AFLW star and boxing champion Tayla Harris’s XB coupe

AFLW Premiership winner and boxing champion Tayla Harris is also a muscle car enthusiast, and she's got the XB coupe to prove it

Photographers: Greg Forster

Tayla Harris is known for kicking footies and punching heads. But what many folks don’t know is that she’s also got a thing for stomping throttles. The AFLW and boxing superstar is a bona fide revhead, having purchased two tasty XB Falcon coupes, one for her and the other for her dad, ex-QAFL player Warren Harris.

First published in the September 2023 issue of Street Machine

At just 26, Tayla is already a certified Australian sporting icon. The former Young Victorian of the Year emanates the strength of a champion, and yet carries herself with a humbleness that belies her incredible list of achievements. Read on, and you’ll see that the title of ‘legend’ could not be more fitting.

What sparked your interest in muscle cars, Tayla?

Dad has always been passionate about Aussie muscle cars, specifically XB coupes. He had one but sold it when I was a kid, as the two-door wasn’t practical for a family. I loved hearing Dad’s stories about the coupe; he enjoyed working on it.

So you stumped up and bought your dad an XB coupe?

I tried to locate his original XB, but found out it’d been written-off. So Dad’s mate Shayne and I eventually found a GS from Sydney about four years ago. It has a perfect body, though I didn’t worry about the engine quality as I knew Dad would work it. Now it has all the bells and whistles. Dad had no idea that I bought him the coupe and was completely surprised when I rolled into the driveway and handed him the keys – he still can’t believe it’s his.

And you recently grabbed an XB for yourself, too?

About a year ago, I bought my GT-replica XB coupe. Dad kept sending me XBs for sale and most I dismissed, but this one stood out. Initially I saw the coupe as a great investment, but it’s become so much more, including being a great connection between me and Dad. We discuss our cars every day that we speak, and we work on each other’s XBs when we catch up. I love that it’s a unique thing that he and I share together, and Mum loves cars too. It’s a family affair.

Have you done much to your XB?

It’s running a 351 with a Top Loader, which I’ve left alone, but I’ve changed out the steering wheel, console and added air conditioning. That’s upset a few purists. But it’s my car and I make no apologies for modifying it how I want.

Do you get behind the wheel much?

It’s a bit hard during Melbourne winters, and I’m busy during footy season, but if it’s a nice morning I’ll try and get it out. I’m part of the Northern Gal community, where I feel comfortable and accepted, and I know I can get good recommendations and advice. Recently I displayed the coupe at the Picnic at Hanging Rock show, and it was great to hang around like-minded people. I love the idea of doing something unique and continuing to learn.

Do you ever see yourself racing the XB?

Yeah, I would if there’s an opportunity to do something cool. Though time is my limiting factor.

And your dad’s passions heavily influenced your professional career, too.

Dad was a QAFL player in Brisbane and turned down an AFL opportunity. I guess I wanted to do what Dad did, so at five years old I started playing in my brother’s junior footy team. I eventually played for QAWFL, and then on to AFLW.

What drew you to boxing?

Dad took me to a local gym to box as cross-training for football, and I began to enjoy the technical side of boxing – it’s quite a skilful performance. As I progressed, a coach thought I had what it takes [to box professionally]. I was once told, “You need to be comfortable being uncomfortable,” and that has stuck with me.

You recently headlined Australia’s first televised all-female boxing card, battling for the Australian Super Welterweight title – how was that?

Unfortunately, I lost to current champion and Commonwealth medallist Millicent Agboegbulen, though I learnt a lot. I was never scared to lose, as that’s life. Now it’s all about how I react to that loss. So I’m going to get stuck into my footy training; then I’ll book another fight next year.

Have you found a parallel between professional sports and muscle cars?

Absolutely; your body is like a machine. And just like a classic car is one of a kind, it must be looked after and shown care to run well. I appreciate the hard work taken to maintain our cars, and the preparation that goes in prior to attending car shows. As an athlete, it’s a similar situation prior to a game or fight.

What’s next for you professionally?

I enjoy both footy and boxing and have found a purpose in learning and developing myself more in both disciplines. And at the moment, each discipline allows me to excel in the other. Though I’ll add whatever else I feel like doing along the way. I’m a footy player, a boxer, a marriage celebrant and a car enthusiast – I’m willing to step out of my comfort zone. But for now, I’m focused on everything going well this AFLW season.

Tayla’s Brilliant Career

  • – Played junior Aussie Rules with Aspley Hornets
  • – Won the QAFLW 2012 Best & Fairest award playing for Zillmere Eagles
  • – Made AFLW debut for Brisbane Lions in 2017
  • – Won both the ANBF Super Welterweight and Middleweight boxing titles in 2019
  • – Named the 2021 Young Victorian of the Year
  • – Won the 2022 AFLW premiership playing for Melbourne Demons
  • – Five-time nominated AFLW All-Australian
  • – Two-time AFLW Mark of the Year winner
  • – XB Falcon coupe owner