Geelong Cats players Toby Conway, Jake Kolodjashnij, Francis Evans, Esava Ratugolea and Georgia Clarke meet a family at the annual Welcome to Geelong event. Photo: Ella Young

Footy, food and fun were the flavour of the day as more than 200 people made their way to GMHBA Stadium for the annual Welcome to Geelong event, proudly supported by Viva Energy.

The Cats Community event welcomes people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to GMHBA Stadium as a gateway to the club, community and game we all love.

The Cats worked with Cultura and Catholic Care to create an introductory point to Australian Rules football, taking participants young and old through some of the rules of the game, and teaching skills through a series of drills.

Georgie Rankin has a kick with attendees at the Welcome to Geelong event. Photo: Ella Young

With players from Geelong’s AFL men’s and women’s team on hand to provide expert guidance through a range of footy drills, participants learned to kick, handball and tackle like a pro.

Cats AFLW captain and inclusion ambassador Meghan McDonald said it was wonderful to see the participants embrace all the day had to offer.

“Welcome to Geelong was one of the most joyous days I’ve experienced in my time at the Cats,” she said.

“The enthusiasm of the participants was completely contagious - their openness to new experiences and dedication to learning new skills was genuinely inspiring.

Meghan McDonald watches on as Welcome to Geelong participants run through the Viva Energy banner. Photo: Ella Young

“You can’t underestimate the significance and symbolism of being welcomed on to GMHBA Stadium for the first time. To see so many new faces from so many culturally and linguistically diverse communities enjoy their first encounter with our sport, club, and community was brilliant.

“I know our wonderful Cats Community team will keep strengthening their connection to the club, and I look forward to everyone sharing the same sense of belonging at the Cats.”

Staff from AFL Victoria and AFL Barwon, as well as students from SEDA College helped run the day, as did volunteers from Viva Energy.

Half-Cat and Clawdia entertain Welcome to Geelong participants. Photo: Ella Young

“It was exciting to see so many people there to learn about our national game, to be introduced to the fantastic stadium – the home of the Cats – and take another step on their journey to learn about Geelong,” Viva Energy executive general manager – refining Dale Cooper said.

“Viva Energy has been a key sponsor of the Geelong Cats since 2017 and this is the sixth time we have helped to host this special day, welcoming new arrivals to Geelong. I myself am a relatively new arrival – arriving from Canada about two years ago – and I love my new home.

“When it comes to the game of AFL, there is no question that it can be confusing at first and it can take a little while to understand the rules, but it is worth persisting. I have to admit that I have become a committed Cats fan!”

It was a great day for the whole family at Welcome to Geelong. Photo: Ella Young

Welcome to Geelong is part of Cats Community’s Cats Connect pillar of programs.

The Cats are aiming to raise $1m in one day in June to help fund the club’s community programs for the next three years and make a positive impact in the community. Find out more here.