When you drive into the outskirts of Geelong, you can feel it. You reach the City Centre and you can see it. When you greet the residents, you know something special is brewing. There’s a buzz in the air that has rejuvenated the quiet city down the highway.

Geelong’s very own Maddie Boyd knows this feeling all too well, growing up in Victoria’s second city and now solidifying her roots in a new chapter of Geelong’s proud heritage; playing and creating history with the Cats’ inaugural AFLW team.

Boyd’s soft-spot for AFL began at the very place she now gets to call home and create history.

“It all started at Kardinia Park actually. That’s where I saw my first footy match, back in 2001 as an eight-year old watching the Cats.”

It was an instant infatuation for Boyd, who idolised the heroes of the early 2000s Geelong side and was determined to emulate their feats on her own field.

“After that, it was countless hours in the backyard, kicking the footy with Dad. That’s all there was back then.”

Despite playing and starring in football at primary and high school, the dream of AFL was quickly diminished, with Boyd’s parents persuading her to stick to the more traditional female sporting path to ensure she could succeed in the sporting world.

“Basketball was my other sport. My parents encouraged me to stick with that because there weren’t really any pathways back then [into AFL],” Boyd noted.

But 16 years after that fateful day when Boyd fell in love with the game of AFL, she would get the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of her very own Geelong and AFL heroes of the early 2000s.

Drafted by Melbourne, Boyd extended herself to prepare to compete in the Inaugural AFLW competition in 2017. She would play the first seven games for the Demons, averaging over 5 disposals weekly and making a name for herself in the ruck and up forward.

An eagerness to continue to improve her skills and cement herself in the AFLW competition, saw Boyd move to the GWS Giants for the 2018 season.

In what was a big change for the Geelong local, after playing the first two games of the 2018 season, she battled hamstring issues and didn’t play another game for the year.

Although Boyd attests her time at the Giants was the toughest physically, her experiences in a different state grew her confidence and accountability on and off the field.

Returning home at the end of her 2018 hardships, Boyd was greeted with a new and familiar prospect. The newly licensed Geelong Cats AFLW side had offered her a spot on their list.

Boyd settled back home and is set to become the first AFLW player to play for three teams in the competitions’ short history.

“It just dawned on me, I think I’m the only one whose played for three different clubs! It’s almost a blessing in disguise.”

“I’m a quiet person, so being exposed to different teams, different people and coaches has been the best thing for me. It has been an interesting journey,” Boyd said.

The AFLW nomad looks to have finally found her home where it all began.

“They [Geelong] do things well. Everything from their support staff to their facilities. It’s a well-rounded program,” Boyd attests.

Experienced Geelong AFLW Head Coach Paul Hood, who is at the forefront of the Cats impressive program, has assisted Boyd in quickly settling in and finding her feet in her new environment.

“He’s just the best coach I’ve been coached by,”

“He’s got a great coaching philosophy and good style and he just connects with his players really well. I can’t speak highly enough of him,” she said.

And as a new club in the competition, there’s no doubt the Cats are keen to make a statement this Friday night when they host Collingwood at the place where it all began- Kardinia Park.

“I genuinely feel comfortable in blue and white. I feel like I was meant to play here.”

And this time, Boyd will be on the other side of the fence.