TONY Armstrong could have easily fallen through the cracks.
Just like most teenage boys living in Brocklesby a decade ago, Armstrong loved his sport, mates and being outdoors.
School? Not so much.
After finishing year 9 at Lavington’s Murray High, Armstrong started to think about his future.
Maybe he should start a trade?
Plenty of others were.
But his mother, a teacher, was having none of it.
“Mum really wanted to make sure I finished school,” Armstrong, 24, told The Border Mail in the lead up to today’s NAB Challenge clash at Wangaratta.
“I guess there’s a bit of a trend of guys stopping at that age and doing trades.
“At the time I was probably leaning towards that path but mum wanted me to finish school and then make my mind up after.”
Thank goodness he did.
Armstrong completed his studies after being shipped off to board at Assumption College for his final years at school and it was there another career option took his fancy.
He wanted to play football for a living.
Snapped up by Adelaide with pick 58 of the 2007 national draft, to say Armstrong’s journey since has been interesting is an understatement.
It took him three years to play his first match for the Crows but he was gone from the city of churches just 13 games later after requesting a trade to Sydney — where he was born and raised — and didn’t take long to work his way into the strong Swans’ line-up.
Armstrong finally started to look comfortable at the highest level.
However, opportunity again dried up and left Armstrong looking for a new home.
Unlike most fringe players in that situation, he found one.
“I’m lucky to still be in the system but I guess you make your own luck,” the Collingwood recruit said.
“At the moment I’m a bit frustrated, I guess.
“I know I can play, I just need to go out there and do it.”
It’s only the pre-season, granted, but he’s made a solid start to doing just that.
Armstrong racked up 21 touches in Collingwood’s two-point loss to Geelong last week and again looks set to be given ample opportunity against Richmond at Wangaratta today.
It’s hardly a homecoming — Armstrong never played at Norm Minns Oval — but the former Brocklesby junior is looking forward to it all the same.
“There will be a few people and parents of mates who I went to school with there so it will be good see a few faces I haven’t seen in a while,” he said.
“I hear it’s a really good deck there, so I’m looking forward to it.”
After 29 games in six seasons, making the most of his chances is getting more and more important for Armstrong if he wants to stay in the AFL.
That was never a problem when he was playing for the Hume league Roos.
He was given every chance to shine.
“I started playing a bit of senior footy at Brock every now and again when I was about 14,” Armstrong said.
“I guess that sort of got me ready to play against bigger, harder bodies.”
He was on the Border no more than five years, but Armstrong says he’ll always look back fondly on his time here.
Even if it took some getting used to.
“It was a bit of a culture shock when I first got there,” Armstrong said.
“Up until I was about 11 we lived in Sydney and mum decided she wanted a bit of a change and we ended up in Brock, of all places.
“We lived in the school house right next to Brock public where I went to school in year 6.
“I’ve got really fond memories of playing footy and cricket out at Brocklesby.
“There’s a real sense of a community out there.”