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Tony Armstrong swaps sports desk for ‘extra-ordinary’ ride

Tony Armstrong tells <i>TV Week</i> he's always been told he's ‘very droll on the news, so it’s a good opportunity to get out there and show everyone I like laughing’.

Tony Armstrong tells TV Week he's always been told he's ‘very droll on the news, so it’s a good opportunity to get out there and show everyone I like laughing’. Photo: ABC

In just four years, Tony Armstrong has nailed the ABC sports hosting gig, published children’s books and won a national podcast prize.

Now the award-winning proud Gamilaroi man is on a mission to become a first-time curator.

After the success of Great Australian Stuff, where he checked out the boomerang, the Akubra and the Permanent Pleat, he’s riding his bike around the country to talk to people “from all walks of life” to find their special “thing” in Extra-Ordinary Things.

He plans to present his findings of the “little-known history” of Australia in June at an exhibition for the National Museum of Australia in Canberra, which said it was “excited”.

He tells The New Daily everyone he met “had a brilliant and unique story to tell”.

“That was the thing I loved the most about making the show … realising that everyone has a beautiful story and it’s these stories that we all carry inside of us that make up the collective tissue that I think makes up Australia,” he said.

“I really hope that it comes through when you watch.”

Armstrong met one of the 1600 people who worked on building the bridge, which began in 1923 and was opened in 1932. Photo: NSW State Archives

What ‘sentimental possessions’ does he find?

The ABC describes the show as a fast-paced romp around the country, unravelling some of Australia’s most defining moments, one thing at a time.

Speaking to FM radio on Wednesday, Armstrong, 34, says he’s not going to showcase the obvious things like the Opera House or the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

It’s more personal.

Armstrong says the “extra-ordinary things” aren’t confined to the typical artefact you’d see in a museum and could be anything.

“And that’s what makes it so fun,” he says.

For example?

Like the commemorative pin given to a builder who worked on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, says TV Week, to a novelty-sized cheque that kickstarted the gender pay gap discussion in professional surfing.

What about the conti roll sandwich [continental long crusty roll filled with deli meats] that is credited with giving Australians the first taste of authentic Italian cuisine in 1953?

“We just looked for a broad range of things. We didn’t want to shy away from difficult topics, but we also wanted to tell fun, goofy stories, as well as try and reflect the cross-section of Australia as best we could.”

As for one of his own “extra-ordinary” things?

Armstrong admits it’s the drum skin he had signed by the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ drummer Chad Smith when he was 16 years old.

“I wagged a school footy game to go down to Preston [inner-northern suburb of Melbourne] to see him perform [and get it signed] and I used to take it everywhere with me,” he said.

Last year, Tony Armstrong received the Bert Newtown Award for Most Popular Presenter at the Logies for his outstanding work in A Dog’s World with Tony Armstrong and ABC News BreakfastPhoto: AAP

Rising star

Armstrong grew up in rural New South Wales and played AFL for Adelaide, Collingwood and Sydney, where he played alongside Indigenous star Adam Goodes, who inspired him as a child.

In 2019, he became the first Indigenous person to provide live commentary for Aussie rules on commercial radio.

In 2020, he co-hosted ABC Melbourne’s breakfast radio program alongside Sammy J and, among other positions he taps into within the national broadcaster, he hosted the 2020 summer series of Offsiders.

Armstrong’s hard work has paid off, winning successive Logies for most popular new talent in 2022 and most popular presenter last year.

He cemented his place in the TV cultural landscape after his jubilant meltdown moment from Melbourne’s Federation Square when the Socceroos qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The vision went viral, with Last Week Tonight with John Oliver talk show host saying “there’s nothing not to love about” it.

Or him … as the ABC confirms he’s continuing to write and develop more “captivating” TV projects.

Extra-Ordinary Things premieres on Tuesday, May 21, at 8pm on ABC TV, with all episodes available to stream on ABC iview

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