Former Iraq hostage Douglas Wood remembered for his bravery
Former Iraq hostage Douglas Wood has been remembered as a larger-than-life character who continued to adore the Geelong Cats until his dying days.
The 78-year-old was found dead at his Melbourne home on Thursday after years of battling health problems.
Mr Wood, who was raised in Geelong, shot to international prominence in 2005 when he was kidnapped while working as an engineer in Iraq.
He endured a brutal hostage ordeal at the hands of captors who murdered his two colleagues and threatened to decapitate him in a bid to force the United States out of Iraq.
Mr Wood was freed after 47 days following a military operation involving Iraqi and US forces.
He famously asked for news on his beloved Cats immediately after the rescue, before the club welcomed him into its inner sanctum upon his return.
Lifelong friend David Edge said he would remember Mr Wood for his happy-go-lucky nature.
"He loved life and was full of fun," he said. "He was very outgoing, very full of life."
Mr Edge said he could vividly recall playing football alongside Mr Wood for Barwon Heads-Ocean Grove during their youth.
"He wasn't a very skilful player, but really got into it," he said.
"He broke his nose once and his father said to him, 'Right, you can't play until your nose gets fixed'.
"He played the following weekend. He was standing on the mark and the guy booted the ball into his face to make his nose worse."
Mr Edge said that while his friend suffered with health problems following the kidnapping, especially with his eyesight, the ordeal had failed to dampen his strong character.
"He was still the same person, just physically in very bad shape," Mr Edge said.
"He was still full of life, loved his football and loved following the Cats.
"He loved a beer and would try going to games when he could."
Former Geelong College schoolmate and mayor Jim Fidge recalled his close bond with Mr Wood as young teenagers in East Geelong.
"Doug and I were very close at school. We virtually grew up together," he said.
"We renewed that friendship some years later when he became quite an extraordinary person."
Following his rescue, Mr Wood's love for the Cats led to him being invited into the clubrooms and singing the team song, while the club made him a member for life.
In a 2007 article for the Addy, Mr Wood wrote that he drew hope from Geelong sides of the past while he was being subjected to brutality from his captors.
"When I was lying on the hard floor, blindfolded and handcuffed in 50-degree heat, gagging on my bread and water diet, and getting kicks and gun butt bashes to the head, I refused to give up," he said.
"I was a hostage, but my mind was free. I resurrected in my mind the champion teams of 1951, 1952 and 1963 … These memories gave me hope."
Former Geelong president Frank Costa said Mr Wood cherished the opportunity to rub shoulders with his football heroes.
"He was thrilled that the club invited him down. He was pumped right up," Mr Costa said. "He was quite a convivial fellow. He was in good spirits, he wasn't downhearted and unhappy at all."
Mr Wood will be privately cremated and family and friends will later celebrate his life.