What makes sport so special is emotion – the highs and lows, the euphoria and the heartbreak.
As happens every time a person gets recognition, a tidal wave of armchair critics have to wreck the occasion.
Tayla Harris’ now famous kicking style has been immortalised with a bronze statue that will stay at Melbourne’s Federation Square throughout the AFL finals.
And as tends to be the case on social media when the comments outweigh the likes, the public’s view tends to lean towards the negative.
Some labelled the statue a joke, pointing to the fact a lot of iconic footballers do not have their own statues. Some think female footballers have not yet earned statues, and others think getting bullied online does not merit a statue.
Most of the reasons for why such a statue is a positive thing should not require explaining, but I will do so regardless.
Firstly, there is not some committee that sits around deciding who deserves a statue and who does not. The amount of people who list other people they deem worthy of statues more than Tayla Harris is extraordinary. I would be extremely curious to know why such people care.
But given those people evidently think statues mean something, I would point out that this is not just a statue of Tayla Harris, and was never claimed to only be that.
Women’s sports in Australia is in the midst of a revolution, and we move ever closer to a time where a larger number of women can play sport professionally.
Many males who are uncomfortable with this love to take to social media to voice their disapproval of the standards of women’s sports, as if simply not watching them will not suffice.
Online trolling compounds the problem. When the image of Harris’ kick went viral, trolls vilified her.
It was an extraordinary image due to the level of athleticism on display. An image that should be used as an advertisement for women’s sport was hijacked by quite a large number of disgusting individuals who chose to demean Harris.
What the image will be in 20 years – just as the image of Nicky Winmar pointing to the colour of his skin is now – will be a representation of where society once was, and where it has moved to.
It will – and probably already does – represent a shift in thinking towards proper respect for women, and a celebration of their achievement.
Evidently, society has already made significant steps in addressing this, and is broadly on the improve, but this issue demonstrated we still have a long way to come.
To those who claimed Tayla Harris has not achieved enough on the football field to have earned a statue, it’s obvious the statue transcends sporting achievement.
Statues are about symbolism, and this particular statue does not represent the achievements of one sports person, but the idea that women should be free to achieve without being vilified.