With the start of the 2021 NAB AFL Women’s season just weeks away, get to know more about one of Geelong’s newest Cats, Olivia Barber.
1) She’s been here before
Albeit just for a couple of weeks. Olivia Barber spent some time with Geelong ahead of the club’s debut AFLW season, as part of the NAB AFLW Academy program. Back in December 2018, Barber was one of four Academy members from Vic Country who joined in training with the Cats.
All girls from that group have now found their way onto an AFLW list. Millie Brown joined Geelong last season under the Father-Daughter rule (her father Paul played 84 games for the Cats in the 90s), Lucy McEvoy was recruited by Carlton and Maggie Caris – sister of Geelong’s Rene Caris – was picked up by Melbourne in this year’s draft.
2) Barber’s gone from shooting hoops to playing in them
Barber joins an ever-growing list of AFL and AFLW players with a basketball background. The new Cat represented NSW Country at under-16 and under-18 level, was twice invited to the Basketball Australia Development Camp and was playing with Albury-Wodonga in the SEABL before deciding to make football her focus.
3) The All-Australian
It’s fair to say Barber is a pretty handy forward to add to your list – a really handy forward, actually. A brilliant 2019 NAB AFLW Under-18 Championships saw Barber named as full forward in the tournament’s All-Australian team, despite being a bottom-ager.
Fellow Cat Millie Brown was named at full back in the team. With 2020 disrupting underage footy plans in 2020, Barber didn’t get the opportunity to push for a follow-up selection.
4) The Bushranger gang is growing
Barber will be just the third player on the Cats’ AFLW list to hail from the Murray Bushrangers, joining Rebecca Webster (drafted 2018) and Millie Brown (2019).
The Bushrangers have produced some very handy players for the men’s team over the years that Cats fans will be quite familiar with. AFL premiership players Steve Johnson, Tom Lonergan and Shannon Byrnes were among those who came up through the junior pathways club.
5) … as is the farming family
Barber grew up on a cattle and crop farm in Balldale, north-west of Albury in New South Wales. Growing up around cows, sheep, barley, wheat and canola, Barber will find herself right at home at the club, which has strong ties to the country. The Cats’ AFL side competes in the annual Powercor Country Festival against Essendon, and often takes its community visits to the south-west region.
The club has strong ties to country regions through its junior zones, which has produced players for both teams from the Bushrangers, Geelong Falcons and Greater Western Victoria Rebels.