HIGH-FLYING Carlton forward Tayla Harris has hit back at trolls on social media, labelling them "animals".
A photo from the Blues' recent three-point win over the Bulldogs of Harris' unique and athletic kicking style – taken by AFL Media senior photographer Michael Willson – was the target of vile comments on Facebook.
The 21-year-old responded by tweeting the photo herself, with the caption "Here's a pic of me at work… think about this before your derogatory comments, animals".
Here’s a pic of me at work... think about this before your derogatory comments, animals. pic.twitter.com/68aBVVbTTj— Tayla Harris (@taylaharriss) March 19, 2019
The original post by 7AFL was taken down by the account, with 7AFL tweeting the following at 6:28pm on Tuesday night:
"Recently we published an image of AFLW player Tayla Harris. The original purpose in publishing the image was to celebrate the power, athleticism and skills on show in Carlton's thrilling win over the Western Bulldogs.
"The image attracted a number of comments, some of which were inappropriate and offensive. As a consequence we have removed the image and the comments."
There was a swift backlash on social media to the removal of the photo, with many AFLW and AFL players and fans tweeting the photo themselves, citing the problem was with the comments, rather than the photo.
Even Matildas superstar striker Sam Kerr showed her support.
7AFL reposted the photo at 11:22pm on the same night.
"We're sorry. Removing the photo sent the wrong message. Many of the comments made on the post were reprehensible and we'll work harder to ban trolls from our pages," the caption read.
"Our intention was to highlight [Tayla Harris'] incredible athleticism and we'll continue to celebrate women's footy."
We're sorry. Removing the photo sent the wrong message.— 7AFL (@7AFL) March 19, 2019
Many of the comments made on the post were reprehensible & we'll work harder to ban trolls from our pages.
Our intention was to highlight @taylaharriss incredible athleticism & we'll continue to celebrate women's footy. pic.twitter.com/p24Ll08LRC
Harris spoke on RSN's breakfast show on Wednesday morning.
"I'm feeling empowered this morning, I think because of the reaction that's come," Harris said.
"It's been a bit of a whirlwind. I've seen all of it. I've seen the comments, and I hope people don't know what we're talking about, because they've been deleted since.
"The reason people have created a bit of an uproar was because 7AFL deleted the post, rather than deleting the comments or blocking the commenters. Since that, a lot of people have got on board, including Patrick Dangerfield and some other high-profile people, posting the photos saying, 'Let's share this, rather than deleting'.
"I saw that and felt a bit warm inside, it was great. Obviously, the AFL community got around me and that was awesome. But it isn't about me now, it's about a way bigger picture. It's not about the comments either … we're not talking about the trolls right now, this is a way bigger picture. This is society, now."
AFL head of women's football Nicole Livingstone said the response to the original post was "disrespectful".
"The Tayla Harris photo was originally posted on our AFLW socials on Sunday and received such positive sentiment, it's a shame that hasn't been reciprocated on all social media platforms," Livingstone said.
"I saw an image of an athlete, a football player, in their element, at the top of their game. To see it as anything else is disrespectful and not in keeping of community expectations.
"Tayla is a hero and a great role model for so many of us, as are all our AFLW players. Her strength of character both on and off the field is something we celebrate."
The Blues take on the Dockers in a preliminary final at Ikon Park on Saturday at 2:45pm.