Greater Shepparton Sports Hall of Fame inductee
Most professional athletes are noticed from a young age.
Scouted by experts who train, train and then train them some more before they are ready to compete at a higher level.
But Mooroopna’s Barry Wood, 67, has a story which bucks that trend.
The Commonwealth Games medallist only took up the sport of rifle shooting in his mid-20s.
‘‘I used to live in Sale, met my wife Dianne and moved up here to be with her,’’ Wood said.
The talented youngster enjoyed Australian Rules football in his teenage years, but did both his ankles and a knee ‘‘pretty bad’’, ruining his football career.
‘‘Dianne’s dad, Jack Jones, asked if I might try my hand at rifle shooting,’’ Wood said.
So Wood joined the Katandra Rifle Club in 1975 and found he enjoyed his new sport and could shoot well.
‘‘I’d done a bit as a kid with a slug gun and went duck shooting a little,’’ he said.
‘‘The Katandra club was big at the time and had around 45 members, so I joined up.’’
It was not long before Wood was noticed, as he shot scores which showed he was on the way up.
In 1981, he was selected as one of 10 members of the Victorian rifle team to shoot off against opposing states.
‘‘It was in Mackay that year and I was just overwhelmed,’’ Wood said.
It was a busy time for Wood, a self-employed plumber who had to arrange his working hours around his shooting commitments — which took him around Australia.
‘‘It is hard to balance working and travelling, but I had to because you can’t get sponsorship because rifle shooting isn’t a spectator sport,’’ he said.
‘‘It has always been a financial strain but I’ve always found a way.’’
By 1989, Wood was shooting in the lead-up to Commonwealth Games selection and won the Victorian shoot-off.
He was one of two Victorian shooters to compete against other states and finished first in the Queensland competition.
‘‘I made the Australian team,’’ Wood said.
Before the 1990 Commonwealth Games, Wood competed in the Queens Prize at the Williamstown Rifle Range and was chaired off as the winner.
The result showed Wood had well and truly earned his place in the Australian team and carried that form into the Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand.
‘‘I took 18 weeks off work and was forced to sell a block of land that I owned, which was my retirement package, to keep me going,’’ Wood said.
‘‘I partnered with Benalla’s James Corbett who has turned into a legend since. We shot over 300, 500, 600, 900 and 1000 yards and we took home the silver medal.’’
Following more success in 1996, winning the Victorian Champion of Champions, Wood gave competition shooting away to spend time with his growing boys.
‘‘I wanted to put more time into them because I thought if they got a car at 18, they’d leave and just forget about me,’’ he said.
After eight years and, as his children grew up and spent more time hanging out with their mates, Wood thought he would return to shooting.
‘‘When I got back into it I struggled for a long time,’’ he said.
‘‘I was shooting with an old-school blade set-up and I thought my eyes were done. But one day I shot with a mate’s newer-styled rifle and hit a perfect 75 out of 75.’’
Since his return to competitive shooting, Wood’s greatest highlight was winning his place back in the Australian team and shooting in the United Kingdom.
Wood has not had the time to look back on his long and successful rifle shooting career because it has not ended yet.
‘‘I’m still competing and don’t think I’ll give it up until they put me in a box,’’ he said.
‘‘Rifle shooting is a dying sport unfortunately but the reason I love it is because it’s such a challenge.
‘‘It takes you around 10 years to learn the weather, judge it properly and I haven’t shot a living thing since 1975 because of it.’’