Former Adelaide, Sydney and Collingwood player Tony Armstrong is set to become the first Aboriginal person to call football on commercial radio when he takes to the airwaves with Triple M this weekend. He spoke to AFLPlayers.com.au about the achievement ahead of calling the match between Richmond and the West Coast Eagles at the MCG on Sunday.
Kavisha Di Pietro: Congratulations Tony on becoming the first Aboriginal person to call football on commercial radio. What does this achievement mean to you?
Tony Armstrong: It’s just really humbling! I mean guys like Charlie King and Gilbert McAdam have led the way for years and without them, there would be no me. I’m obviously really proud but would prefer for this to be the norm.
When you finished playing football at the end of 2015, was the media and working in radio something that immediately appealed to you?
Not really! It was a massive sliding doors moment that landed me in this role. Once I got a taste for it, I loved it but until I got a tap on the shoulder from the great Chris Johnson, I didn’t envisage that this would be my pathway.
You spent two years honing your craft by working with the National Indigenous Radio Services (NIRS). How did that opportunity help you find your passion for working in radio?
There are a number of people I have to thank, starting with Andrew Underwood, who gave me the opportunity. Also, Peter Cardamone and Barry Denner, who have been incredible mentors to me along the way. They all helped nurture me and helped me discover a passion for calling.
How did the opportunity with Triple M come about?
Brian Taylor (BT) has long been a mentor of mine and he introduced me to the right people which helped! I’ve also been doing special comments with them for about a year and since the first one, I realised I didn’t have the on-field career to be a special comments guy, so I took up calling. After some chats with (Triple M director) Ewan Giles and some feedback, I just kept working at it until he deemed me fit and ready!
As a pioneer in this field, who do you look to for advice?
(Laughs) I don’t know how comfortable I feel being called a pioneer! I seek advice constantly. I speak to Barry Denner a lot, and I mean a lot! I also lean heavily on Peter Cardamone and Andrew Underwood. BT is also someone whose advice I call upon every so often. I’m very lucky to have people who are so helpful around me. I really value and appreciate their advice and guidance.
We have seen a rise in Indigenous voices in the game in recent seasons with Gilbert McAdam’s role with Channel 7. How important is it that these types of jobs are becoming more open to Indigenous people?
It’s so important! Too often we have non-Indigenous people given a voice and shaping conversations around Indigenous issues in the media. It’s crucial to have our voice there so we can have a say. It’s great seeing guys like ‘Gilly’ up there strutting his stuff and hopefully there can be a few more kids inspired!
What experiences have you had that have helped shape you on this journey?
I just try to be friendly and do my best. Eight years at AFL level helps from a level of resilience and dedication which is imperative in this industry.
You’re a vocal ally for Indigenous Australia. How have you seen trends within the community shift since you first started your AFL career in 2007?
I’m pretty frustrated with it, to be frank. ‘Goodesy’s’ (Adam Goodes) two documentaries brought up a lot of anger and frustration inside me. I’m just hopeful that through the airing of those pieces people understand what happened and how we can be better in the future.
What unique view on the game can you provide given your background with Adelaide, Sydney and Collingwood?
I just want to try and bring my own experiences out in the call and do my best. Hopefully, the listeners love it and I get more opportunities!
Appreciate your time, Tony.
Thanks Kavisha. Anytime.