2019 College Dux address to 2020 Academic Assembly

February 14, 2020

Following is a transcript of the speech delivered by 2019 College Dux Matthew Duffy at the 2020 Academic Assembly which was held in the Br W.T. O’Malley Sports Centre on Tuesday, February 11. 

“Brothers of the clover, ladies and gentlemen, invited guests. To those of you I know and those of you I haven’t met… g’day. It’s good to be here. It’s really good to be here actually. Some of you may remember me from Vice Captain infamy or one of a couple other things; sorry, I’m back. And I finally have complete freedom to say whatever I want which I think is very exciting, so I hope you enjoy the next five minutes to an hour.

First and foremost, I want to thank a few people. Mum and Dad, for the constant support, love and guidance you’ve given me, particularly over the last year, and the sacrifices you’ve made to allow me to do my best. To my Year 12 teachers: Miss Sharp, Mrs McIntyre, Miss Purcell and Crummy. And of course, a shoutout to Mr O’Loughlan and Mr Lynn for taking my 3/4 subjects in Year 11. All are brilliant and passionate teachers who really wanted the best for me, and I really felt like they were with me for my victories and pitfalls. I’ve had many incredible teachers over my time here, so a big thank you to all the staff members for the memories and for all you do here.

I also want to thank former College Captain Aidan Hanrahan for not duxing. If it weren’t for this, I wouldn’t be here today. He would’ve done a killer speech though, but you get me instead. In many ways Hannaz is the Dux that you all deserve. For me there’s no real underdog story, I was always “that smart kid”. “Wow Matt Duffy, what a flex”. But by that I mean ‘school smart’. I was always “that maths kid”, or “that public speaking kid” or “art kid” or whatever. I was certainly never “that magnetic-personality-kid” or “that dashing-good-looks-and-razor-sharp-wit-kid”. That’s not me, that’s Jobe Quick. And people who think that it somehow means more to be ‘school smart’ are out of their minds, even though it can seem like that’s what school is all about. I think Aidan worked harder than me too, so we would’ve gotten a real ‘underdog rises to victory’ story which we could all get invested in. And it’s just not really like that with me.

Many of us enter Year 12 with this resolution: “I’m going to put in 100%”, “I’ll organize my notes”, “It’s just 12 months”, “I’ll do things right.” I don’t think I put in 100%. I don’t even really know what 100% is but it certainly didn’t feel like 100%. There was always that voice in the back of my head saying, “What are you doing? You’re throwing your future away, get off YouTube.” All those afternoons and evenings spent in my room studying, and all too often at the end of the night I felt like I had nothing to show for it. It’s frustrating, and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t go through that feeling of inadequacy at some stage. But I think that nagging voice is one of the big drivers towards hard work and hopefully success. And it has to come from you. Some external nagging is definitely a big help too (thanks mum), but you’ve got to want it.

So, what DID I do? Well I say I did no work, but in a class where half didn’t complete their homework, I was usually in the half that did. There’s this ‘artform’ in Year 12 known as “SAC-hopping”. SACs are the assessments that you do in Year 12, and SAC-hopping is just ‘hopping’ from assessment to assessment, cramming the night before without keeping up to date with content as you go; certainly not ideal. As the year went by, my goal was to remain the first ranked in each subject; to have the highest average mark. To do this, SAC-hopping wasn’t going to be the winning strategy. So, I did my best to understand all the content as I went along, and sure enough I managed to stay first ranked for the most part. But it never felt like I’d achieved this state of complete control, gliding gracefully between SACs. It wasn’t SAC-flying, it was SAC-falling, with style. I don’t know if anyone really reaches that 100% state of control.

Then comes the end of year exams, and you’ve just got to do practice exams. That’s no secret. They’re a good way to do heaps of really relevant work in a really structured way. And once again I did a bit, maybe six or seven for English Language, seven or eight for Japanese and a dozen for physics. Oh, and 40 specialist exams because I’m oddly obsessed with maths. It may sound like a lot until you know what the real machines are doing or have done in the past. It always felt like I hadn’t done quite enough.

By the way, for anyone looking for a 99.9 ATAR or more, and trust me no one expects to get that kind of score (I certainly didn’t), but it helps to be really obsessed with maths, because Specialist Maths is one of the only subjects offered at St Pat’s where the study score can scale quite drastically above 50. That and a good English score are probably two of the main factors which impact the ATAR most directly. But if maths isn’t your thing don’t listen to any of that. Most importantly you’ve got to do the things you enjoy. Play to your strengths and try not to worry about all the scaling stuff.

Other quick tips:

  • communicate with your teachers and don’t be afraid to seek help;
  • try not to get too sucked into social media since it eats up a lot of time; and
  • maintain good relationships.

It’s all common sense really. In Year 12, your job is to become an expert at four or five really specific and not entirely useful areas. That’s it. There’s probably more to say but you’ll pick it up as you go, and it’s going to be different for everyone. Besides, you’ll be attending a heap of seminars which are all going to tell you the same thing.

But when all is said and done, you don’t come out the other end of Year 12 thinking about your study habits. There’s so much more that you get from being a Paddy Boy. To the fresh batch of Year 7s, I’ll give you one piece of advice. Get involved with things. Whatever you’re into, throw yourself at new experiences and opportunities. I can’t convince you to do it until you’ve done it.

My Year 12 experience was a bit unusual. In the most self-respecting way possible, I’d say I was a bit of a joke. I dressed up stupidly on multiple occasions, chose to be co-MC for the unforgiving St Pat’s Got Talent, someone made a Matthew Duffy fan-page on Instagram which was just weird, and for God’s sake I played Shrek. However, I want to publicly recommend being a joke and putting yourself out there. The people who get the most out of school are the ones who aren’t afraid to make a fool of themselves.

So, get involved with things. For me it was performing arts: musicals, public speaking, debating. For some of you it might be social justice. For many of you it’s probably sport, which is cool. I signed up for tennis in Year 7 and then something happened; I don’t really remember, maybe I couldn’t find my way to the first training session or something. Whatever it was, it was enough to make me stop going entirely. So, don’t be a Matt Duffy. Keep at it and it’ll definitely pay off.

There are six future College Duxes in this room, as well as hundreds of school leaders, dozens of performers, and probably a thousand sportsmen of various kinds. With all the terrific opportunities the school has given me, I’m not kidding when I say my biggest regret is that I didn’t take the time to speak to and get to know more of you. As far as studies go, make the effort to work hard, because regardless of what score you get or what score you’re after, success in life almost always comes from hard work. In fact, I’d say that success IS the hard work. But whatever you do, leave St Pat’s with no regrets.

Well, this is Duffman signing out. It’s been a pleasure, boys. Thank you.”