The Melbourne Cup is the race that stops a nation; cane toad racing on Magnetic Island is the race that stops an Island and raises money for charity. Vern Thomas Jack (the Toadmaster) has been described as iconic and legendary, and 2007 marks his 20th year of holding court in the big racing circle outside Magnums on Magnetic (formerly Arkies), during which time he’s managed to raise around $200,000 for the local junior surf lifesavers and kindergarten. While reactions range from dealing with a certain ick-factor to an excited buzz, all watch intently as the toads wait in their Perspex box waiting for the race to start.
“THIS BRINGS BACK MANY MEMORIES OF MY CHILDHOOD AND AIRLIE BEACH TOAD RACES. EEEK!” – Chris Smith
Each punter has their own tactics: Do you bet on the size of the toad? The colour of the ribbon around its middle? But “Skinnydipper” has no ribbon – what do you do there? Do you go with the name you like best? Will your toad of choice be the Red Russian? The Irish Green Toad? Or maybe the toad with the identity crisis, the Pink Pussycat? It’s all down to you, the circle, one slimy hopper and the screaming, screaming crowd.
WHERE // Magnums on Magnetic (07) 4778 5177 is in the Arcadia township on Magnetic Island, which is 8km offshore from Townsville.
DID YOU KNOW? // While toad racing does take place in other areas of Australia, Vern claims that between himself and David “Crusty” Heron, they’ve managed to make Wednesday nights at Magnums the most consistently held toad racing night in the country.