Aussie Rules: Carlton's Tayla Harris strikes back at online 'sexual abuse'

Tayla Harris in action for Carlton
Tayla Harris in action for Carlton. Photo credit: AFL Photos/Twitter

Aussies Rules player Tayla Harris claims she has been sexually abused on social media, after an action photo of her caused outrage among media and fans.

The pic of Harris punting the ball for her Carlton team against Western Bulldogs was initially posted on the Australia's Channel Seven Twitter account and then removed, after it was inundated with inappropriate comments.

That drew even more criticism, forcing the broadcaster to repost and apologise several hours later.

"We're sorry," it said. "Removing the photo sent the wrong message."

But Harris worries the response signals an even deeper and more disturbing threat to females.

"I can talk about it, because I'm feeling fine now," she told RSN Racing & Sport. "But there are people in this incident who may have experienced something to do with sexual assault or something like that."

Harris said many of those who posted offensive comments had daughters in their profile pics.

"That's the stuff I'm worried about. Perhaps this is an issue that needs to go further.

"If people are saying things like this to someone they don't know on a public platform, what are they saying behind closed doors?

"Maybe this is the start of domestic violence, the start of abuse. The comments I saw were sexual abuse - it was repulsive and made me feel uncomfortable.

"As soon as I'm uncomfortable with that, that's what I would call sexual abuse on social media."

Harris reposted the picture on Tuesday night, saying: "Here's a pic of me at work… think about this before your derogatory comments, animals."

She also posted on Instagram, saying: "My hamstring is OK, but derogatory and sexist comments aren't."

The AFLW competition began in 2017, after exhibition games in preceding years. Generally, it has been greeted enthusiastically by the game's supporters, although obviously some are still making the adjustment.

"In the end, what I want to be clear about is it's an amazing photo and that's the overwhelming consensus," said AFL boss Gillon McLachlan.

"She's a star AFL player, there's unacceptable commentary and people are holding those comments to account, and I think that's really pleasing."