Tayla Harris statue to permanently reside in Docklands
More than three years after being unveiled at Federation Square, the iconic statue of AFLW player Tayla Harris will soon find its permanent home here in Docklands, in what represents a huge win for our precinct.
The statue of Harris, depicting one of the most talked about moments in Australia’s history and one which attracted global attention, has been secured by the Victoria Point owners’ corporation (OC) and will be erected in its new garden along the Marvel Stadium concourse later this year.
Photographer Michael Wilson’s award-winning image, The Kick, which captured the then Carlton footballer Harris kicking for goal in a game against the Western Bulldogs in 2019, has quickly become one of the most revered photographs of Australian sport.
Harris, then just 21 years old, was captured mid-kick, her body stretched taut like a bow as she launched into her set shot for goal. This incredible display of athleticism has become a powerful symbol of the rapid rise of the AFLW, and an inspiration to young women and girls.
But sadly, it wasn’t just the athleticism of the pose that caught the public’s attention, as Harris was later subjected to a wave of online abuse from misogynistic trolls after the photo was published on Seven AFL’s Facebook page.
The network’s response to the sheer volume of offensive and threatening comments was to take down the post – a decision which drew widespread criticism throughout the community for failing to take a stand against abuse and violence against women.
But Harris would respond by reposting the image on her Twitter account along with the caption: “Here’s a pic of me at work. Think about this before your derogatory comments, animals.”
The Kick by photographer Michael Wilson
Harris continued to speak out against online abuse and sexism, later publishing a book about her experience called More Than A Kick as a resource for others facing bullying or harassment.
It’s these incredible acts of strength, both on and off the field, which Blue Mountains-based artist Terrance Plowright would later immortalise in bronze with a 3.3-metre statue in celebration of the sporting legend.
Mr Plowright said like so many, he had been incredibly impressed by Tayla’s response.
“I thought she was extraordinary for the way that she handled it at the time,” Mr Plowright said. “I was surprised at how mature she was and the way that she came at it. She hit all the issues head on.”
“This whole issue that we have not just as a nation, I think it’s a worldwide issue, with online bullying and misogynistic issues – she seemed to handle that with great maturity. So, to be asked to be involved with this project, I was delighted.”
Since being unveiled ahead of the 2019 AFL Finals series at Federation Square, NAB, the company which commissioned Mr Plowright to create the statue, had been yet to secure a permanent location for it.
Now, under the stewardship of the Victoria Point OC, the statue will soon find its new home as the centrepiece of a new garden project turning more than 2800 sqm of concrete along the Marvel Stadium concourse into green.
Speaking to Docklands News during a visit to the site with Victoria Point OC chair Dr Janette Corcoran and committee member Linda Dugan in February, Mr Plowright said he was “so pleased” with the location.
“I just think it’s really nice that [this site] symbolically, is multi-functional. Because it is really important that people understand what she [Tayla] stands for, and it’s not just about sport,” he said.
“But also, she’s a great sportsperson, she’s done exceedingly well. She’s not only a great role model just for women, but for men as well.”
“I think that’s why I’m so pleased that it is going up into a public place that is quite significant,” adding that he much preferred the Marvel Stadium concourse to the original location he proposed to journalists back in 2019 – outside the MCG.
“At the event that we had at Federation Square [in 2019] there was a huge amount of press there and some chap said to me, ‘where would you like to see it end up?’ And I said, well, the MCG would be pretty nice,’” he said.
But I actually think this is much nicer, because there’s an intimacy where this is. And hopefully there’ll be other female sculptures that will be added around the precinct at some stage.
The $1.2 million project to transform the Victoria Point garden was conceived through the City of Melbourne’s Urban Forest Fund grants program, established in 2017 to accelerate greening across the municipality. Supported by the council and Development Victoria, the garden has been designed by ASPECT studios with plantings curated by Billy’s Nursery.
While the site’s direct connection with Marvel Stadium provides an appropriate location for the statue, Dr Corcoran said the greening project’s focus on improving women’s safety in the area was also complementary.
Through a women’s safety initiative by Plan Australia called Free To Be, Dr Corcoran said Marvel Stadium had been identified as an area where women didn’t feel safe.
Having organised a Women’s Safety Walk with Plan Australia in 2018, she said women engaged with designers about their experiences of the area, which were fed into Victoria Point’s final designs for its garden.
“We’re really pleased with the connection. She’ll literally living on her doorstep [Marvel Stadium],” Dr Corcoran said, adding that they were excited for all the important conversations the statue’s presence would help inspire.
The statue is expected to be unveiled at the site once the project is completed later this year. •