23/04/2024

Sam Woodall has represented the country in various bull riding competitions in the US. (Image: PBR Australia Website).

Despite having a love for AFL, Victorian Sam Woodall instead went on the path to become a bull rider.

It’s a spectacle. A world full of swarms of cowboy hats, brutal injuries and mammoth beasts, whose bucking and spinning creates a visually-appealing delight for those that watch the intriguing sight.

For Sam Woodall, he is one of the Australians that is no stranger to the world of bull riding. The sport where those brave enough, battle a ferocious bull using a combination of arm strength, balance and focus.

Ahead of the upcoming Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Origin III this Saturday, the 24-year-old spoke with The Inner Sanctum about the Origin series and his journey as a bull rider.

“It’s always an honour to be selected for any team in any sort of team sport,” Woodall explained.

“I was really fortunate that I was put in their side and yeah, just really am excited to do my best I can for [New South Wales],” he said. Alongside him, other big names make up the side for team New South Wales, which includes the captain Cody Heffernan.

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When it comes to bull riding, it seems that Woodall was always destined to get into the saddle to which he admits to.

“I always played AFL, I always loved footy and played that. Well, still play it now, but bull riding I was always a little better at,” he said.

“So [I] decided to stick with it and haven’t really looked back.”

It helps that his father Gavin is a three-time Australian rodeo champion that once ranked second in the world, which is what the Victorian-born rider says attracted him to the sport.

Since making his PBR debut in 2017 at an event in Marrabel and placing fourth, Woodall has caused a stir in the bull riding world as he saw a rise in the world rankings. He also was named the Australian Professional Rodeo Association (APRA) Rookie of the Year in 2019.

At the time of writing, Woodall currently sits at seventh in Australia and holds a world ranking of #51.

During his time as a bull rider, he has since participated in events in Australia and across the United States. When asked about his favourite tournament he has ridden in so far, Woodall isn’t hesitant in his answer.

“Definitely would have to be the Global Cup in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, in Texas. It was well in front of 80,000 people, and you’re riding for your country as well. So it’s a pretty cool experience,” he says.

For Woodall, he hit a career milestone in 2020 after earning his career-first PBR Australia event win at the Rockhampton International, which he explains that he really “enjoyed” it in the moment.

“I was really happy about it of course,” he said.

“Yeah, it was pretty cool to finally get there after grinding it out for so many years.”

Bull riding whilst a spectacle, also brings its fair share of devastating injuries as do many sports do. Behind the smouldering expressions sat underneath wide brims, lie countless stories about the damage done to the athletes bodies.

Injuries of concussions, hips, knees and groins are consistently listed when taking a quick look at the injury report listed on the PBR website.

Woodall is no stranger to the trials and tribulations of injuries. His injuries that he’s previously sustained include a lacerated kidney, broken a scaphoid and a torn MCL according to an interview posted on Wrangler Network.

When asked what his biggest challenge is when it comes to bull riding is “just injuries”.

For Woodall, he concedes that whilst injuries are challenges, its more about how the individual can handle that and the changes that comes with it.

“Injuries can stuff a lot of people up. I just use them to come back better I guess,” He said.

His main expectation heading into Origin III is for the team he represents, New South Wales, to get the win. It seems likely for his expectation to be achieved as the scores are levelled with both sides 1-1.

But outside of the Origin series, Woodall opened up about the goals he had for himself.

He admits that he doesn’t set long term goals and aspires to progress further in the sport, wanting to be the “best that [he] can be”.

“I just like to keep improving on every bull I get on, keep being a better athlete altogether and just [start] with the best I can be. Whatever that brings me, I’m happy.” 

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