2011 College Captain Nick O’Brien guest speaker at Transfer of Leadership Assembly

October 14, 2022

We were honoured to welcome back 2011 College Captain Nick O’Brien (SPC 2006-11) as guest speaker at the College’s recent Transfer of Leadership Assembly in the O’Malley Gymnasium on 4 October, 2022.

2011 College Captain Nick O’Brien as guest speaker at the College’s recent Transfer of Leadership Assembly.

Nick is currently employed an Associate Director of Colliers in Melbourne and is an outstanding leader with his achievements and reputation stretching far beyond his time as an ex AFL footballer after being recruited by Essendon in the 2011 national draft.

Nick was a day student from Snake Valley and completed his secondary schooling at St Patrick’s. During this time, Nick excelled and was named 2011 College Captain, Football Captain, Cricket Captain and was the recipient of Headmaster’s Award for Leadership. 

He was a member of St Patrick’s First XVIII Football team in Year 11 and captained the First XVIII side to a victory in the MCC Herald Sun Shield in his final year. He was a member of the Victorian U17 National Championships and was consistently named as a best player in both BAS comps and ‘friendly’ games. Nick was also a member of 1st XI Cricket premiership team in his younger years and was a U15 Australian representative and named one of the best players in BAS cricket. 

A transcript of Nick’s speech to the College Assembly is detailed below:

“Headmaster Steven O’Connor, members of the EREA, invited guests, staff and students.

It is, as always, a great honour to return to the College and take place in any formal recognition of our people. In particular, the transfer of leadership where we are afforded the opportunity to thank the outgoing cohort of young men who leave the college community with their own unique legacy and a new dawn of leaders among the college are presented with the same opportunity to prosper as they move into the final chapter of their story as students at St Patrick’s College.

When I received a message from my great friend Howard Clark asking if I was available to speak at today’s assembly, I was quick to confirm my acceptance and inherent excitement at the opportunity to return, I’m forever indebted to the college community and particularly with respect to recent support the St Pat’s community has shown myself and my family, I have a lot to be thankful for.

It was this very assembly in 2018 that I last had the opportunity to appear before you, and on my way here today it gave cause to reflect on the journey you have all been on in the four years that have followed. The challenges that have faced all involved in our education system since the commencement of the COVID pandemic in early 2020 are without precedent in my lifetime and I commend all of the staff and students for the way in which you have navigated this period of uncertainty.

With the exception of the effects on our health sector, the disruption to the accepted structure of the way in which we educate has been the major reflection of the severity of this pandemic and although I was already in acknowledgement of this, it has again highlighted how lucky we are to have such amazing men and women who form the staff and leadership foundations of St Patrick’s College, and I hope you have all had the chance to look after yourself respectively in such a demanding period.

As for the students, it is my hope that despite the significant challenges that this period has served you with from an education, social and emotional perspective, each of you have learnt to be kind to yourself and used the lessons from this period to help validate your own sense of resilience and care for each other, that you may not have fully recognised otherwise. There is always a lesson to take from each of our life seasons.

In more recent times our community has had to endure the incredibly sad loss of two of the most notable contributors to the college community throughout my time involved with St Patrick’s College. In a year where it feels like the world has lost some of our biggest names and personalities, the scale of loss that I among many others feel having said goodbye to the late Mike Brady and Mark Waddington has been significant.

I no doubt speak for many past and present students when I say I will remember both of these men for the different ways in which they invested in me as a student and a young man and helped me establish a set of values that allowed me to try and emulate the way in which they seemed to leave each environment they entered in a better place when they left than when they found it.

Mr Brady was the real life liaison between the new and the old, helping integrate us into college life as timid 12 & 13 year old boys, arming us with stories of the people who have come before us and reciting hilarious stories of his time as a student at the college, we were immediately indoctrinated as a Patty boy for life. They weren’t just words for Mike, as 16 years later he was still checking in on many of us via Facebook messenger to check on family, how our kids were, his opinions on Geelong’s chances to win the flag, and in his finals days, still thinking of others before himself as he took the opportunity to directly contact us to express his decision to resist treatment for his aggressive cancer, his greatest fear being that we would find out second hand. It’s hard not to feel like the cats may have had some help from above a week or so ago..

Mark Waddington was as kind, compassionate, as unwavering a man as you would ever come across, the accolades from his time at St Patrick’s college run deeper than most that have come before, or after him, however he would be the last to acknowledge his own importance. Perhaps, and this seems to be a common theme, I learnt as much from Waddo in the years beyond our time together at the college, as he also battled a crippling cancer diagnoses. He was prepared to be boldly vulnerable, something we can all get better at, particularly as young men, and encouraged those around him to share in his acceptance of the likely fate that awaited him, and to enjoy every single moment he was afforded.

Both of these men leave behind beautiful young and growing families that I send our love and support to, as I know many people from the College community already have.

I express these sentiments to remind the outgoing cohort of young men that despite moving in many different directions into next year, your respective tenures as a collegian at St Pats ensures that your place in this community is ongoing, with the extension of support ready to arrive at your doorstep whenever you need. As you pursue your next chapter under the guise of independence, in your desire to explore greater external careers, remember the college community (we) are always at arms length ready to assist in the quest to guide you toward your ultimate goal of happiness and success, whatever your determined definition of those aspects are.

To the incoming leaders & broader student cohort, what an opportunity that lies before you. With the lessons learnt from the challenging experiences in recent years, my great hope is that you embrace the vast array of opportunities before you at this great College.

I look forward to watching from afar as Sam Clark, Matthew O’Brien and Lachlan Brodie lead the student council forward, as Ms Westwood and Mr Hayes lead our Basketball program with distinction as always, as our young men participate with honour as they compete in the Purton Oratory, as you follow in the footsteps of Jared Turner & Alex Lopez in the college chess team, or you fulfil a desire to win the Herald Sun Shield.

On a final note, I wish to share a personal thank you on behalf of not only myself, but of my immediate and extended family for the support that we have received from the entire College community in recent months.

In July 2021, myself and my partner Amelia experienced the loss of our second son Tommy O’Brien who was born sleeping as we approach the mid-term of Amelia’s pregnancy. It is hard to articulate the gratitude we feel for the way in which the St Pat’s community has looked out for us in this period, however I vividly remember Amelia’s tears as she opened what was the third letter that arrived in the mail lined with the College letterhead, each from a different department, expressing sorrow for our loss and what we were enduring, and that the offer of ongoing support was unconditional. She needn’t ever walk the corridors or see the four walls of this place to understand how special it is to our family.

Thank you again for the opportunity to be present with you today on this special day of recognition, and I wish you all a safe, happy and prosperous finish to 2022.

Thank you.”