Calder Cannons midfielder Alana Barba has attributed her improvement this year to an extended pre-season.

Entering her third season at the Cannons, Barba decided that she needed to take her game to the next level if she was to have a chance of being drafted later this year.

That meant starting pre-season early.

The hard work has paid off, with 17-year-old Barba named in the initial Vic Metro under-18 squad for the national championships. The final squad will be announced next week.

“I wanted to get my fitness up,” Barba said, who played with Roxburgh Park until this year.

“It was about getting a jump-start and wanting to cover the ground a bit more, and it really paid off.”

The biggest area of improvement in Barba’s game was her tackling, averaging seven tackles a game.

“Last year I wasn’t involved in a lot of tackling. There were different areas that I had to improve in and that was one of them,” she said.

The Mickleham resident said there had been a massive improvement overall from the Cannons this season and the competition itself.

Barba, who began playing football at school level at Kolbe Catholic College several years ago, was one of the stars for the Cannons in their run to the NAB League grand final and finished third in their best and fairest award, the Meg McArthur Medal, having averaged 12.3 disposals.

While Barba’s time at the Cannons has come to an end, she is still heavily focused on her football. Her first aim is to make the Metro final squad.

She said the training for that had been really good.

“It was a bit of a surprise being selected in the initial squad, but it was one of my goals.

“Training hasn’t been a lot about the skills itself, but setting up plays. About not panicking and keeping your composure to make better decisions, more effective decisions.”

Barba is also in the Essendon VFLW squad and had her first training session with the side last week.

She said it was something that she was looking forward to.

“It’s a different level of footy.”

Barba is hoping that she has done enough to get selected in the AFLW draft later this year.

“Hopefully I’ll get into the Vic Metro squad and then focus on the VFL and see what happens.

“If I don’t get selected, I’ll keep working hard.”

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