Women players from the Sapphire Coast AFL competition will be watching on, ready for their own season to start on April 6.
“Looking at that photo, I think I see what most people see and that is a phenomenal athlete, I do see a lot of positive in it,” says Carlin Stanford, Bega Bombers AFL Club.
Carlin hopes the “epic photo” will bring people to the game, a weight, show of support, and interest that will silence those who have and might speak disrespectfully of women AFL players.
Having weathered the abuse of social media trolls leading up to this afternoon’s final, high-flying forward, Tayla Harris will run out with her Carlton teammates ready for action against Freemantle.
The winner will advance to the Grand Final so both teams will be giving it everything they’ve got – the sort of skill and determination that was on show in Michael Willson’s photo.
The photo, which was originally posted by Channel 7 attracted what the AFL and many others have described as vile comments.
“I’ve seen the comments, and I hope people don’t know what we’re talking about because they’ve been deleted since,” Harris told the RSN breakfast show on Wednesday morning.
“The comments I saw were sexual abuse…because it was repulsive and it made me uncomfortable.
“That is what I would consider sexual abuse on social media.”
While condemning some of the commentary, Carlin hopes new people might be introduced to women’s AFL through the strength on display in Harris and Wilson’s photo.
“It’s generated a conversation, and that’s good,” the Bombers star says.
“It’s about respect and that is a conversation we need to continue.”
Some of the bad attitudes and comments expressed this week aren’t a surprise to Carlin, who as well as playing footy comes from a career in the defence forces.
“I’ve had some challenges but I’ve always found the best way to disarm it is by staying focused on the job,” she says.
“So always being respectful, working hard, being fair – in your own life and in your dealings with people. They are qualities that can cross over to others.
“And understanding that most people want to do good but there are things in all our lives that impact on us making the right choices sometimes.”
The women’s team Carlin plays for is the heart and soul of the Bega Bombers, the club doesn’t have a senior men’s team, so the clubs biggest and best are women.
“I am so proud of the Bombers, from our juniors, through to the coaches, to our women’s team, there are so many passionate people that want to be a better person themselves and have that rub off on the people around them.
“If we can affect our own little world in a positive way, demonstrate good choices, show good behaviour, don’t give up then maybe that the key to turning some of this around.”
Carlin and Tathra’s Jane Andrew are just back from a women’s masters AFL weekend in Melbourne.
“We played at Marvel Stadium and came out of the tunnel and saw ourselves on the big screen – an amazing experience,” Carlin smiles.
Playing for the Victorian country team, Carlin and Jane came home winners.
“Pam Andrew from Canberra kicked the winning goal for us.”
The controversy around the Tayla Harris photo only serves to empower the example people like Carlin and clubs like the Bega Bombers are setting.
“It’s about respecting the person, not everyone can kick 40 metres like Tayla Harris, not everyone can run for an hour, not everyone can tackle fearlessly but each and every person brings something unique, so if we can foster that, that is what will make a good team,” Carlin says.
Eight women’s teams will run out for 14 round Sapphire Coast AFL competition starting next month – aside from the Bega Bombers there’s the Bermagui Breakers, Broulee Moruya Giants, last years premiers the Eden Whalers, Narooma Lions, Merimbula Diggers, Pambula Panthers, and the Tathra Sea Eagles.
Women right along the Far South Coast are challenging old fashioned ideas which as Carlin says is “just as good for boys to see as much as it is for girls.”
This afternoon’s AFLW clash featuring Tayla Harris screens on 7 Mate, Fox Footy, and the AFLW App from 2:30 pm.
To connect with your local AFL club check the Sapphire Coast AFL website.