Tayla made to give women's footy a kick along
SHE takes hangers like Jeremy Howe. But you'd be hard-pressed to find an AFL player that boots the ball like Tayla Harris.
After taking a spectacular grab during her first game in the annual Melbourne-Western Bulldogs women's footy series at Melbourne's Etihad Stadium last season, Harris showcased her unique kicking style during the most recent match last week.
Action photos of the 18-year-old from Brisbane spread quickly on social media.
"I've always had a follow-through. It's just natural. It just happens," she told APN.
"When I was little, I literally used to knee myself in the face ... I'd have to put my hand up (to protect it)."
The athletic half-forward is now a poster girl of the sport with the fastest growing participation rate for women in Australia.
Harris played a big part in her Melbourne side clean sweeping its two-match series against the Bulldogs - the first was played at the MCG in May - carrying on from a sensational debut last year.
An image of her riding on the back of a pack to take a mark was used to help promote the 2015 games, the latest played as a curtain-raiser to the Dogs-Demons AFL match at Docklands and the first televised by Channel 7.
"It's cool. I like that sort of stuff. I'm not going to say 'no'," Harris says with a laugh.
"It boosts female footy.
"If someone tells you girls are just as good - they can take hangers or whatever - unless they see a photo or a video, they're not going to really believe it."
Following dad Warren and brother Jack into the sport, Harris began playing alongside the boys from the age of five at the Aspley Hornets, before later crossing to the Zillmere Eagles to play in the state women's competition.
Along with players from all over the country, she was drafted into the Melbourne line-up last season for these special exhibition games.
As another sign of its growing popularity, last week's game attracted a bigger TV audience in Victoria than the Essendon-Adelaide AFL match, which was on the same weekend.
"Actually my great grandmother - she's 95 now - she'd never seen me play before, but now she's got to see me play live," Harris said. "That was really special for me. TV is just a massive step forward."
It's not about to end there, however. While there have been 250 new women's teams established around the country in 2014-15 alone, there is expected to be at least a handful more in 2017, playing in a national competition, and possibly aligned to those in the AFL.
Harris, who works for AFL Queensland in promotion and game development, said she would welcome the chance to play for Brisbane, and do it professionally.
"Right now everyone's playing for the love of the game," she said. "You've already got a really good product, but then if you dangle a carrot in front of everyone, they're going to work even harder and it's going to be an even better game to watch."