FFirst, Tony Armstrong was a soccer player. In his early 20s he played in the AFL for Adelaide Crows, Sydney Swans and then Collingwood, before hanging up his boots at 25. A few years later, Armstrong was recruited to work as a radio commentator, before eventually settling on a career as an on-screen sportscaster. Now 32, he’s the sports anchor for ABC News Breakfast, a gig he loves. (“I’m definitely better at talking about football than playing it,” Armstrong once told Guardian Australia.)
In another dream role, Armstrong also recently helmed the ABC special A Dog’s World, a three-part series about humanity’s relationship with our four-legged companions. And starting at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 30, he will co-host ABC 90 Celebrate, a two-hour live event marking his employer’s 90th birthday. But for all his media success, being on TV was never part of Armstrong’s life plan.
“It’s so weird because I never imagined it,” he says. “When you’re 15 and you’re like, oh, I’ll be an astronaut, or I’ll be a neurophysicist or whatever. It wasn’t on my bingo card.
Prior to the AFL and the TV gigs, Armstrong actually wanted to be a session musician. Here, the TV host tells us about a missing memory from that time, as well as the story of two other significant personal effects – one utterly unique, the other deeply relatable.
What I would save from my house in a fire
Someone very dear to me is an artist – his name is Harry Thring and he now lives in Hamburg. About eight or nine years ago, he made me a light installation. It is my pride and my joy.
It’s maybe 1.5 meters by 1.5 meters and it’s in my living room on my wall. To do this, Harry pricked a piece of fabric several times and placed a lightbox behind it. When I turn it on, with the light coming through, it almost looks like a film negative. It is irreplaceable. Even if he tried to do it again, it would be different just because there are 10,000 pinpricks in the thing.
It’s really sentimental to me because it was the first piece of art I ever bought and it was made by one of my best friends. I could get burned from the time it would take me to put it out in a fire, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take.
My most useful item
It must be my couch. It’s so comfortable and I love it so much. I use it to sit, I use it to sleep, I sometimes eat on the couch. I really paint myself as a slob here – I promise I get up sometimes. But that’s when I’m the most relaxed and probably the calmest, when I’m reading or watching TV or something like that.
The object I most regret having lost
I played drums for 10 or 11 years when I was younger and wanted to be a session drummer when I grew up. These are the people that, say, Justin Bieber would call when he was in town and want to compose a song with drums. I wouldn’t have been good enough for the job, but that’s what I wanted to do.
The first band I fell in love with was the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Their drummer, Chad Smith, is a gift in the drumming world. One day I went to see a drum clinic he ran. There were about 200 people in the auditorium and Chad just played, talked about the tunes and told stories while he played the drums. It was great for anyone, like me, who was a drum nerd. Then you could have an article signed. I took a drumhead and had it signed by Chad Smith, then took it later to be framed.
But one day, years later, I lost it while moving from Sydney to Melbourne. I was absolutely devastated because it was a treasured rock ‘n’ roll memory and it meant a lot to me.