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Inspiring single mum story behind ABC footy sensation Tony Armstrong after Logies win

ABC sports juggernaut Tony Armstrong, who held up his coveted Logie onstage after being recognized as TV’s top new talent, was quick to recognize one person in particular.

“There’s a lot of people to thank, but first and foremost the aged cheese…mom…Margaret Anne Armstrong…she’s a superstar,” an emotional Armstrong told the star-studded event on the Gold Coast. on Sunday evening.

“She did everything for me and I wouldn’t be here without her.

“Many thanks to her and please give her a slap, she will love it at home.”

The story behind Armstrong’s rise to one of Australia’s most popular media identities after a tough upbringing and a sputtering AFL career is one of inspiration – with his mother front and center.

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“There are a lot of people I have to thank, but first the old cheese…” Tony said of Mother Margaret (from his Instagram)

Tony was raised by his single mother who was a teacher and never met his father

Tony was raised by his single mother who was a teacher and never met his father

Thirty-two years ago, Tony was born in Sydney to a single mother who was then living in Paddington and working as a teacher.

The pair would later move to the Riverina with a father “not around” and no siblings “that I know,” as Tony would reveal years later.

Armstrong, a popular winner at Sunday night's Logies, was crowned Best New Talent

Armstrong, a popular winner at Sunday night’s Logies, was crowned Best New Talent

Mother and son would eventually move to the small town of Brocklesby, 28 miles northwest of Albury, and later to nearby Burrumbuttock, equally small with a population of about 200.

Armstrong later described to Sydney Swans’ media team that this moment was one of the most defining in his life.

It was then that his mother, an elementary school teacher, scraped together all her savings to send Tony to a boarding school at Assumption College, Kilmore, famous as a football nursery.

It wasn’t like he walked into the prestigious school on a scholarship.

He didn’t. His mother made “huge sacrifices” to pay for his living.

“It’s not something you fully appreciate at the moment, but I’ll be eternally grateful to you. She’s everything to me mama,’ he said.

“I wanted to avoid high school and become a tradie like most of my friends,” Tony said.  But his mother insisted that he finish school

“I wanted to avoid high school and become a tradie like most of my friends,” Tony said. But his mother insisted that he finish school

Tony was a surprising choice to replace Paul Kennedy as ABC sports reporter in 2021

Tony was a surprising choice to replace Paul Kennedy as ABC sports reporter in 2021

Halfway through college, Armstrong later admitted that he really wanted to drop out of school.

“I wanted to avoid high school and become a tradie like most of my friends,” he said.

Tony admitted that ‘anyone who knows me knows I could never have been a tradie’, but he persisted and eventually completed grade 12.

“Mom insisted I finish school,” he said.

Armstrong finished with Assumption around the same time he was drafted by the Adelaide Crows with selection #58 in the 2007 AFL National Draft after playing with the NSW/ACT Rams and Calder Cannons in the TAC Cup.

In 2010 he made his senior team debut against Fremantle at Subiaco but a year later left the Adelaide Crows and asked for a trade to the Sydney Swans, the club he supported as a child growing up in NSW.

In April 2012, he made his debut for the Swans, replacing captain Adam Goodes, who had been suspended for the game.

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“I’m definitely better at talking footy than playing it,” he said of his AFL career

Armstrong only played one season for the Sydney Swans before being signed by Collingwood

Armstrong only played one season for the Sydney Swans before being signed by Collingwood

Mixed fortunes followed, with Armstrong later delisted by Sydney and signed by Collingwood before being taken off the list again after playing just one senior game.

Knocked down but not knocked out, his struggles in the AFL would ultimately be something of a boon for Armstrong.

“What that has done is I’m a little bit fearless when it comes to trying new things. It’s a bit of a superpower – don’t be afraid to fail, because I’ve already done that,” he told The Guardian in 2021.

“I did, you know, I’m kinda done with footy and feeling shitty and failing at it, but I’m okay, right?”

A proud Barranbinya man, Armstrong made the leap from sports to media in 2020 when a friend suggested we try AFL radio commentary on the National Indigenous Radio Service.

Tony has been a fan favorite since joining ABC Breakfast last year

Tony has been a fan favorite since joining ABC Breakfast last year

“I’m definitely better at talking about footy than playing it,” he said at the time.

A year later, he would be called up to the major TV leagues, drafted as a permanent replacement for former ABC sports host Paul Kennedy.

When asked where his talent for the media came from, he again pointed to his mother.

“I attributed it all to Mom. She has always loved the performing arts. She took me to the theater, encouraged me to read a lot and always tried to learn,” he said.

“We have a fantastically strong relationship and I love her dearly.

“And she’s hilariously strict but fair. She’s never backward about coming forward and giving me some feedback, that’s for sure! She’ll say ‘Tony, get your damn hair cut’.

“She’s so elated and so proud, which is great, and without getting too cheesy, it feels like we both enjoy the wins when they come.”

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