Australian hockey has lost one of its great characters and contributors to the sport following the heartbreaking announcement that Kathleen Partridge has died at the tender age of 57 due to cancer.
Heralding from the New South Wales city of Armidale, Kathleen was a dual Olympian and member of the Hockey Australia Hall of Fame (inducted in 2018).
Kathleen was the goalkeeper in the Hockeyroos team that won Olympic gold in 1988 and the 1991 Champions Trophy.
The 312th player capped for the Hockeyroos when she debuted in 1985, Kathleen made 65 appearances for her country before retiring after the 1992 Olympics.
Post playing, she went on to leave a lasting legacy as arguably Australia’s best goalkeeping coach at the highest level of the sport.
Kathleen was involved as a goalkeeping coach of the Hockeyroos golden generation and again in the lead up to the London 2012 Olympics where her protégé Toni Cronk was outstanding.
She then worked with the Kookaburras through a successful period highlighted by the 2014 World Cup gold medal.
As the Australian hockey community celebrates Kathleen’s life and mourns her passing, Hockey Australia Legend Ric Charlesworth, who knew who her as well as, if not better than most, provided the following on the ‘the best goalkeeper coach Australia has had’.
Kathleen was diligent, hard working, driven, competitive and purposeful. She also loved a joke and there was another side to her that was a fun-loving larrikin.
After winning gold in 1988 and finishing her playing career after the 1992 Olympics, Kathleen became involved as the goalkeeper coach for the Hockeyroos while I was there. She was outstanding in that role. She was heavily involved in our success at 1996 in Atlanta, the 1998 World Cup and the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
She was involved at the 2012 London Olympics with the women’s goalkeepers and developed some of the most outstanding goalkeepers we have ever had.
One of Kathleen’s most notable accomplishments was that she was the first woman to work with the senior national men’s program. She worked with the Kookaburras while I was there and did a brilliant job.
The fact that she held down the job in the men’s program was testament to the quality of what she did, and she was closely involved with the Kookaburras’ World Cup winning team in 2014. Indeed, the two goalkeepers in that tournament, Andrew Charter and Tyler Lovell, are still the custodians for the Kookaburras seven years later.
She wrote two very substantial and successful books on goalkeeping and at the same time completed a PHD at the University of Western Australia. She was also the principal of Sevenoaks Senior College.
In my view she was without peer as a goalkeeper coach.
For the final word, it is fitting to quote Kathleen herself in an excerpt from her acknowledgment of her induction into the HA Hall of Fame.
“I have gained so much from playing and coaching hockey; it has offered me extraordinary opportunities and challenges and for that I am truly grateful. Hockey is such a marvellous game, offering so much more than the final score.”
Hockey Australia sends its deepest condolences to Kathleen’s family at this extremely sad time.