Family comes first as Cats welcome back key forward

GEELONG has welcomed back experienced key forward Kate Darby to replace the pregnant Renee Garing on its list for the 2022 NAB AFLW season.

Darby sat out the 2021 season due to her own pregnancy and gave birth to her daughter, Ella, in March.

The 31-year-old key forward has been working with the Cats as a train-on player this pre-season.

Cats forward Kate Darby celebrates a goal against the Lions. Picture: Getty Images via AFL Photos

"Kate has been outstanding in her training and preparation since returning, and we are thrilled that she now has the opportunity to be a member of our primary list for the 2022 season," Geelong head of women's football Brett Johnson said.

"Starting a family is a joyous time, and we have worked with Kate to ensure that she has been able to combine parenthood with her desire to continue as an elite athlete and part of our program.

"We are equally thrilled that Renee is expecting and will be starting a family with her husband Tony.

"Our club believes that players should be supported to combine their family life and desire to pursue or continue their careers in AFLW. We will continue to work alongside players to ensure an environment that allows for the combination of family and footy."

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Darby played 10 games for Geelong across 2019 and 2020, and also lined up for Carlton in its inaugural season of 2017.

"This is the best possible scenario," Darby said.

"I knew I would like to play again, and I thought I would love to come back, but I had no idea how I would go.

"Once I had Ella, I thought I would be keen to see how I go and so it was a goal, but it is still unexpected, so it is awesome and I am super happy."