I now have two regrets in my life.
One was not preparing a speech for my wedding day, the second is obviously not preparing a speech for this moment.
Mark [Hughes], Joanne [McCarthy] and Professor Salah [Sukkarieh] to share just a moment of your journey, I feel grateful.
I feel a little unworthy to win with these nominees here.
Although I may feel unworthy right now I’ll do everything I can to justify this moment and whatever lay ahead.
I’m a proud Australian; I’m a proud man with a disability.
I am grateful that I’ve had the privilege to wear the green and gold for 20 years now.
One of the most solitary sports in the world, you constantly have your head down.
For the first time, I think, the last time I got to wear that green and gold, you look around and you realise a lot of people are coming together, you’ve been able to talk about some things that you feel grateful to have brought to the stage and when I finally now get the chance to look back, you don’t see the racing really, you don’t see the medals … the medals are sitting in a Huggies box in my kids’ room.
You see the moment where my dad found me crawling around the field playing footy, while he watched the Aus Day 10km race on Australia Day and saw these gladiators in wheelchairs and he picked me up off the footy field and ran me inside and he showed me what was out there for me.
I see a principal who demanded that I receive a public education and fought for me and my family when we didn’t even know a fight was there.
I see a teacher that whispered to me that I was more than a HSC mark and that the desire that we can build in a person is the most valuable thing that’s there.
I see a coach that told me that he thought I could be the best in the world and he was willing to take every single step with me.
I see person after person that invested in me through kindness and love and generosity, a town of 200 who bought me my first wheelchair, when my family begged for them not to, they said “Stay out of it, it’s between us and the boy.”
I am the culmination of generous moment after generous moment, kind moment after kind moment and that is the glue that holds this country together.
I am a proud husband to Sheridan, and a proud father to my Amelia who, Heather [Lee – the NSW Senior Australian of the Year], will be celebrating her first birthday while you’re celebrating at your 92nd on Saturday.
I hope that she gets to live 92 powerful years as you have.
And to Jarrod [Wheatley – the NSW Young Australian of the Year] and Sophie [Smith - the NSW Local Hero], I will really look forward to sharing these next few months and sharing your journey as well.
I will take every one of those generous moments that people have bombarded on me and I will carry them down to Canberra on Australia Day, and I will cautiously represent every single one of those people and every single one of those moments.
Thank you Premier [Gladys Berejiklian], and thank you to every single person who has carried me for the last 37 years, but specifically the 20 where I have had the pleasure to represent this country.
I feel absolutely overwhelmed and privileged to represent my state down in Canberra on January 25.
I see person after person that invested in me through kindness and love and generosity, a town of 200 who bought me my first wheelchair, when my family begged for them not to, they said “stay out of it, it’s between us and the boy. I am the culmination of generous moment after generous moment, kind moment after kind moment.