AFL 2022: Tony Jones opens up on childhood, father relationship, interview with 3AW’s Neil Mitchell

Tony Jones is known to many across the country as a much-loved sports presenter who plies his trade in front of the camera with Channel 9.

For years he has brought countless laughs to loungerooms as the host of the Sunday Footy Show.

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But in an emotional interview with 3AW’s Neil Mitchell, Jones opened up on the traumatic events he endured during his younger years.

Jones lost his sister at the age of 20 to a drunk driver, revealed he only met his father a handful of times and as a teenager stood up to his mother’s abusive partner.

“A rough start I suppose, talking about my home life,’’ he said.

“I’m happy to go there, I’m conscious of my mum’s feelings but she had a rougher time of it than what I did. She basically raised four of us single-handedly. She lost a child, my sister was only 20 when she was killed by drunk drivers so I’m pretty passionate about that and absolutely paranoid even if I have one drink on a Saturday night not getting in your car the next morning.”

Jones vividly recalls the night he picked up the phone at 2am when his mum delivered the heartbreaking news his sister had been killed.

“She said ‘I’m sorry we’ve lost Robyn’,” Jones said.

“I came back to Melbourne and I remember picking up The Herald at the airport and it was on the front page and I thought ‘oh this is real’. That was many, many years ago and for the life of me I don’t know how my mum did it. As she says, you never get over it, you have to live with it.

“Only recently we were doing a clean up and she came across all these letters that my sister had written to me and it was fascinating to go through them. As I get older I get a bit more emotional about it. Because my kids didn’t get to see her. I did a story for the news when my mum remarried and she remarried at a cemetery because it allowed my sister to be part of it. And my mum’s mum.”

Jones’ mother was left to raise four kids single-handedly after his father walked out when he was two-years-old.

The two men barely came across one another as the years went on. Jones spoke about the phone call he received eight years ago from police informing him his father had died.

“I do tend to be a little bit emotional about it now — should I have given him a second chance, he treated my mum like s*** but should I have got to know him a little bit,’’ Jones said.

“Only two times I met him was more out of curiosity. Leading to another pang of regret, they asked me and I said no (about paying for the funeral). I said ‘what happens now?’ and they said he’ll go into a pauper’s grave.

“I don’t lose sleep over it but I have little bits of regret that I put my dad in a pauper’s grave.

There was no support for my mum when he upped and left. There had to be payback at some stage.”

At the age of just 12, Jones stepped in and stood up to his then mother’s abusive partner. He revealed the act resulted in him being flattened as he attempted to stop the abuse.

“Mum herself says she was unlucky in love,’’ he said.

“The blokes that were in our lives were dropkicks or drunks. That didn’t make it pleasant.

“I tried to (step in) once when this particular bloke was abusive phsycially to mum. I was 12, it was on the eve of the under 13s grand final.

“He flattened me. He knocked me from one end of the loungeroom to the other. I’ve still got a fat lip … that was pretty awful.”

Jones finished off the interview by scoffing at stories he hears about people with traumatic upbringings getting into trouble, saying he came from a troubled upbringing but turned out all right.

“In my quiet moments I think about things like this and I as I get older I think if I think about it too much I end up a basket case,” he said.

“And that’s why I get very annoyed when I hear stories emanating from the courts: ‘oh he came from a broken home’. Don’t give me that s*** . A lot of us have come from a broken home but still managed to stay on the straight and narrow.”

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