Author: Don Magin

Lessons from young athletes

Our CEO Don Magin reflects on the thing or two he learnt from the young athletes who received a 2014 Greater Building Society Olympic Sports Scholarship. 

A few years ago Aaron Royle was a Newcastle teenager getting serious about the sport of triathlon. His coach told him that if he wanted to make it in the sport he needed to get to Europe to train and compete.

Aaron has very supportive parents. But as small business people they were going through a tough period and weren’t able to afford a plane ticket to Europe for Aaron.

Not long after he had resigned himself that he could not take up the opportunity he got word that he had won his first Greater Building Society Olympic scholarships. After a quick call to Hunter Academy of Sport CEO Ken Clifford to fast track the payment he was able to get on that plane for an amazing season in which he honed his skills in his dream sport.

Just a few years later Aaron is the world under 23 champion and has taken out two triathlons in the space of a week (the Nepean Triathlon in Sydney and arguably Australia’s ultimate triathlon, the Noosa Triathlon).

Aaron told that story at last week’s presentation of the 2013 Greater Building Society Olympic Scholarships. He said triathletes don’t get into their sport for money. They do it because they love their sport and dream of competing at the highest level.

The idea for the Greater scholarships came after Sydney was announced as the host city for the 2000 Olympic Games.  We thought that the Hunter had some tremendous talent that needed to be supported to ensure our region was represented at the home games. The scholarships provide some financial support from the Greater plus other assistance from the Hunter Academy of Sport to help athletes to achieve their dream of donning the green and gold and representing our country in their chosen sport.

These scholarships are a small but important contribution that we can make on behalf of our customers and the broader community.

At the scholarship ceremony Ken Clifford told us the story that for former Australian Softball team captain and Olympian Natalie Ward, the Greater scholarship was the only corporate support she ever got in her career.

I am very proud of the fact that over the 21 years that the Greater scholarships have provided more than $340,000 to help more than 100 athletes.

Prior to the event the Academy sent me over a long list of the scholarship winners that have gone on to either represent Australia at an Olympics or Paralympics or who have otherwise reached the top of their chosen sport.

There are 24 past Greater scholarship holders that have achieved their goal of competing at an Olympics or Paralympics including Justin Norris who won bronze at the Sydney Olympics. Health Francis won five gold, four silver and three bronze across three Paralympics. Mathew Helm won a silver and bronze at the 2004 Olympics. Natalie Ward medalled at each of the four Olympics she attended. Angie Bainbridge won gold and silver across two Olympics.

This week’s event was much more than a scholarship presentation, it was celebration of the depth of sporting talent we have here in the Hunter.  

Talking with the athletes at the event was inspiring. We can all learn a few things from them.

  1. Be clear on your goal or dream. At the Greater our goal is to help our customers achieve their financial dreams by providing best value products and services.
  2. The playing field may not be level, you may not get a lot of support and there is always someone bigger or stronger than you but that should not stop you from giving it your absolute best. Just as the Greater takes on the might of the major banks, our athletes are fit, strong and skilled enough to take on the might of teams such as the USA , Germany and China. Hard work, perseverance and belief will take you far.
  3. You can make a big difference to someone’s life by giving them a little recognition and support.

On behalf of the Greater Building Society I’d like to congratulate all of this year’s recipients on the achievements they have already made and wish them all the best in their careers. They are now all part of the Greater family and we will be cheering for them. Sochi and Rio – here we come.


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