AUSSIE Rules star Tayla Harris has been warned not to walk the streets alone at night after being "sexually abused" by online trolls – while one fan has shown his support by getting a tattoo of her.
Harris, 21, has received widespread backing from high-profile figures in Australia, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, since calling out "animals" who made repulsive comments online about a picture of her in action.
Australian broadcaster Channel Seven had posted a picture of Harris performing a high kick with the caption: "Great athlete at her most powerful."
A series of vile comments were then made, leading Harris to hit back on social media on Tuesday and reveal she felt "sexually abused" by them.
Aussie Rules superfan Blake Griffiths – who supports Adelaide Crows rather than Harris' side Carlton – decided to get the tattoo done to show solidarity with Harris and raise awareness of online trolling and its effects.
He told Sunrise in Australia: "The tattoo is definitely a good cause kind of thing. To all the trolls, just bugger off. Get a life.
"I haven’t heard from Tayla but I would love to speak to her, that would be awesome."
But while support has flooded in, Harris' boxing coach had a stern message for her.
Harris is one 20 women who train at Murphy's Boxing Gym in Surrey Hills in Melbourne under the guidance of Gerry Murphy, balancing her AFLW career with being a professional boxer on the brink of a world title fight.
Despite her ability to take on men of similar size and weight inside the ring, Murphy is now concerned about Harris' safety in public.
He told Wide World of Sports: "She’s a freak, an absolute freak as far as physical ability goes. Very strong. A strong-willed girl. Nice girl. Very intelligent and for her age, quite worldly.
"There’s guys that have had four, five, six fights that can’t hold up with her, at the same weight. She beats them.
"Your average Joe Blow she’d deal with quite easily. Tayla can hit as hard as some of my top amateur fighters.
"She’s very courageous. She’s the sort of girl who can take a punch and it doesn’t faze her when she gets hit. She doesn’t panic, which a lot of males and females do. She doesn’t at all."
Murphy added: "I did speak to her [Wednesday] night and just said with these idiots sexualising her picture and whatever, that she just has to be very, very careful when she’s on her own.
I said that you’ve got to be extra vigilant now because of that. It’s unfortunate, but she has to be very careful. The biggest worry is you just don’t know where an idiot can come from.
"Make sure she doesn’t really go out on the street on her own, anything like that, because unfortunately it brings out the nutters. People get obsessed with things like that. I said that you’ve got to be extra vigilant now because of that. It’s unfortunate, but she has to be very careful.
"The biggest worry is you just don’t know where an idiot can come from. You get these people, for whatever reason, and it can become a problem.
"I said don’t be alarmed, but you’ve got to be vigilant, especially if you go into a park or on the street on your own. You’ve got to have someone with you. At least for a couple of months."
Mark Soderstrom – a former Aussie Rules footballer who now presents TV and radio shows – has showed his support for Harris this week.
As well as talking to Griffiths about his tattoo and getting a photo alongside Jodie & Soda colleague Jodie Oddy, he also shared Tayla Harris #standwithtayla T-shirts being sold by League Tees.
The tops have the now-famous image splashed across the front and can be bought on the website for $29 (£22), with all profits going to Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation.
League Tees said: "Michael Wilson’s fantastic shot of a flying Tayla Harris was taken down from a website after a vile troll attack.
"Our friend Rebecca Hayne suggested we should turn it into a new NBA-style logo for the league.
"It’s a spectacular image capturing an elite female athlete at her peak. Hopefully it become an iconic image and a turning point for the women’s league."
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