Removing Tayla Harris' Photo Penalised Fans And Gave The Trolls A Free Kick

The trolls and cowards may have huffed and puffed and beat their puny little chests, but the pros and we grownups ultimately won the day.

And gosh it was great to watch.

Michael Wilson’s photo of Carlton footballer Tayla Harris in full flight will be looked on as one of the greatest photos the AFL community has ever seen.

The beauty; the athleticism; the poise. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better photo that encapsulates footy in the 21st century. Even Teddy Whitten (bless his resting soul) couldn’t launch his leg and frame that high.

The phenomenal photo of Tayla Harris. (Image: AFL)
Ted Whitten of Footscray in action. (Image: Getty Images)

It’s nothing we haven’t seen before. A quick Google search and you’ll realise Harris’ superhuman hammies and ripping right boot have been caught in the act by footy snappers many times over back when women’s football was just stepping into the spotlight.

I say will because, despite our best efforts to celebrate spectacular imagery like this and everything it represents, there’s still so much work to do. Not just work, bloody hard work, no thanks to those who directly or indirectly stand in the way of progress.

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I’m not only pointing the finger at the trolls and cowards who descended on Harris’ photo like a pack of dogs on this occasion, swinging Fraser Anning-like jabs from the comfort of their armchairs and security of their computer screens.

I’m also pointing my finger at the prominent media network which, firstly, allowed this abuse to clot the comment feed then, secondly, actually listened to its drool.

For those not up to speed: Wilson’s photo of Harris, shot during Carlton’s win over the Western Bulldogs and subsequently shared on his own Twitter account with the caption “You kick like a girl #AFLW #GenW,” was re-re-hashed by @7AFL on its own social networks. Common practice. For the purpose of engagement between the social arm of Seven’s footy coverage and the wider footy community, it’s a no-brainer.

Well, the “no brains” part of this rings particularly true following the decision by Seven’s digital team to delete the post, citing an influx of “inappropriate and offensive” comments by the aforementioned trolls and cowards as justification.

We know you’re just trying to do the right thing, @7AFL, but on this occasion you screwed up.

The move was both gutless and backwards, and the outcry of support for Harris and women’s footy spelled out why.

The AFLW is in a good place.

Girls aren’t just making up the numbers anymore, given more than a third of all who play Australian Rules football, worldwide, are female.

The arrival of a professional competition has had a profound impact on those figures.

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And the standard of said competition has improved, dramatically. That’s not a dig at the first couple of seasons. That was such a significant step, a positive step, and the game’s better for it. But one can’t deny AFLW has come a long way since it kicked off two years ago.

In two short years, the women's game has come leaps and bounds. (Image: AAP)

But the derogatory and misogynistic commentary which usually follows commentary about women’s football is what’s holding it back.

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From Harris floating on air to the touching image of teammates chairing off Collingwood’s Cecilia Mcintosh in her last game to many more, we’re seeing magical moments spoiled by a section of our society who, for whatever reason, just doesn’t want or like to play ball.

Great sporting moments on show as Cecilia Mcintosh of the Magpies is carried off after retiring. (Image: Getty)

And for a fleeting moment on Monday, it looked as if the haters had won again.

Hence why I say it’s in a good place, not a great place.

But, the power of people and positivity would prevail this time around.

Twitter was overwhelmed with retweets and reposts of the Blues forward. From AFLW players to AFL players, to sportswomen and sportsmen from different codes, expert commentators to everyday fans of the game, people from all walks of life came together to spread the love and bury the hate.

Seven had no other choice but to publish the image again and attach a tail-between-the-legs apology.

With this as a benchmark, we all can make sure, for our daughters’ or granddaughters’ sake, that the women’s game is in great place from here on out.

There’ll always be opposition. There’ll always be differences of opinion. Heck, humanity has been at loggerheads over opposing opinions since time began.

Unlike conflicts before us, we’ve got an easier option, we’ve got the power to drown out the vitriol with the click of a button.

Channel Seven pays a lot of money to be a partner of the AFL and AFLW. On this occasion, they failed to hold up their end of the bargain. If they’re not going to do it, it’s up to the pros and rest of us grownups.