Dedication to training and unwavering self-belief has seen Sydney Uni Women’s AFL Bomber’s Star, Nicola Barr, skyrocket to notice as a national sporting female talent, writes Harry Croker.
Barr’s trajectory to sporting success is built on countless hours of skill development and the recent signs have been simply irresistible. From being honoured as the 2015 AFL Sydney Women’s Rising Star to winning the 2016 Mostyn Medal as the Women’s Premier Division best and fairest, the twenty-year old’s AFL career has been on overdrive. Then it happened.
On a pivotal day last October Barr created history as the number 1 pick in the inaugural National Women’s League AFL Draft. Barr was chosen by the Greater Western Sydney Giants (GWS) for the 2017 season. Amazingly, Barr was joined at GWS by three teammates from Sydney Uni Women’s AFL, ruck Erin McKinnon, forward Isabella Rudolph and fellow midfielder Stephanie Walker, similarly snapped up in the Draft. The talented trio’s selection is a huge compliment to player development happening at Sydney Uni Women’s AFL Club.
Standing at 168cm tall, the speedy mid-fielder is currently completing a medical science degree at Sydney University while playing AFL. Barr is also part of the Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness (SUSF) Elite Athlete Program. Barr’s life is chockablock balancing studies and training but her busy life almost wouldn’t have found her had it not been for a sudden change of heart in Year 11, high school.
Throughout most of her time at Queenwood, on Sydney’s North Shore, Barr was an avid soccer player for Manly United. Destiny invited when the school’s sports director approached and asked if Barr would take part in an upcoming AFL schools gala day despite never having played the code. Barr fell in love with the sport and was determined to give it a, “proper go.”
“There’s something about AFL that I have never experienced in any other sport I’ve played,” Barr said. “It’s such a complete sport; the camaraderie within an Aussie rules team is like nothing I’ve felt before. The feeling I have coming off a footy field after putting everything on the line is indescribable.”
Originally from Melbourne, Barr lived all over the world before settling in Sydney. Kuala Lumpur, America, Ireland, Singapore and Dubai are a few of the stamps on her passport. After school Barr initially thought she would attend University in Melbourne, as that’s where most of her family was based, however, eventually decided it may be beneficial to remain in Sydney. Upon being accepted into the SUSF Elite Athlete Program, Barr knew she had made the right choice.
“I honestly didn’t think I had a chance, as women’s footy wasn’t exactly going crazy at the time,” Barr said. “I was thrilled when I was accepted into the Program.”
After a standout season for Sydney Uni Women’s Bombers, Barr was awarded the Mostyn Medal through collecting six best on ground performances and polling in 10 of the 16 matches in which she played. Seeing the trophy as a reward for her efforts since taking up the code more so than just last season, is something she holds, “very close.”
“While it was great to have my efforts for the 2016 season recognised it was a reward for the hard work I have been putting in over the last three years,” Barr said. “I couldn’t have achieved it without the amazing support from the Sydney Uni footy team, as well as my family and friends, and I’m so grateful for that.”
The new Women’s National eight-team competition will be a huge leap forward for both women’s AFL and women’s sport in Australia.
In the all-important midfield role Barr has proven a revelation in movement, passing, support and communication.
“I couldn’t even comprehend going to Melbourne for the inaugural women’s AFL draft, let alone being named the number 1 pick,” Barr said. “I never expected to be in such a position and I feel very honoured.”
Barr admits balancing training and study can be difficult, particularly throughout exam periods. She stays on top of her workload by giving complete focus to one aspect, and forgetting the other.
“When I go to training, I know that I’m there to train and there’s no point fretting about studying because I can’t do it there, so I may as well completely focus on footy and the same goes for when I’m studying,” Barr commented.
Barr is aware that she has an amazing opportunity through study and sport to set herself up for the future and rest assured she will be giving her absolute best, which is her trademark. With the goals she is setting and achieving and a real love of the game, Barr is proving one heck of a pilot as she shoots for the stars.