9 June 2023

Man behind the mask (or the Viking head) looks back at a 40-year career, with no plans to slow down

| Claire Sams
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Tony Wood, aka, Victor the Viking

Tony Wood is the man behind the costume. Photo: Canberra Raiders.

Victor the Viking is a common sight for Raiders fans – but he has a history that is longer than you may realise.

Today (9 June), Queanbeyan resident Tony Wood, better known as Victor the Viking, will be on hand to mark 40 years of service as the Canberra Raiders’ mascot.

“In 1983, we were down in Sydney watching the team play against the Western Suburbs Magpies,” said Mr Wood.

“The game wasn’t a great game, but then I saw the Magpies’ mascot, called Mark the Magpie, and he was the ultimate mascot.

“Every action that he did, it made you smile and laugh and it took your mind off the game.”

That was the beginning of the story for Victor, who soon took to the field to keep the crowd invested (even when the other team pulled ahead).

“I’m just an average supporter, but I’ve got the best seats in the house to every game,” he said.

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For more than 600 games since, Mr Wood has come to the field dressed in what he calls “one of the warmest places that you’ll ever be” (that is, in the costume).

“At the Canberra ground, you can get down to 10 degrees, and everyone’s sitting there in tracksuits, hats, beanies,” he said.

“Meanwhile, I’m on the field and I’m sweating.”

Today’s game will also see Raiders fans celebrating another club icon – Jarrod Croker, who is set to mark his 300th game with the Green Machine.

In the time since he first pulled on the suit, Mr Wood married and started a family, became a Raiders Life Member in 2017 and was awarded an OAM for services to the community on Australia Day in 2021.

“I do a lot of community work with Victor as well,” he said.

“I’ve done two weddings, for couples who were big Raiders supporters, and I’ve done a funeral where I led the coffin to the gravesite.”

But, for game days, Mr Wood said his goal had stayed the same – making sure fans had the best experience possible.

“That’s all I’m there for, to make their game day experience entertaining and to create a smile,” he said.

“I can walk away from the game, and if a kid’s crying for some reason, you work on them and all of a sudden they smile and you walk away.

“That’s when I think, ‘Oh, my job’s done’.”

READ ALSO Resting Jarrod Croker so he plays his 300th game in Canberra is the right call

Mr Wood said there were no plans to take the costume off, despite reaching the 40-year mark.

“When I reached 35 years, I said that I’d love to get to 40; and now I’m at 40, I’d love to get to 50.

“Let’s take one year at a time,” he said.

It was the support of the Canberra Raiders club and his family that helped him reach 40 years.

“The people who have backed me up over the 40 years and let me do what I wanted is my family and my brothers and sisters,” said Mr Wood.

“I have three daughters and my wife – I’ve also got a grandchild now that loves Victor – and they’ve been my backbone.

“I’m very proud of what I’ve done, but I’m very grateful to them for letting me do it.”

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