Harris powers Demons to AFLW win v Saints

Oliver Caffrey |

Star forward Tayla Harris has helped AFLW premiership contenders Melbourne survive a massive scare from St Kilda, running away from the brave Saints by 41 points.

Winless and still without their best player Georgia Patrikios, St Kilda were given virtually no chance of victory at Casey Fields on Saturday.

But the Saints pushed Melbourne hard for three quarters, with the Demons keeping their undefeated start to the season alive by storming home to prevail 9.10 (64) to 3.5 (23).

Scores were locked at 23-all at three-quarter time, but Melbourne capitalised on finishing with the breeze to slot six unanswered goals.

Harris, who was playing in her third game for the Demons after her off-season move from Carlton, put Melbourne back in front before an opportunistic Lauren Pearce goal put the result beyond any doubt.

Harris finished with three majors, and could have comfortably finished with two or three more had she kicked straight.

Reigning Rising Star winner Tyla Hanks helped blow the margin out late, booting two goals, including one just seconds before the fulltime siren.

As well as Harris’ heroics, Melbourne were well served by veteran Karen Paxman, Sarah Lampard and Libby Birch.

“(Coach) Mick (Stinear) just let us know (at three-quarter-time) it’s our time to take control, particularly in the midfield,” Harris told Fox Footy.

“We decided the game’s not over and we’re not going to give up so we just needed to reset and start again.

“I feel fit, happy and everything’s going really well for me.”

Tilly Lucas-Rodd was St Kilda’s most consistent contributor, while Molly McDonald, Jacqui Vogt and Nicola Xenos looked threatening up forward.

Two-time best-and-fairest winner Patrikios remains away from St Kilda after declining to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Fellow young Saints star Tyanna Smith is also out for the season as she recovers from ACL surgery in November.

Melbourne will need to improve ahead of next Saturday’s blockbuster clash with two-time AFLW premiers Adelaide at Norwood Oval.

That game shapes as a potential grand final preview, with the Crows determined to avenge last year’s loss in the decider against the Brisbane Lions.

The Saints will fancy their chances of securing a breakthrough win for new coach Nick Dal Santo when they host fellow strugglers West Coast next week.