BY MICHAEL PATANE
AFLW superstar Tayla Harris will hold many fans' hopes as Carlton goes into their first Grand Final tomorrow, after her standout performance last Saturday in the Blues’ 36-point victory over Fremantle.
Harris will hope her top form continues, with the Blues going in as heavy underdogs against a red-hot Adelaide Crows team, who smashed Geelong by 66 points at the Adelaide Oval last week.
The Crows have clearly been the best team all season , with many of their wins by big margins. Since losing to the Western Bulldogs by one point in Round 1, they have been undefeated.
They also have the luxury of hosting the Grand Final on Sunday in front of their home fans as they look to secure their second title in three years.
However, Carlton, under the leadership of captain Brianna Davey, who also starred in last Saturday’s win, should not be discounted.
With support from Lauren Brazzale in the midfield, and Harris and sharpshooter Darcy Vescio in the forward line, the Blues should provide a tough challenge for the premiership favourites. Since losing to Adelaide in round 2 by 13 points, the Blues have won five of their next six matches.
Harris went into the preliminary final off a tumultuous week, after online trolls flooded a spectacular picture of her kicking for goal with a rash of sexist and transphobic comments.
However, she appeared unperturbed during the semi-final, with her physicality, high marking, and unique kicking style on full display throughout the afternoon.
The forward booted Carlton’s first goal of the match in trademark style at the 13-minute mark of the opening quarter, and finished the game with 10 disposals and four tackles to go along with her one goal in Carlton’s 9.10 (64) to 4.4 (28) victory.
After the game, the 21-year-old spoke to Channel 7 and thanked the community for their support, whom she credited for helping her play one of the best games of her AFLW career.
“This kind of stuff I use as motivation. I just realise it’s an opportunity for me to do what I did, to stand up, and I’ve done that,” she said.
“I had an outpouring of support, obviously from the broader football community, my teammates, and friends and family, so I was feeling really safe and really supported.”
In the Adelaide match, Crows midfielder Ebony Marinoff was the best player afield, picking up 27 disposals and booting two goals as her team won 11.7 (73) to 1.1 (7).
All afternoon, the Crows midfield – led by co-captains Erin Phillips (23 disposals, six tackles) and Chelsea Randall (15 disposals, one goal) – outworked and outran their Geelong opponents.
The Grand Final kicks off at 1pm AEDT on Sunday and will be broadcast live on Channel 7.