BULL riding fans are in for a treat tonight with the PBR Mildura Invitational in town.
The event is expected to be a sell out as locals welcome the beasts that buck and riders to Mildura Recreational Reserve.
One of the bull riders who will compete tomorrow night is Will Purcell.
He’s a decorated rider and said his biggest achievement is either being the 2019 Pro Rodeo Australian Champion or claiming the 2016 Bull Riders Canada National Championship.
“The last was my favourite achievement because of the adversity I went through that year to do that, with a lot of injuries,” Purcell said.
Purcell spoke to me ahead of his appearance at the event and the the first question I had to ask was just how crazy you have to be to be a bull rider; to willingly place yourself on the back of an angry creature that can weigh up to 1000kg and attempt to hold on for eight seconds.
“You don’t have to be crazy at all,” Purcell replied.
“Once you try it you either love it and can’t stop, or you don’t want anything to do with it again.”
“And once you have been bitten by the bug, you have no choice.”
For Purcell, he fell in love with it after his very first ride, much to the displeasure of his mum.
Purcell grew up on a cattle farm and it was the Merrijig rodeo that first inspired him to get on a steer.
He rode his first bull at 15, and said after his Dad and Uncle encouraged him into the sport, it took a couple of weeks for his mum to speak to either of them again. Now she is one of his biggest supporters.
“I love the fact you can never master it,” Purcell said. “It is something you always need to keep improving with and that is what keeps me hooked.
“You never perfect bull riding and it’s when you think you have that you get a reality check.”
Purcell said he also likes the lifestyle that comes with being a bull rider professionally.
“You meet a lot of lifelong friends along the way, and there is a lot of travel, you go to a lot of places you would never go otherwise,” he said.
“For the couple of years before COVID I spent pretty much all year on the road, I wouldn’t be home for more than a couple of months in the year all up.
“You’d travel Australia and when it was a bit quite over here, you would head overseas.”
Purcell said PBR is different to your average rodeo.
“PBR is bull riding professionally, and only bulls,” he said.
“You’ve got the top bred bucking bulls in the country against the top riders in the country.
“It’s full time action all the time, with plenty of spills and thrills.”
He has experienced many spills and thrills himself – and has broken nearly every bone in his body, including his back and neck.
“One of the worse ones is when I had my foot crushed,” Purcell said.
“I’ve had four surgeries on that and am maybe looking at one more.
“I’ve dislocated heaps of stuff.
“But touch wood, I think I’ve broken most of the bones typical, except for my arms.”
Purcell said bull riding is tough, and even when you are riding well and getting away safely, there is always soreness the next day.
“Travelling also takes its toll,” he said.
“That’s without getting injured, but you are always fighting something, there’s always niggling pain or injuries you have to work against.
“It’s hard to stay in shape for a whole season.”
Bull riding isn’t something you can do a lot of preparation for, besides staying fit and Purcell said he does ride horses without a saddle to assist with this.
“If you are fit and in shape it does help you a little bit, your body will be more durable,” he said.
So when Purcell gets on the back of the bull in the pen before the beast is released, he said all the preparation he can do has been done.
“You have to get on with a clear mind,” he said.
“If you have time to think, you are too slow, so you just let your body react.”
Purcell said he has ridden a lot of angry bulls in his time, and there is always one or two that aren’t just scary but downright dangerous.
“You don’t look forward to drawing them, but when you do you go at them with everything you’ve got,” he said.
By ZOEY ANDREWS