Review :: More Than a Kick :: Tayla Harris

June 23, 2020

I love footy. I grew up in Victoria, I barracked for the Hawks and was crazy for anything with brown and gold stripes. I obsessed over the games and the stats and the players. I never had a chance to play - it actually never occurred to me that I could! I can honestly say that seeing the creation of the AFLW, a national competition for women, and the development pathways put in place for girls to get there has been one of the absolute joys of my life for the past few years. I still cry at some point during most games.

One of the less nice (totally gross) sides to the AFLW - and really women's sport in general - is the way that the skills and excitement and iconic moments come with a side of ridicule and harassment from people who still think women don't have a place in professional sport.

Which brings us to the book I'm reviewing today - More than a Kick, Footy, the Photo and Me by Tayla Harris. Here's the blurb from the Allen and Unwin website:

AFLW player Tayla Harris was at work on the footy field when she kicked a goal. A photo of the kick - taken by Michael Willson - showcased her incredible athletic ability and was posted online. What happened next was an extraordinary turning point in Tayla's life. The photo quickly became iconic as Tayla stood strong against the online trolls. This is the inspiring story of Tayla's stellar sporting career so far, and her hard-earned advice to young people navigating the ups and downs of social media.

I think it's worth sharing the author bio for this one too (also from the Allen and Unwin website)

Tayla Harris is an AFLW player for the Carlton Football Club. She previously played for Brisbane in the inaugural AFL Women's season in 2017. She received All Australian honours two years in a row, as well as winning Mark of the Year in season 2018. She is also a professional boxer. In March 2019 Tayla was subjected to extreme online trolling when a photo showing her kicking for goal was posted to social media. She has been lauded for how she navigated the social and mainstream media storm that followed and is proud to use her platform to speak out about the issue, raising awareness around trolls and online bullying, calling out unacceptable behaviour online and inspiring young women.

This book was such a delight. I enjoyed it much more than I expected. I loved spending 'time' with Harris - her voice sounds natural and friendly - perfect for the intended tween/teen audience.
The reason I shared the bio above is because I really feel like through this book - and other work she has done - Harris is doing exactly what it says she is proud to be doing - using her platform to speak out, raise awareness around trolls and online bullying, call out unacceptable behaviour and inspire young women - and I feel kind of proud of her for doing it too.

Harris is clearly an incredible athlete and was already known for her amazing kicking style, and the photo that Michael Willson captured was absolutely perfect. The comments that were made about the photo ranged from annoying to gross to absolutely vile and disgusting. Through out the book we get to know Harris a bit as she shares her story about how she fell in love with footy, the support she has from her family, and how she ended up playing in the AFLW, including what it was like to move from Brisbane to Carlton. Then she steps us through the day that the iconic photo of her was taken, how if felt to start seeing the reactions to it, and why it was important to her to take a stand against it rather than just letting it blow over. I was so impressed with both the openness with which she discusses her feelings now, as well as how she actually dealt with it at the time. I loved that she talks about how important it was for her to stand up to the issue, and why it was important to  her, but at the same time she acknowledges that it would have been ok not to. There is a really strong message throughout the book about how hard it is to be in a situation where you are being harassed or bullied, and how important it is to have support and talk to someone about it, and that no one should ever feel pressured to take on trolls the way she did.

On a more personal note, as a parent I really loved seeing the way Harris talked about her family - the way they have supported her from when she was the only girl on the footy team all the way up to now, and how much that has meant to her not only as she has dealt with this particular incident, but ingrowing up and finding her place in the world in general.

I just found it all so thoughtful and clever and compassionate - I would definitely pick this up for kids in the 12 to 15 age range, and I think it will be an excellent resource to have available at schools too.

xo Bron

More than a Kick by Tayla Harris
Source: I received a free copy from Allen & Unwin (Thank you!)
Category: Children's/YA non fiction (age 12+)
Themes:  Social media, trolling, online harassment, feminism, women in sport 

Format: Paperback (192 pages)
RRP: $19.99

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  1. I absolutely loved the way that Tayla handled herself - she could've gone the route of the horrible trolls and being vicious back to them, but she was just incredible.
    I am so glad that this book exists, and I might even have to pick it up for myself.
    Tayla seems like such an awesome person, and I am so glad she kept at footy, even when she was the only girl on the team. Now we have the amazing AFLW in our lives, and she's a part of it!
    Your thoughts and review is beautifully done, Bron.