Chatting with Jason Armstrong (JA) you are disarmed by his cheerful disposition and lack of pretence. “Yeah I did an under-18 grand final with Matty Stevic and Cam Blanchard, not sure what year. I did a VFL grand final but it was only after my third trial out of Queensland and a grand final there that I made the list,” reflected JA as he tried to put a timeline together with me for the article. “I know I was 31 years old when I got onto the list, I did my 100th VFL game while on rotation out of the AFL a year or so ago.”
You get the sense that times and places don’t count but people and relationships do with this project manager, who by his own admission says, “every minute counts, it’s the only way I can fit it all into my schedule.” JA now lives in a far flung Melbourne eastern suburb called Sandhurst. He is married to Michaela. They have four young kids. He drives to Carrum to catch a 6am train, is always at his desk by 7.30am, then hits the gym on the way home and is rarely home before 7.30pm on non-training nights.
“I was a country kid with an interest in athletics. I started in Warrnambool to earn some pocket money and just ran with it. I went to Gordon Institute of Technology in Geelong, got promoted to the Royal Park Academy with Brendan Carland and went along for the ride. Look where I finished!”
Moving to Queensland for work for two years was massive for JA. He couldn’t believe how well the Queensland umpires did considering the primitive facilities they had to endure. “They got changed in a toilet block and were coached in a dilapidated room attached to the toilet block. But what it lacked in facilities it more than made up for in spirit. Matty Lee-archer, Andrew Shephardson and I enjoyed mentoring and training with a lot of young up and comers. It made me take a leadership role,” said JA.
“I missed half a season in my second year with a stress fracture in my toe. In my third season I had a purple patch including three Friday night games in a row. It was only then that I realised I could do it. One hundred games means I was not a flash in the pan, and able to hold my own on the list, but it will mean more to me when I am finished and able to sit back and reflect on it.”
By his own admission JA doesn’t have an enemy on the track or a bad word to say about anyone and I think that would be reciprocated by the group. He gets in, gets his work done and gets home. His father and mother have strong athletics backgrounds which is where he gets his athleticism and work ethic from. His father never misses a game he does on the telly and is JA’s biggest supporter.
“All of my coaches over many years have always been very supportive and encouraging. My closest mates on the list, Kamolins, Jeffery and Stevic along with many others have always lent a helping hand or a quick word of advice.”
“Gotta go I have a meeting in 10!” As I sit sipping on my latte, I do get the feeling, every minute counts.
Photo: 100 gamer Jason Armstrong