AFLW: Tayla Harris on impact of photo saga on family, stars as Carlton make Grand Final
After one of the most surreal weeks a sportsperson could imagine, Tayla Harris has produced an insane performance on the field.
The 21-year-old and her Carlton Blues showed no mercy as they destroyed the Fremantle Dockers 9.10 (64) to 4.4 (28) in the AFLW preliminary final to book a grand final place.
It’s a fairytale on the field for the side who finished with the wooden spoon last season and will play the winner of the Adelaide and Geelong match to be played on Sunday.
But for Harris, who was the target of online abuse during the week, but then received support from across the globe — it was an opportunity to use the pressure to inspire her on the field, turning a positive into a negative.
“If anything, it has helped me a lot,” she said after the preliminary final win. “This kind of stuff, I use as motivation.
“Obviously it’s not common, I just realise it is an opportunity for me to do what I did, to stand up, I’ve done that, and I allocated the day for it, did my thing, and then moved on the Wednesday or Thursday to footy. And since then I have just been focused on the game and playing as best as I can.”
But there has also been a substantial effect on her family.
Tayla’s mum Lisa spoke on Channel 7’s coverage of the AFLW final and admitted it was tough to see her child go through the scrutiny she was under.
“We have been very concerned about Tayla, but we are just beyond proud of the way she has conducted herself, and more so for the fact that it can open up a conversation,” she said.
“It was it is not just her, it is all young girls out there, and their parents also get affected by what is said. I am just in awe of what she is doing.
“She is my baby — it hits you right in the heart. When we saw the original things that were written, try to block out, that it is very hard, when somebody is saying that about your daughter, and I know these people have got daughters, wives. And it is a scary part of society.”
Harris thanked her supporters throughout the week and said the win would help.
“I had an outpouring of support, from the broader community, the football community, my mates and friends and family, so I was feeling really safe and really supported from people around me but I do feel for my family and my friends,” she said. “I know it would affect them. And I suppose I did all I can to reassure them that I’m OK, which I am. So hopefully Mum said she is all right now, but this will help her a bit as well.”
As for on the field, Harris showed early she had her mind on the game.
Social media went nuts — in a good way — for the incredible mark.
Amazing performance and turnaround by Carlton @aflwomens – from wooden spoon to grand final in just 12 months. Especially after a crazy week for @taylaharriss. Great to see Blues fans having something to cheer too #afl #aflw
— Simon Thomsen (@SimonThomsen) March 23, 2019
The win was huge for Carlton with Harris reiterating the group’s belief in the comeback.
“Of course we can win it — fairytale kind of stuff,” she said.
“We are a tight group and we trust ourselves and rely on each other inside and outside of footy. I think it translates to our game. Provided we can play did today and throughout the season, we had ups and downs but the ups were very high.”
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Wayward kicking kept the Dockers in the game early but by half time, it was all Carlton.
The Blues led by 29 at the main break and by then the game was all but over.
Originally published as ‘It helps me’: Defiant Harris’ masterclass