Tayla Stayl is determined to make the most of her chance in the AFLW. Picture: Michael Klein
Tayla Stayl is determined to make the most of her chance in the AFLW. Picture: Michael Klein

Bank robbery to AFLW Tiger: Stahl’s incredible story

RICHMOND has signed a bank robbery getaway driver to its AFL Women's foundation list.

Tayla Stahl says taking part in the heist is the greatest regret of her young life and she credits football with helping turn things around.

At 3.30pm on February 7, 2014, Stahl and former friend - fellow ex-soldier Sarah Royna - executed their plot to rob the Australian Defence Credit Union at the Richmond Royal Australian Air Force military air base.

Stahl was tasked with driving the getaway car, while Royna donned a balaclava and armed herself with a fake pistol.

Despite plans to nab "hundreds of thousands", they fled with $2685.

The base was put into lockdown and they were caught, with Stahl - who spent a week in remand - hit with a two-year suspended sentence, which remains, while Royna remains behind bars after pleading guilty to armed robbery.

Stah he owns her mistake.

"I can't blame anyone else - I made the decision to do it," Stahl told the Herald Sun this week.

"I could have said no, but I didn't. I can't blame the other person. It's my fault. If I didn't want to do it, I shouldn't have, so it's on me. And no one else."

Royna was also found guilty of a separate plot to rob an RSL.

The pair had developed the hold-up plan via text messages that were tendered to court, with Stahl - an Inverloch local who had joined the defence force just out of school to "keep fit and get out of the small town … and meet people" - conceding she had fallen into a situation she shouldn't have.

"I was 19, young, just liked to go out and have fun," she said.

Tayla Stayl in her Richmond gear. Picture: Michael Klein
Tayla Stayl in her Richmond gear. Picture: Michael Klein

"I just obviously made friends with certain people and shouldn't have made friends with those people and I got myself involved with things I shouldn't have.

"(The bank) was on-base … it was literally 500m away from our accommodation. I drove her there, she went in and then yeah, got back to the car and drove back.

"I wasn't the person that actually went into the bank.

"The defence (force) put charges against us to start off with and then that went on for a while. They ended up getting sent on to AFP … they took it on."

Stahl has nothing to do with Royna now - doesn't even say her name.

The incident spiralled the then-teenager into harmful habits that made her realise she had to take control of her life.

As the Australian Federal Police built their case and questioned Stahl, she "wasn't dealing with it very well".

"I was drinking a lot, and going out and was drinking one night I was in the middle of the city and stepped in front of a car and got run over," she explained.

"I spent three months in hospital. That was a turning point - it had to be a turning point.

"It took me over a year of rehab - everything, internal injuries, a head injury … I was told I would never play footy again."

Arrested for her role in the robbery soon after, Stahl spent a week behind bars before moving to Newcastle with her sister for 12 months as she prepared to face the music.

"I still wasn't really well and wasn't mentally right at all," she said.

"I stayed for a year - it wasn't fair on her, or myself, being there."

D-Day came in May last year, when Stahl copped her two-year suspended sentence.

She had moved back home and focused on her football, starring for Bass Coast and finding herself on the Tigers' radar to become the club's 10th AFLW signing, penning a one-year deal.

Richmond football boss Neil Balme said there had been a lot to consider for the Tigers in taking Stahl on.

It would have been easy to say no.

But her honesty and determination was to be reckoned with.

"We spoke to the VFL and all that sort of stuff and it wasn't a problem," he said.

"We had to think about it. We kept her training … she was very open about it and said 'I'm keen to make up for it'.

Tayla Stayl is putting her past behind her. Picture: Michael Klein
Tayla Stayl is putting her past behind her. Picture: Michael Klein

"It's a great story. There was no thought of us not giving her the opportunity. There's no thought of saying 'this is all too hard', because it's all in the past and she's keen to do something."

Stahl is back working full-time, and booted six goals in Richmond's VFLW season-opener against Darebin, after earlier fronting the playing group in tears to tell her story.

She is determined not to let her opportunity in AFLW slip.

"I never thought I'd actually get here, that's for sure," Stahl said.

"If you'd asked my family or friends a couple of years ago … (they'd say) that I'd rather go drink or do something else than commit to this full-time and put in the work.

"One hundred per cent (I'm ready). I just want to prove so many people wrong."