Tayla Harris attends her sculpture unveiling at Federation Square.
Tayla Harris attends her sculpture unveiling at Federation Square.

Tayla Harris statue ‘transcends sport’

FOOTBALL star Tayla Harris's famous airborne kick has been immortalised with a bronze statue unveiled in Melbourne.

A photograph of the kick became a viral sensation earlier this year after sparking a spirited defence of women in sport when Harris was targeted by online trolls posting offensive comments.

The 22-year-old AFLW player said she was humbled by the 3.3m tall statue, which was unveiled at Federation Square but does not yet have a permanent home.

"It doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman, young or old - everyone has a right to do what they love," Harris said.

"That's what I want people to see when they look at this.

"It's a pretty surreal feeling, it's incredible and it's more than me just kicking football, it's a message, it's a turning point in Australian society, so it's something I can be personally proud of."

Harris said she expected the statue would draw more negative attention her way and she was spot on.

Social media exploded with disdain for the statue with plenty claiming she did not deserve to have a statue over other great female athletes.

One tweet in particular lit a fire on social media.

"Tayla Harris gets a statue ahead of the likes of Cathy Freeman, Lauren Jackson, Ellyse Perry, Sally Pearson, Karrie Webb and Michelle Timms?" Ronny Lerner tweeted.

It caused a storm as others agreed and plenty more responded that it was not about Harris as an athlete but about what her moment and the reaction represented.

Others tried to put those targeting Harris in their place pointing out the moment as a watershed one for women's sport in Australia and even comparing it to the famous statue of St Kilda great Nicky Winmar, lifting his guernsey and pointing to his skin.

"The Tayla Harris statue holds striking similarities to the Nicky Winmar one in front of Optus Stadium," Todd Davey tweeted.

"You could argue there's 100s of players more worthy of a statue based on their playing career than Nicky; but what the image represents transcends his on-field impact."

Harris, who is also a boxer, said she was aware that the statue could draw more personal abuse towards her but said her instinct was to stand up and ignore the "trolls".

"I actually said to my mum, because she is affected much more than I am, and asked her to try not to read comments because people are going to say - and it's tall poppy syndrome - that I don't deserve this," Harris said.