“I’m an only child. I loved … how team sports can bring you a sense of collegiality. You join a sports team,” he said, and “straight away you’ve got 22 friends.”
The sport he fell into was AFL. Armstrong spent his high school years boarding at Assumption College, a school known for its steady supply of AFL stars including Brownlow winner Shane Crawford.
At boarding school, Armstrong went from a town with no kids to play with (they were out farming when he got back from school) to having friends 24/7.
“It was the best time of my life,” he said.
Drafted in to the Adelaide Crows aged 18, Armstrong made his AFL debut in 2010. But “consistency proved an issue,” the club said, and the player was traded to the Sydney Swans the next year.
After being traded again to Collingwood, Armstrong ended up walking away from the sport at 25, realising he was “not really doing that well”.
“One day I was asked to provide some special comments for the National Indigenous Radio Service [NIRS],” he said. The NIRS is a government-funded satellite program feed to mainly Indigenous radio stations across the country. “And I seemed to have a bit of a knack for it,” he said. He became the first Indigenous person to call an AFL game on commercial radio in 2019.
“If I hadn’t started calling AFL football, I wouldn’t have ended up here at the ABC,” he said on Sunday night, during his acceptance speech.
And it is here at the ABC where Armstrong has grown into a household name. From delivering Tony’s Terrible News on The Weekly and hosting his own show, A Dog’s World, To speaking out against Indigenous incarceration, and joking at unfortunate tongue-twisters, nothing seems off limits for the man who admits to having “a bit of a quirky personality”.
“I absolutely love sharing the desk with you,” News Breakfast co-host Michael Rowland shared after his colleague’s win. “You have brought so much to our show, you have brought so much to the ABC, and quite frankly you have brought so much to Australian TV more broadly.”
It’s not hard to see why he is loved, and why he was the clear and deserved favor for the most popular new talent award this year.
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