Aberdeen Tigers Life Member Darby Partridge packs away his strapping gear after 28 years at the Hunter Valley Group 21 club

FOR almost three decades, Darby Partridge has been tending to the needs of players, male and female, at the Aberdeen Tigers.

But, on Friday night at the Hunter Valley Group 21 Rugby League Women's 11s grand finals in Muswellbrook, he packed away his strapping gear for the last time - ending a 28-year association with the club.

It's a journey that began in 1991 when his children chipped in for a Sports Trainers' Course, as a Father's Day present, in Muswellbrook.

Partridge completed the tuition - and the rest is history.

"I was living in Aberdeen, so the Tigers were the obvious club to join," he said.

"Now, I'm a Life Member, at both junior and senior level, and a Patron of the organisation.

"I've really enjoyed seeing the young ones come through the ranks.

"I remember back in 2000-01, a few guys about 14 or 15 wanted to take on extra training - they finished up at NRL clubs.

"Things like that are great to witness.

"I just wanted to help kids, and people, stay healthy.

"It's funny; I used to strap some of the fathers of the current crop of players.

"But, you never stop learning.

"Over the past six weeks, with the girls, I even picked up a few new things."

Partridge admitted he had enjoyed many good moments at the McKinnon Oval-based club.

"I've formed some terrific friendships," he said.

"Everyone is just so friendly.

"The players also appreciate what you do for them, so it's easy to be with them.

"On most occasions, it feels like one big family.

"Although I tried to retire in 2009 - but it didn't work out," he added with a laugh.

"I guess the highlight, for me, was the 2001 Group 21 decider between the Tigers and Muswellbrook Rams at Aberdeen.

"It was almost the end of the match when centre Tim Lonergan kicked a goal from the sideline to level the scores.

"We then beat Muswellbrook in extra-time."

Despite his departure, the Partridge name won't be lost to the club completely.

Son Rod and grandson Charlie are still actively involved with their beloved Tigers.

"I'm 70 now, so I'm not going for re-accreditation," he said.

"I am planning to spend more time with my wife, Ann.

"I'll still watch the Tigers play, however I won't miss the long days at the game.

"I must admit, it's been a very fulfilling career."