Brandon Jr, better known as BJ, is reflecting on his five years as a GO Scholar at St Gregory’s College in Campbelltown. “I was a very shy kid, and I’m way different now,” says BJ.  “The opportunity to go to a great school and have GO behind me, all their wisdom supporting and mentoring me right through high school, has broadened my horizons in a really good way.”

In February, BJ teamed with Taleisha Sutherland to MC the 2020 GO Launch, managing the guests and speakers with aplomb.  The evening was a big success. “I’m not the most confident of people,” he says.  “But it was fun.  I certainly felt better afterwards!

“Beyond all the friends I’ve made, GO has really helped me connect with my culture. I haven’t otherwise experienced that,” says BJ. “Pop is the Aboriginal in my family.  Dad is Yorta Yorta, but my family’s a bit complicated and I haven’t known much about it.  I’ve loved every cultural session GO’s had.  It’s helped me understand my heritage a lot more.”

BJ’s true passion is sport, and he is a gifted rugby league player. In Year 7, he was selected for the Junior West Tigers football development squad.  “I got into the Tigers from school,” he says. “Scouts came and watched me play a match and gave me the opportunity of a Tiger’s training run. I’ve been with to the club since then.”

“Having my GO scholarship from Year 8 on, and being able to finish my schooling at St Greg’s has definitely made me a better man,” he says. “I loved St Greg’s.  Being Year 12 student was the best year of my life.  We were treated with such respect.”

After graduating last year, BJ was excited for what lay ahead in 2020. “At the start of this year everything was looking great. I was selected to play with the Under 20s for Wests Tigers,” says BJ. “I made my debut in the first game playing centre, and that was a great feeling.  After that game though the whole season got cancelled.”

With Covid-19 stopping his footy, BJ pivoted to focus on his sports studies at Macquarie Fields TAFE. “I’ve now done my gym instructor course, which is basically personal training and a Cert III,” explains BJ, “Now I’m working towards my Cert IV, studying the body and anatomy.

“I just really like personal training and nutrition. I’d like to help people, especially older people or support players in a football club,” BJ says. “This year I went to a personal trainer to lose a few kilos when the season stopped, and I got the right advice about what to eat and how to manage exercise to help my rugby league, and it’s really helped me.”

After a winter he’s happy to leave behind, 19-year-old BJ is fit and ready for his upcoming pre-season training with the Tigers. “We start soon. I’m under contract with the Tigers and this year I’m looking to debut in the Canterbury Cup, reserve grade in the NRL, one step down from professional,” says BJ.

Watching his every move will be his little brother Tyler. “Tyler’s my number one fan.  He copies everything I do,” says BJ. “I’m the eldest in the family.  Besides Tyler, I have 5 half siblings. I need to be responsible and a good role model for all of them.

“I do miss school so much, and I miss my friends, but I’m getting on with things,” says BJ. “I’ve moved to a townhouse with my partner Riley, and that’s going well.  We’ve just got two baby staffie puppies, Luna and Alora, so girls are ruling the house!”

Looking ahead in life is something BJ is firmly focused on. “In five years, I’d like to be playing in the NRL and working towards owning my own business, maybe working in the clubs system to help footy players,” says BJ. “My dream is to open a gym specialising in sports performance.  A place I can help athletes stay on top of their fitness, a place where everyone is welcome.  I’d really enjoy that.”