Sam Noakes is an enthusiastic young local who rides regularly at rodeos. It is nothing for Sam to spend all week plumbing and then to turn around and ride all weekend … A true, ridgy didge local lad.
How long have you lived in the region?
I was born in Armidale; I’ve been here most of my life. I went to school at Ben Venue Primary and Duval High, and then I completed a six-year plumbing apprenticeship with Lindsay Snell Plumbing, which I am really enjoying, thanks Lindsay
When and why did you begin to ride rodeo?
I first tried my hand at the sport about ten years ago. A few of my mates did it, which was also why I wanted to get in and have a go. It was about the challenge, the adrenalin and the excitement – but mainly the adrenalin, I guess. I’ve been competing seriously for about eight or nine years, as long as I’ve been plumbing.
Where does your passion for this sport come from?
Living out in the country, it’s been a passion that’s brought up in our family. My uncle, Mum’s brother, represented Australia at the Calgary Stampede (Canada) – and living out in the bush, it’s kind of a natural thing.
It was something in the family, the rodeo, and when there’s nothing else to do, you know. My uncle gave me a few pointers, but I sort of just learnt along the way with mates when I was at school. I picked riding up over the years and kept practicing on the weekends when I was at school.
What do you compete in?
I ride the bulls in the Open Section, which is a competition for the top spot. You ride on the highest class bucking bulls you can get. When you’re still learning, you ride in the novice section, learning to buck and gradually progressing, but the Open Section has the more-aggressive bulls.
Is it an expensive sport?
It can be expensive to do and the competitions are held all over, so it involves a bit of travel – which costs a lot of money. In winter, rodeos are held in Queensland.
This sport has also taken me to Darwin, Mount Isa, up north in the Gulf and far north Queensland. I used to live and work up there, and we’d compete in their rodeos every weekend. I’d love to get over to America one day, where they hold the biggest rodeos in the world.
What is your greatest competitive achievement?
I haven’t won anything too major – yet! A couple of seconds and thirds. I haven’t had as much time to practice because of my plumbing job. I haven’t had much time to practice in the last couple of months.
People have been hiring me to plumb on the weekends lately, because I self-contract. I’d like to have a lot more time to get into it, but that hasn’t been the case with work lately. I do it whenever I can.
Rodeo can be quite dangerous. Have you had any spills?
My mum and dad reckon it’s a bit dangerous, and they don’t want me to get hurt. Yeah, I’ve had a couple of spills here and there. Nothing too bad – fingers crossed.
The rodeo clowns, also known as bullfighters, are there to draw the bull away from me if I get into a scrape. The worst injury I’ve had is a broken hand, but it wasn’t too major, thankfully. Sometimes my hand gets locked up and I can’t get it out and you can’t stop the bull, so the clowns run in and save my ass. A lot of thanks goes to them.
Your advice to a young person who is considering taking up this sport?
You need to keep at it. It’s a tough sort of game. If you want a shot at getting right up there, it will take a lot of hard work, commitment and a lot of training to become really good at it. Like anything, love it – it’s worth it.
How do you juggle your riding career with your plumbing career?
It’s pretty easy, as I work as a plumber during the week and ride on the weekends. My work mates come and watch me ride when I’m competing locally.
Describe a typical day as a plumber?
Every day is a big day at work. We start at the shed at 7am and we get handed 5 or 6 jobs to do for the day. I get to do anything from fixing taps, toilets and blocked drains. At the moment, we are kept busy with the Council’s town gas conversion.