Between You & Me: Rachael Lynch & Stacia Strain

From representing Australia together in the Hockeyroos to gallivanting in Europe to mend their mutual heartbreak, Stacia Strain and Rachael Lynch's friendship is as thick as thieves. Hockey brought them together, but friendship became their superglue.

Rachael Lynch and Stacia Strain are colleagues at the Victorian Institute of Sport; Lynch as a Performance Lifestyle Adviser and Strain as Women’s Hockey Coach.   

Lynch played hockey for Australia on 233 occasions and in 2019/20 was named Hockey’s International Goalkeeper of the Year. She retired in 2022.  

Strain played for Australia on 42 occasions, captained Victoria for five seasons and is also coach of the Australian under 21 team, the Jillaroos.  

They have been friends for more than two decades.

Rachael Lynch

“When ‘Stack’ and I first started playing in the Victorian senior team, we were known as the ‘newbies.’ At a young age we were playing against some of the current Hockeyroos, with and against Olympians. It was a major thrill!  

I don’t remember the precise moment when ‘Stack’ and I met but I know we crossed paths in a Victorian junior team. We made our debuts in the senior state team together and our careers moved in parallel from there.    

‘Stack’ and I had a bunch of fun. I don’t remember many game results from back then, all I know is that we had plenty of laughs!  

We made the national team at slightly different times, mine in 2006 and Stack 2009. When you play for the Hockeyroos, you are based in Perth, so we didn’t overlap too much at the start of our friendship. I was here in Melbourne at the VIS whilst she was in Perth and vice versa.  

When we did end up playing together, it was amazing. It's one thing to make new friends in sport, but another thing when you make teams with your mates. We had a period where there were heaps of Victorians in the Hockeyroos team. ‘Stack’ and I were two of a handful, which was a real credit to the strength of the Victorian and VIS program at the time.

From there, we went through a lot together, the highs and the lows. One strong memory held both. In 2012 we both missed out on the Hockeyroos team for the London Olympic Games. We were equally devastated and, grieving in a sense, we booked a long holiday in Europe.   

We didn’t end up watching one minute of those Olympic games. We left the thought of hockey behind and just lived it up in Greece and Italy. We tried to make the best of a bad situation and I think we did pretty well!  

Unfortunately, we never made it to an Olympic Games together. The London games were probably our biggest chance of representing Australia together at an Olympics. Shortly after the 2012 games, ‘Stack’ retired from hockey whilst I played on.    

‘Stack’ now coaches at the Victorian Institute of Sport and has done for quite some time now.  

When I retired, she played a key role in my transition back here to the VIS. When I moved from Perth back to Melbourne, I still wanted to keep involved with the game. She allowed me to come to trainings, to join in as a player and sometimes as a coach. From a support point of view, she provided a safe space to fall. She knew what I had been through in my career and what I needed.

I now coach the goalkeepers in her hockey program. I’m still involved, but the dynamic between us has evolved. She went from being my teammate, to my coach, and is now my colleague. Regardless, we are still the best of friends. I have so much admiration for her as a coach and a person so love that I can be a part of her journey. 

I actually have her name saved as “Stack- my bestie legend” in my phone. I might have to change it, as it’s a bit much for Siri to handle! We have a lot of fun. To be able to work alongside one of my best friends, still be there for one another, is amazing and really important to me.  

The other day, I sent an Instagram quote to 'Stack' which read: "surround yourself with people who fight for you, in rooms you're not in."

Throughout my career, I’ve gone through many rough times. I once got dropped from the national team in the lead up to an Olympics. ‘Stack’ fought for me then and I’ve also fought for her.”

Stacia Strain

“Junior’ and I met playing hockey in the Under 18 Victorian side. We got VIS scholarships together in 2004 and played a lot of hockey together at Victorian and national level.    

In the Victorian team, there were 2 goalkeepers, both named Rachael!  Naturally, we had to differentiate the two, so we attributed the nickname ‘Junior’ to Rach.  It stuck!   

She debuted for the Hockeyroos earlier than I did but we’ve followed similar paths. We constantly crossed paths going from team mates to coaching her and now colleagues at the Victorian Institute of Sport.   

She’s one of the coolest people I know. She tells you the truth, even when you don’t necessarily want to hear it. She has great empathy, and our shared experience gives us common ground but also understanding. It has been amazing to share my journey with her and I wouldn’t have picked her to be the one when we first met. I thought she was a bit of a geek!    

Our first time travelling in the national team together was on a hockey tour of South Africa. I gradually became aware of just how funny and intelligent she was (and is now.) I soon realised my first impressions of her being geeky were probably wrong. Quirky, maybe, but not geeky.   

We did do a fair bit of travel for hockey, but our best memories together came from our European trip back in 2012. After missing out on Olympic selection we headed over there for a holiday, which was just amazing. We tried not to think about hockey the whole time we were away and make the best of a hard situation for us both.

Hockey brought us together, but we have so much more in common than just that. Whilst we do love the game, it doesn’t act as the core of our relationship.      

When looking back on my career as an athlete, I think mostly of the friendship between ‘Junior’ and myself.   

One of the key moments between us was when an old coach asked: “Do you want to win or do you want to make friends?” Rachel and I both liked the “friends” option. It wasn’t that we weren’t competitive, or that we didn’t want to win, we just felt the friendship we held was so strong and in fact a superpower with which we could get the best out of each other and the program. We were always there for each other, and we wanted to share success.    

I feel as though the relationship with ‘Junior’ made me a better athlete and strengthened me. Everyone is committed to something – it might be complaining, or it might be making a difference. Rach is committed to being the very best version of herself, but also helping others around her to become the best version of themselves too. She has always been like that and one of the reasons I gravitated towards her. She sees the best in you but can see what you are capable of and will encourage you towards that.

Success seems to follow her.  

It is important to have someone encourage you like ‘Junior’ does. To have someone you can lean on.  To have someone push you to uncomfortable zones of your life. Rachel is that to me.   

The reason I am now coaching at the VIS, is to give the next generation opportunities and environment that were given to me and ‘Junior’.  Our relationship has been incredible, and I am very grateful to have her in my life.”

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