Main content

VFLW: NT trip an amazing cultural experience

The Geelong VFLW team travelled to East Arnhem Land last weekend - Geelong Cats
The Geelong VFLW team travelled to East Arnhem Land last weekend

Geelong’s VFLW side didn’t get the win they were hoping for against NT Thunder during their trip to Darwin. But according to key forward Kate Darby, it was the cultural experiences undertaken by the players that made the weekend so memorable.

Following their match on Saturday afternoon a group of Cats players travelled to Elcho Island, located off the coast of the Northern Territory, on Sunday morning. Here they spent the day playing football with children in the community and experiencing Indigenous culture.

“There was about six or seven of us that were lucky enough to head out to Elcho Island and East Arnhem Land and that experience was just incredible,” Darby reflected.

“You see the real togetherness that the communities have over there and football’s such a massive part of their life. We were playing around with the kids a fair bit and having a kick of the footy and you could see that their natural talent is quite unbelievable,” she said.

The trip was especially special for young Cats player Evelyn Dhamarrandji, who hails from Elcho Island. It not only provided the chance to show her teammates around her community, but also allowed her to spend her birthday with family and friends, which coincided with the trip.

“When we visited Evelyn’s home community they had a full ceremony for us where they had a band playing and there were hundreds of people, the whole community, who had come down to welcome us,” Darby said.

“We met Evelyn’s family and she was a rock star, they were welcoming home their rock star, which was really special and also to see her so proud to come home in her Geelong gear,” she said.

“Then we all sang Happy Birthday because it happened to be Evelyn’s birthday on that day, and then they started singing songs about cats and had us all doing some cats dance moves on the basketball courts which was a bit of fun!” joked Darby.

“They also had some professional indigenous dancers perform for us which was an amazing experience. We were presented with some gifts to bring back to the club, and it all just really resonated with the group, you could see how much it meant to everyone,” she said.

During their match against NT Thunder on Saturday the Cats wore the club’s indigenous guernsey to celebrate NAIDOC week, which runs from 8 to 15 July. This year the theme ‘Because of her, we can’ celebrates female indigenous role models.

According to Darby, Evelyn Dhamarrandji’s reception in her home community reflected the importance of such role models.

“They’re so proud that Evelyn’s doing something with football,” she said.

“It’s obviously led her to Geelong, somewhere else in the country, and I think for other kids in the community they can see that footy can be a ticket to something different.”

For Darby, travelling to North East Arnhem Land was an opportunity to appreciate how much football means across all parts of Australia.

“Football’s such a big community thing, and in their community they’re all family, so it really has so much meaning as something that you can do as a family,” she said.

It was an experience that deeply resonated with the Cats players.

“As a whole it was really special to learn so much more about our own country and the different places that people come from,” Darby said.

“We’ve got several players in the club that have come from different remote communities in Australia, and it was amazing to learn about different cultures.”

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs