Alyssa Bannan celebrates a goal during the qualifying final between Melbourne and Adelaide on November 4, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

SHE'S a rising star of the competition, and catches the eye whenever she plays.

But what do we really know about Melbourne's Alyssa Bannan?

The 21-year-old forward is collecting poetry books, went on a 60km walk over the off-season to support a friend training for a marathon, and is a self-described introvert and homebody who isn't quite sure what part of her personality produces her exuberant goal celebrations.

Bannan grew up in the outer north-east suburbs of Melbourne, attending St Helena Secondary College and playing junior footy at South Morang and with the Northern Knights.

It was a stacked representative under-18 side, with Bannan lining up alongside the likes of Ellie McKenzie, Jess Fitzgerald, Gabby Newton, Nell Morris-Dalton, Sarah Sansonetti, Brit Gutknecht and Maeve Chaplin.

Alyssa Bannan in action during the NAB League Girls Grand Final between the Northern Knights and the Calder Cannons at Ikon Park on May 25, 2019. Picture: AFL Photos

Unsurprisingly given her speed, she also spent a decade competing in athletics events, generally state competitions, once making the emergency ranks for the Victorian team.

"I did swimming, karate, basketball for a season, rep netball with Craigieburn before getting drafted, so tried everything and anything. Mum always said, 'you need to learn how to swim, and you need to learn how to defend yourself'," Bannan told

"I started athletics when I was seven years old, and my last season was when I was 17, a good 10 years of running track. When I was younger, it was long-distance running, then as I got older, it was more 200s, long jump, high jump.

"Then the last couple of years before I stopped, it was multi-events, so I was almost training for a decathlon, but felt I was performing better in footy, so went that way."


Simply put, Bannan – who was drafted with pick No.5 in 2020, the third player selected in the Victorian pool – loves football.

"I did boundary and a bit of field umpiring. I thought I'd give it a shot, and eventually got a shift for a game, and umpired from then on. I only stopped because I got drafted," she said.

"I preferred boundary – it's more running, but spectators are really hard, especially junior parents, so I prefer not to get yelled at, I'm here for a good time. Maybe when my football career is done, I might head back, who knows?

"2020 was really hard. I remember we got the email that they had to cancel the season, and I remember just crying that night. I put my Northern Knights guernsey on and I was sitting in front of my computer on our Zoom call, and I was just bawling my eyes out.

"I was so sad; I just love playing footy. I think it was a really good resilience obstacle, in hindsight it was good to realise that things happen, and you have to find ways to work around them, and to take opportunities when you can."

Last year, Bannan moved in with teammate and fellow 2020 draftee Megan Fitzsimon, living in Burwood in Melbourne's middle-east ring.

Melbourne's Casey Fields base was around 70km south of Bannan's home, a trip that has now been halved.

 "I would rock up to games with so much anxiety, I'd feel sick and would be so nervous, I'd use up all my energy before the warm-up. But I've gotten better over the seasons, and that's been due to grounding work and having a routine I can follow," she said.

"The night before, we do pre-game pasta, which Megan will cook. Normally we do spag bol, but sometimes we change it up. The morning of (the game), I normally wake up and go for a walk, have some breakfast. Then I like to do a failure activity.

"The first one I did, I had a deck of cards, and I'd try to make a tower. Every time a card would fall down, I'd just giggle. And I then took that into the game, where if I made a mistake, it's fine, I'll just have a laugh and go again.

"There's something about laughing at failure. I'm a perfectionist, so you can spiral if things don't go to plan. I do it to get out of my head and reframe, because you're not going to be perfect all the time."

Lily Mithen, Libby Birch, Alyssa Bannan and Megan Fitzsimon sing the team song after Melbourne's preliminary final win over North Melbourne at Ikon Park on November 19, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

That perfectionism streak, coupled with Bannan's introverted nature, meant the pre-season improv acting classes coach Mick Stinear organised ahead of season seven was simultaneously the best thing for the forward and a source of dread.

"Oh my gosh. It was my worst nightmare," Bannan said, head in hands.

"I like to do things right, and I like to be perfect at them, so when there's something I'm not good at, I don't like doing that in front of other people. I also don't like things in public, so having to act and do things out of your comfort zone, in front of 30 other people, is really scary.

"No matter how many sessions you've done, it's always the first couple of exercises, you just don't want to do it. But by the end of it, you see that everyone else is making a fool of themselves as well, and then you do the big group activities and everyone's laughing, and it just becomes fun."

Alyssa Bannan celebrates a goal during the match between Melbourne and Collingwood at IKON Park on September 1, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Bannan has a jam-packed schedule. She combines AFLW training with two part-time jobs – one day a week with the club's community team, and still hanging onto one shift at her old casual job at Rebel in Greensborough – with studying a double degree of nursing and paramedicine.

Her downtime is spent with a book in hand.

"I'm a big reader. I read a bit of everything, but I'm currently big into poetry, which has been something new. There was a tv series called Dickinson, and it was a take on Emily Dickinson's life, so I thought I'd read some of her work," Bannan said.

"I just ended up buying book after book, and now I have a full row of poetry books.

"I want to say I'm not far off hitting triple digits (of all books in total) – I'm reading them, they're not just sitting there," she said with a grin.


And that 60km walk for "fun"?

Bannan collapsed into slightly incredulous laughter recounting the ultra-long walk, completed over the off-season.

"My best friend runs marathons. So it's not that I love long walks, it's that she loves them, I like walking with her and I don't get to see her much otherwise. The last walk we did was 60km, it took us 11 hours," Bannan said.

"It was the Darebin Creek trail – we started in Kew, walked to Epping, walked back to Kew, and then had another 3km left, so we just had to do the streets. That was the longest three kilometres in my life, I wanted to cry by the end.

"We drove back to her boyfriend's place, he made us dinner, and we were so exhausted, we just sat there in silence. I think our last 20km were also walked in silence. I remember while he was cooking dinner, I was just lying on the floor because it was cold, and I needed to cool down."

On the field, Bannan flies.

She leaps for marks (practicing with a very patient Stinear, marking bag on his back), she glides down the field, striding clear of virtually all opponents, her braids trailing in her wake and a wide grin on her face.


"It's just so nice. I take it as my strength and one of the reasons I got picked up. I'm able to show everyone that I'm not just a tall forward that can kick goals and mark the footy. I've got something else," Bannan said.

"I do like the half-forward, because I can get up the ground and run and hopefully assist on the scoreboard. But just any position where I can run, I play on the wing a bit.

"Not a great deal goes through my mind, my first instinct is 'go'. Then once I have enough room to stop and think, it's 'what am I going to do with it?'

"If I'm running down the wing after I've taken off, I look at the top of the square, and whatever happens in between, happens."