Older, wiser Thorn ready for new dawn with Suns

IT WILL be a different Tayla Thorn who takes to the field in the NAB AFL Women's competition next year.

For a start, she'll be running out for expansion club Gold Coast, after playing five games for Adelaide in the first AFLW season in 2017 when she was just 18. 

The now-21-year-old said she turned down a contract at the Crows for 2018, saying she felt she wasn't mentally or emotionally ready. 

"Adelaide offered me a rookie contract, but I think with not playing in the same state that you're drafted to (Thorn is from the Northern Territory), I found that a bit of a struggle, because of the smaller training groups," Thorn told womens.afl

"I wasn't mature, and I wasn't mentally prepared to do it again, so I had to take that time off to find that passion. Footy is really hard, and there were such high expectations in that first year, and mentally I just wasn't there.

"Taking off a couple of years, but still playing in the local league (St Mary's and Southern Districts in the NTFLW) and VFLW (NT Thunder), was great. 

"As soon as I gained that passion back, I took every opportunity I could to get back on an AFLW list." 

Tayla Thorn (right) has spent the past two seasons playing with the NT Thunder in the VFLW

With former Northern Territorians Jasmyn Hewett, Sally Riley and Jordann Hickey already on Gold Coast's list for 2020, Thorn was invited to represent the club in the recent QW Winter Series, three matches played between the Suns and Brisbane during the AFLW off-season. 

"A couple of our Darwin girls asked if I could come over and play. I played the first one, which was amazing. They wanted me back again, so I played the third one and then within a week they called me and asked if I wanted to sign," Thorn said.

"I think I was ready. Obviously, I had to play and prove myself, but I was already in season with the VFLW. 

"Everything I'd done was leading up to that point. It all happened pretty quickly, but I've taken the opportunity with both hands." 

Tayla Thorn in action for the Crows during the inaugural AFLW season in 2017

Primarily a midfielder, Thorn has slotted into the backline for the Thunder at times this year, being named her team's best twice in her nine games. 

"I've still been playing against those AFLW players, just at VFLW level. It's given me confidence that I can go back, I'm now physically and mentally prepared for it," she said.

Away from footy, Thorn is an indigenous support worker at Taminmin College in Humpty Doo, about half an hour south-east of Darwin.

"I mentor indigenous girls from years seven to 12, trying to get them to come to school, because we see the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous people graduating," Thorn said. 

"I went through the program myself. I finished year 12, went to uni, so I've done the circle back in helping indigenous girls go to school and engaging them. 

"We build relationships with the families, work on completing each year level successfully with the aim of finishing year 12 or getting into apprenticeships or traineeships. It's a massive passion of mine."