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Behind the Cups with Kelvin "Fridge" Armstrong

“Behind the Cups,” is a new series where we sit down one-on-one with people from club land for an in-depth conversation discussing their rugby journey. Behind every cup are the unsung heroes that help build upon the legacy of our game.

Kelvin Armstrong, more affectionately known as “Fridge,” by players and the local rugby community is one top bloke. Having played both internationally and in Australia Fridge has experience with a diverse range of clubs and players. With his big personality and positive outlook on life he is changing lives on and off the field, making him one of our local unsung heroes.

kelvin

Hi Kelvin! It’s great to have the opportunity to talk with you this week and share your rugby journey. Can you share with me how you first got involved in rugby.

I grew up in Ryde, NSW whereI lived for 15 Years and went to school at Holy Cross Ryde. Since a young age I played Rugby League. Before my father passed away during my early 20s, he managed the North Ryde Hawks where I played. As a youngster I played a variety of sports and thoroughly enjoyed the team environment.

I moved down to Wollongong in 1997 and went to Port Kembla High where I played my first game of Rugby. One of my school friends asked if I wanted to play Rugby on the weekends, and I said ‘yes.’ Like a lot of you lads, I played League on Saturday and Rugby on Sunday for the now Waratahs Tech Rugby Club. With the Waratahs/Illawarra side I had the chance to travel to New Zealand and play some New Zealand club sides.

kelvin

You’ve had the opportunity to play with teams overseas How did that opportunity come about and when did you join Queanbeyan Whites?

I’ve been able to be a part of great clubs over the years. I’ve played for South NSW Provincial Schools, Waratahs Tech, Hunters Hill, NSW Provincial Schools, Chichester, Streatham Croydon, and Jindabyne Bushpigs. After my HSC I wanted to join the NSW Police Force but chose to pursue a Rugby League career playing in Sydney but wasn’t good enough. In 2006, I back packed around Europe for two months before I was offered the opportunity to play for Chichester Rugby in England. I played with them for a year before playing at Streatham Croydon Rugby Club and let me just say that the after-match functions were outstanding!

I was overseas for six years overall. In that time, I played with two great clubs while working for Contiki Tours. Let’s just say I enjoyed myself and met some fantastic people travelling through Europe, Scandinavia, and Egypt but boy, did I put on some weight! I returned home to Sydney and studied event management before moving to Jindabyne where I worked for Perisher for 7 years. Jindabyne is where I started my managerial career with the mighty Jindabyne Bushpigs and from there I moved up to “god’s country,” Queanbeyan in 2011 and worked for Aspen Medical. At that time whilst in Queanbeyan I still managed the Bushpigs and the Monaro Representative sides. I started managing the Queanbeyan Whites Colts in 2017, currently my role is the First Grade Manager for Queanbeyan Whites.

kelvin

Wow, that’s some great adventures! What advice would you give to others who want play overseas?

I think prepare yourself for the culture shock, take the opportunity while you’re there to get to know people. If there’s a chance to go out, go out. When you’re not with your team you need to keep active. I joined the gym myself while there it was a great place to make friends and build connections. It’s a lot better now to stay connected with social media. Homesickness will still come but try to enjoy the experience while you can.

Something we’d tell people on the Contiki Tours is “It’s not wrong, it’s different.” Meaning it’s not wrong what others do it’s just the way they do things, that mentally translates into rugby as well. I’d also agree with “you get out what you put in,” if you put in the effort good things will come, if you put in the hard work the payoff will come. Rugby is a team sport, but as individuals we can affect the club. Showing up with a bad attitude can equal bad results. It’s important to show up for yourself and show up for the team.

After being a part of so many different clubs, how important is the rugby community to you and what impact does your team have on your life?

It is very important to me; I don’t think I would be the person I am today without being involved in Rugby. This is my 15th year as a manager. I have met some beautiful people, from players, parents, coaches, managers, club officials and support staff. For me it is not all about Rugby its building strong relationships with everyone involved in the club and the wellbeing of the players. It is my 10th year with the Brumbies Pathway Programs. I have seen many great young players come through the Brumbies Program, witnessing many go from boys to grown men, fortunately some are now playing Professional Rugby.

A player’s mental health and well-being is also very important to me, it’s more than the eighty minutes on the field – it is the full person and who they are off the field too. Throughout the covid lockdowns it was a real struggle for everyone, but I tried to reach out to everyone as much as I could. I try to be there for the players and coaches, and everyone involved whether that’s spending time getting to know them or having a chat to check in and listen to how they are going. I’ll reiterate it a hundred times, rugby is more than a game we can connect with the young people through the sport. It’s one thing to belong to a club but a greater thing to belong to a community.I’d love to implement programs in the future based mental and well-being.

I’m grateful for Queanbeyan Whites and the environment we have there. We really try to include all grades and families. We are supportive of each other and their journeys. The Whites are a great club to be a part of and involved with. I’m looking forward to future holds for the club.

kelvin

I’ll be sure to keep a look out for the future wellbeing programs you’ll have in place. As we come towards the end of our one-on-one, we have a round of fast facts. I’ll ask you some simple questions and just say the first thing that comes to mind.

What is your go to song on game day?

Right now I really like ‘Pursuit of Happiness’ by Kid Cudi and I like to listen to Johnny Cash.

Who was the first person you text this morning?

My sister she is living overseas now.

What is the most used app on your phone?

I’d say Instagram!

Who are you’re rugby heroes?

Topo Rodriguez, Ewan McKenzie, Kees Meeuws, Matt Dunning, Sean Fitzpatrick, James Slipper, David Pocock, Taniela Tupou, Zane Hogan, Fred Kaihea, and Neori Nadruku.

On game days what do you have for breakfast?

I do like poached eggs or a bowl of porridge.

What are your top 3 favourite movies?

Goodfellas, Shawshank Redemption and Buzz Lightyear.

What is your favourite rugby memory?

I think winning two Colts comps with Dan Hawk and then the win last weekend was amazing. I would love to win the Bentspoke John I Dent Cup with the current group of first graders! It’s going to be a great contest between two very good teams. The Whites are really looking forward to Saturday. LET’S GO!

Thank you again Kelvin, it’s been a pleasure to talk with you. All the best for Queanbeyan Whites this Saturday!

kelvin
*Notes about Interviewer: Georgia Rae Abel was raised on the sidelines of the rugby field watching her dad coach and brothers play before strapping on the boots herself. Playing in Junior rugby, on her high school teams and in Women’s Premier 15s. Georgia Rae has a wide background in rugby on and off the field.

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