'She's the opposite': Daisy bites back at Tayla doubters

"IF [my daughter] grows up to be the type of daughter that that Tayla is... I'll be bloody proud." 

It's tough to imagine any higher praise, and from Melbourne premiership captain Daisy Pearce no less. 

At club number three, in Grand Final number four Tayla Harris finally has a premiership medallion around her neck, but those words might mean just as much. 

Harris started her career with Brisbane in 2017, playing in the first ever AFLW Grand Final at just 19 years old as an exciting key forward. She was named in the inaugural All-Australian team that year and earned a Rising Star nomination along the way. 

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A desire to move down south drew her to Carlton the following season where she led the club's goalkicking for three consecutive seasons, was included in the All-Australian team twice more, and featured in the 2019 Grand Final. 

A tough 2021 season where COVID lockdowns in Melbourne were rife and Harris was far from family saw her form dip a little, and the chance for a fresh start was looking exciting.

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That want to start anew played out in a less-than-desirable way in the public sphere, heaping plenty of pressure on the then-24-year-old, who had become one of the faces of the game thanks to her athleticism, talent, and willingness to speak up for women. 

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"It was kind of pitch that we were getting someone that wanted to be the star of the show. Externally, this is what I was reading - that she was chasing money, didn't really care enough didn't work hard enough," Pearce said of the speculation circling Harris in late 2021.  

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"That was all I heard about Tayla before she got to our club, and she is none of those things. She's the opposite. She's all about the team. She just works her absolute butt off and will do anything for us both on field and off.  

"She's an incredible person." 

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In her first season at the Demons, earlier this year, Harris led the side for goals, kicking 18 on the way to her third Grand Final appearance - and Melbourne's first. Her contribution to the club was recognised in its best and fairest count where she finished third behind Daisy and Lauren Pearce (no relation). 

This season a different role has been required of Harris. Spending less time up forward as the main target of the Demons' attack, Harris has worked in tandem with Lauren Pearce through the ruck, becoming increasingly damaging around the ground, while also kicking 10 goals. 

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"She does stuff on the footy field that no one else in this competition can do," Pearce said.  

"I've never met a player that does as many extras as she does, she lives in the gym working on her boxing, but it benefits her footy as well. She's just an inspiration to watch. There's times where you're on the field where you just think, the ball doesn't sound like that when anyone else kicks it." 

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For her Melbourne teammates, Harris' impact off the field has been just as valuable as her on-field ability.  

"She's an incredible human being, the amount of heart that she's got," Pearce said glowingly. 

The journey to the Demons hasn't been a straightforward on for Harris, and it has been far from easy, but Melbourne couldn't be happier to have her in the red and blue.