Former bull rider Eric Richardson gets ready to put his body on the line during round two of the Pro Bull Riding (PBR) state of origin tournament.
To be welcomed into Tamworth on April 23, the local Gresford take on the role of Protection Athlete (formerly known as Rodeo Clowns) to protect riders and bulls from competition.
The Hunter resident is only new to the role, making his Newcastle debut a few weeks ago.
“Growing up I never thought about it too much, I was always going to be a bull rider,” he said.
“It’s only been a few years [that I’ve thought about being a protection athlete].
“I wanted to try something different, there weren’t many young bullfighters in our area so I thought it was the right time to do it and I never looked back.”
Western sports are a family affair for the Richardsons.
Eric and his three brothers Lachlan, Cliff and Tim Richardson have been horseback riding since they were kids, following in their uncle’s footsteps.
“Our uncle, he rode bulls years ago and he was kind of the main influence on my three older brothers, and he helped me a lot, and still does,” Eric said.
“I got into sport thanks to my older brothers, I rode bulls for a few years.
“Lach and Cliff helped me get into this field and then I recently switched over the last two years to bullfighting.
“Because I’ve ridden bulls for so many years, I already know the sport quite well, which has helped me.”
Cliff, who retired from the sport in 2020, was a star driver, as was Lachlan, who spent time racing in America.
Eric is the first in the family to take on the role of protection athlete.
“When I started I knew you had to put your body on the line and save someone you don’t even know half the time, I knew all of that and I love it,” he said .
“I should have started years ago.”
As anticipation continues to grow for the PBR event at Tamworth next weekend, many are eager to see which state will win, after Team Queensland stole the show at Newcastle.
“It should be a good event, I’m really looking forward to it,” said Eric.
“There are some good guys in the New South Wales squad. We cannot win Queensland at home.
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