contemplates a career at the highest level.
She plans to move in with Ali Drennan, who was a joint inaugural winner of the Southern Saints 2017 best and fairest award and played 5 games for St Kilda’s AFLW team in 2020.
Lining up against some of her old Southern Saints teammates is another possibility, and it’s one she’ll embrace if it comes.
“Being in the forward line, there’s definitely girls that were in our backline who play AFLW as well, so it’d be interesting to line up against them,” she said.
“I guess the first step for me is getting a game, that’s definitely number one.”
When asked about her former teammates and their prospects of success in 2022, Bohanna was very optimistic.
“If we keep building then there’s no reason why we can’t, and I’m really excited to see what happens,” she said.
“Once the (AFLW) season is over I’ll definitely get around the girls in any way I can.”
Photo by AFL Media
Written by Jack Bennett - Sandringham Football Club Media