Player Spotlight: Tayla Honey

Written by Sam Akpan

In what has been a whirlwind debut season in England, I ask London Pulse’s Tayla Honey, what her proudest moment so far has been in her first Superleague season. In a very composed way, she smiles before telling me that she believes that moment will be this weekend. As the Pulse’s maiden play-off campaign nears closer, Honey’s answer is an indication of the exciting chapter both player and team find themselves in.

While Honey’s integration into the London outfit by her own words has been one seamless in nature, it would be disingenuous to suggest that making the decision to leave Australia for England was an easy decision to make. 

But for Honey, embracing challenges and setbacks seem to be a clear forte of hers. She talks me through her rehabilitation journey following a major Achilles injury during her stint at Suncorp Super Netball outfit Melbourne Vixens. Having been elevated from being a training partner, to making the Vixens team, the progression would be temporarily halted by the injury along with the impacts of the pandemic curtailing her involvement in the team for the next two seasons. ‘I had to learn how to do literally everything again, things I could do so easily were just now so hard, it was challenging but thankfully I knew people who had gone through similar injuries who were great to message and help me through it’.

Following that period, she would go back to being a training partner, a period which saw her start to scope out potential options. ‘I was looking for more court time, and wanted a new experience after being at the Vixens for five years. It was great, I enjoyed my time there but when the opportunity [to go to England] came up it felt perfect’.

That decision has certainly brought forward a lot of change, and one of the biggest shifts is adjusting to netball life without the presence of her mother. Her mother, Di, who represented the Australian national netball team and now an assistant coach for the Melbourne Vixens, is quoted as a major influence as not only getting her involved within the sport, experiencing her mother’s coaching session back when she was younger ‘I was always travelling to her games to watch her teams play, so when I got the chance in Year 5/6 to play I got involved’.

Having always had her on hand has no doubt positively influenced her development, and now being on either side of the world is a new experience Honey’s facing. ‘It’s kind of weird to not have her around, but we still always stay in touch, she’s 24 hours away but not really’.

The steel and toughness on display forms a major part of the reason why when I ask friend and teammate Sacha McDonald, she speaks so highly of Honey’s determination and laser focus. Having seen Tayla’s injury in Melbourne, she talks about the unfortunate timing yet the incredible bounce-back ability ‘It was a really unfortunate time, because she had just made the team and we could all see her flourishing, but she put in so much work [in rehab]’. 

Honey emphasises the importance of ‘forging her own pathway’ not only for herself, but wanting the next generation to also know there are options. Coming into her debut season in the Superleague in a year where London Pulse are entering into uncharted terrain, headed for the Final Four for the first time. ‘It didn’t necessarily work out for us in Australia, but now in England we’re having a great time and looking at making finals. There’s always other options, if one turns out to be a dead end’.

Currently at the Pulse now, she tells me how when she first got there, past results were a shock to her. ‘We spoke a lot about what happened last season, I was kind of surprised hearing how many games we lost, especially with the skills and intensity, so I was surprised to hear they didn’t do as well as they wanted to last year.’ With the squad building on past years’ foundation, it feels the run now is a culmination of the growing confidence that long existed within the squad before the win tally started filling up. She speaks openly and honestly about the team culture and how the work all of the staff and her teammates put in helps motivate her for every game. ‘It’s about winning for the team but not just the scoreboard’.

Outside of netball though, Honey studies part-time, currently undertaking a law degree at Monash University back in Australia. But when not either studying or working, Tayla finds time to feed her interests, which include brunching and shopping, which due to her contracting COVID-19 perhaps hasn’t been fed as much as she would’ve liked.

As we conclude the interview, we laugh and joke about Honey’s adjustment and first time experiencing London’s temperamental weather. But while I cannot speak for the rest of the city, this conversation is a clear demonstration that as the season reaches its climax, there is a growing air of excitement and anticipation and the temperature in the Copper Box is rising. While the 24-year old midcourter has certainly made an impressive impact, overcoming adversity, beyond all, the most exciting part of this story is that it is far from over.