I first met Michael at a Swans Coterie Group lunch in 2013. We hit it off immediately and he asked me to provide some guidance for him as he started his business career after football. I’ll never forget him saying that he wanted to be “a proud black man walking down Pitt Street in a suit”. Soon after, Micky O, after discussing it with the other founders of GO, James Gallichan and Adam Goodes, asked me to join the GO Board.

My first impressions were tremendous admiration for Mick and Adam as leaders of their people and the positioning of GO. Targeting education for boys and girls with an urban skew and leadership development (rather than sport) really resonated with me. In the early days we did a lot of “heavy lifting” as a board under the capable leadership of Peter Meurer. We approached Governments and donors to kick start the journey and we will be eternally grateful for Federal Government funding, as well as the commitment from our founding patrons, and the caring and tangible contributions from the Sydney Swans. People like Kylie Brown from Allen’s and Dan Middleton Clifford were vitally important at this time.

The game changer for GO was our ability to recruit a CEO in September 2016. We were so lucky to get someone of Shirley Chowdhary’s capability and things have been turbo charged ever since. This includes becoming independent from the AIEF “back end” (which was important in getting us off the ground), identifying new sources of funding and our significant move into funding public sector scholarships. Shirley is also guiding us with new partnerships and collaboration and really creating an impressive “GO Ecosystem”.

From where we sit in the first quarter of 2018, anything is possible for the expansion and impact of GO. We intend to stay true to our Foundation principles of making sure that at least 80 cents in every dollar raised lands directly with the beneficiaries of our scholarships. Our current budgets are allowing for 85% directly into scholarships. Collaboration with other members of our ecosystem can also make our impact stronger and more cost effective. We also pledge to continue to put our scholarship holders and their families front and centre of our priorities.

The great advantage of GO is the calibre of our founders and role models Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin. It’s a privilege to work with these men who inspire everyone they touch, including the board members. I remember many years ago sitting in front of Adam in the Ladies Stand at the SCG. He had just played another game in the seconds. I leaned around to him and said, “they should give you a go in the seniors mate”. He looked at me and said, “Yes they should, I know I can do it”. The rest is history as he left a huge footy legacy behind him and is on the journey to making an even bigger impact on the nation as an Indigenous leader. That same spirit pervades our board room as we all believe “we can do it”.

Michael believes it too. His courage, generosity and leadership are well documented (read his book Micky O which is filled with such stories). He is currently involved in two successful Indigenous business start-ups. The only variation from his aspiration is that I see him these days in Pitt Street dressed casually! Who needs a suit?

We will continue to refresh our board, and include more Indigenous people, with the possibility of one of our founders becoming Chair. My time to stand aside will come up towards the end of next year. In the meantime, there is a lot to do in helping put the conditions in place to deliver hundreds of scholarships in and beyond NSW.