The Armidale School rugby union product Jock Armstrong is on the cusp of a childhood dream, turning out in a series of trial matches for Super Rugby franchise Melbourne Rebels.
Armstrong hails from Niangala, south of Walcha, and earned his rugby credits at TAS.
He moved to Sydney and signed with Randwick in 2012 and has had two stints at National Rugby Championship club the NSW Country Eagles.
In November, Armstrong took a break from work and headed to Melbourne to begin training with the Rebels.
“I just did the pre-season block before Christmas and then a couple of weeks after and played down in Canberra the other night,” he told The Armidale Express.
“It is awesome, a really good opportunity. The first time I have been in a professional setup.”
While he isn’t guaranteed a contract to play in the Super 15 tournament, Armstrong said he is still hoping for a chance.
“With the Western Force being cut there was a bit of a bottleneck of players but hopefully I trained alright over the pre-season and if something comes up then hopefully I will get a crack,” he said.
“It has been really eye-opening and really good training down there.
“I was talking to a few of the boys before, I have been down in Sydney for five or six years, so definitely finally getting the opportunity to play these games has been awesome and just that last little push to secure a contract or get some game time throughout the year.”
Should he miss out on a contract, Armstrong said he will head back to Sydney and knuckle down at training.
“After these trials I will see what happens but I will probably just head back to Sydney and try and play well there and see if something comes up,” he said.
“They know what I am about in Melbourne now but if anything does come up I will hopefully get a call but if not, just go back to work and just do the same stuff I have been doing and hopefully an opportunity comes somewhere.
“It has been an awesome experience so if nothing comes up then I have learned a lot and then enjoyed my time down there.”
The Armidale School deputy headmaster Alan Jones, who coached Jock in the representative NSW Country Schools XV for the NSW Schools’ championships said Jock loved playing rugby for TAS including two years in the First XV.
“His passion for the game was reflected on the field and at training and after leaving TAS he went to Sydney to attend the University of NSW and play for the prestigious Randwick Rugby Club,” he said.
“He still supports the TAS First XV when he can when the school plays in Sydney and her always more than willing to chat to the boys in the shed before they run out play in the GPS competition.
“He is a great young bloke and as I said I am pleased to see him achieving his rugby ambitions.”
Armstrong went through the Northern Inland Academy of Sport’s program under the guidance of Brian Baker.
He finished with the 2011 NIAS Athlete of the Year award and Baker said it is no surprise he has continued to flourish in the sport.
“Jock showed plenty of talent as he came through our program, we knew he was destined for higher things, not just from his rugby talent but his dedication off the field as well,” he said.
“It is great to see athletes from our programs making it to the top level. It is extremely competitive, and chances are slim, especially for regional athletes. It’s great to see our program and the pathways we create are obviously working.”
If he heads back to the New England in the future, there’s no doubt who Armstrong would like to suit up for.
“I would love to play for the [Walcha] Rams one day,” he said.
“They're a good team, they have been going well so I would probably have to start in the lower grades and prove myself.”