‘It’s who he is’: At 80 years old, Ron is still raring to run rodeos

There are all kinds of family businesses, from hairdressers to cafes. But the Woodall family have managed to stick together and prosper in an unusual area — they run rodeos.

They cross states, most weekends for half the year, hauling three semi-trailers. They set up efficiently in a day or two and then put on a show for a town.

Rodeo is his life: Ron Woodall was boss of Bunyip Rodeo east of Melboure on Sunday.Credit:Chris Hopkins

On Sunday, on a beautiful warm day, thousands of people packed the recreation reserve in the small town of Bunyip, 85 kilometres km south-east of Melbourne, for its first rodeo since 2020.

Calling the shots ‘backstage’ — behind the arena — was Ron Woodall, who at 80 who has been in demand running rodeos for 50 years. On Sunday, his team included his three children and five of his grandchildren.

The Woodall crew drove three semi-trailers 430 kilometres from their farm in Lyons, western Victoria to Bunyip in west Gippsland.

But that’s nothing: the longest haul in their current rodeo diary is 1200 kilometres to Streaky Bay in South Australia.

Family ties: the Woodall rodeo family (l-r) Jayden and Lachie Polaski, Tony Woodall, Ron, Toni-Jean Woodall, Tania Woodall, Jack Woodall, (back) Jordja and Sam Woodall at the Bunyip Rodeo.Credit:Chris Hopkins

The Woodalls will stage 17 rodeos this year across South Australia, Victoria and at Ettamogah, near Albury, New South Wales.

Around the year 2000, they ran 61 rodeos per year, as far as Darwin in the Northern Territory and Charters Towers in Queensland. Ron has a built-in work ethic.

On Friday, at his farm, he fell off a ladder on to his tail bone and ribs when pruning a nectarine tree, and was hobbling at Sunday’s rodeo. But staying home was not an option.

Years ago, on the farm, his horse fell on him, breaking his pelvis, but he soon got back on the horse, so to speak.

Corbin Mundy, 19, stayed in the saddle for the allotted eight seconds in the second division bull ride competition at Bunyip Rodeo.Credit:Chris Hopkins

“I was lying there thinking if I didn’t get back to rodeo, I’d be dead,” he said.

Ron is a man of few words. “If he was any more laid back, he’d fall over,” his daughter Tania said.

But he has had a lifelong passion for rodeo and Tania wouldn’t dream of suggesting retirement.

“He loves it,” she said. “It’s what he does. It’s who he is.”

Bareback rider Luke Higgins, of Licola, who competes internationally, prepares to go on at Bunyip Rodeo.Credit:Chris Hopkins

“He’s lived a blessed life of doing exactly what he wants to do and doing it well.”

Ron started rodeo riding at the age of 14, initially locally, at places like Branxholme in western Victoria, but later as far as Western Australia.

But after 18 years of riding, he quit to concentrate on running rodeos, also known as stock contracting, and breeding and training stock for rodeos, which he still does.

Ron is now a great-grandfather. His wife Edna, a nurse, hasn’t the nerves to attend rodeos.

But on Sunday, as usual, his son Tony oversaw the rodeo horses, son Jack supervised the bulls, daughter Tania accepted cowboys’ fees and gave out prizemoney, grandson Sam rode a bull in the Open section, and twin grandsons Lachie and Jayden were judges.

Granddaughter Toni-Jean and daughter-in-law Chris rode in barrel races and another granddaughter, Jordja, operated the rodeo timer.

Bunyip Football Club president Noel Mollison said it was a big event for the town of 3000 people.

Thirty footy club volunteers ran the bar at the rodeo which was expected to raise up to $20,000 for the club.

“It is a mountain of work but it does alleviate future fundraising stress for the season,” he said.

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