At 67 years of age, Catherine Dooley may have set a new record for Australian hockey.
The aunt of Hockeyroos co-captain Emily Chalker celebrated her 800th game for Central Hockey Club in Canberra on Sunday, 27 September. And that figure only includes field hockey games – Catherine has played close to double that number when including indoor hockey.
She started playing at the age of seven for the under-8s team in the NSW town of Crookwell, an hour-and-a-half north of Canberra, where a strong hockey culture lives on.
“In those days, hockey was all there was to do in Crookwell,” says Catherine. “My schoolmates from primary school played and it was just the thing to do.
“We used to run up and down outside mum and dad’s house with hockey sticks, practising and playing.”
In 1971, at the age of 17, Catherine moved to Canberra to work for the public service and live with her twin sister, who was playing for Central Hockey Club at the time.
“Hockey was a love of mine and it was only natural that I would play hockey when I moved to Canberra,” says Catherine.
Her fiance – also a representative hockey player from Crookwell – played for Central, too.
“We married in 1972 so he came to Central to play hockey and was playing first grade while I played second grade,” says Catherine. “Now we’re both life members.”
The dedicated hockey player only missed a few seasons while having her three children, who followed in their mother’s footsteps and played hockey at various stages of their lives.
“I guess it was my passion for the game that kept me going and I got involved in several areas of the club, with coaching and administration,” says Catherine. “I’m lucky to have played in different teams and with different people who give you motivation along the way.”
She has travelled all over Australia, representing the ACT in masters and veterans with teams ranging from the over-40s to over-65s.
“You have so much fun when you go away with Central,” she says. “A lot of the states are serious and we were very serious on the field, but we had a lot of fun off the field. I’ve also formed many friendships during the years and still run into people I played against in Victoria or Western Australia.”
Catherine has been an inspiration to many players and encouraged younger people to play hockey while coaching Central’s under-11s and under-13s.
She says she will continue to take the field until she can’t play anymore and is determined to make it to another Australian Championship after this year’s tournament was cancelled due to COVID-19.
Hockey has always been Catherine’s main pursuit, playing indoor hockey through summer and outdoor hockey through winter. She has no plans of slowing down.
“I can still run so that’s good,” she says. “It’s been a wonderful journey, even if I couldn’t score a goal in my 800th game!”