Cody Heffernan - World Class Australian Bull Rider

Cody Heffernan - World Class Australian Bull Rider

 

Instagram: @cody_heffernan
Facebook: codyheffernanpbr

Cameron:
This is episode number two with Cody Heffernan, the Fare & Dinkum podcast. Good day, everyone. Hope you're having a ripper day wherever you are. Absolutely stoked to have you listening. So sorry you've had to wait for so long for these episode. Things have been a bit bloody crazy, but I'm stoked to announce that we are back. I'm your host. My name is Cameron McFadzean, founder and CEO of Fare & Dinkum. Today, I've got a very special guest for you. His name is Cody Heffernan, world-class, top Australian bull rider. He's won a PBR Australian national title, competed in the US, and he's even ridden at Madison Square Garden.

Cameron:
Just before we start, I just want to provide a bit of context prior to recording this episode, Cody had just been cleared to ride after sustaining a pretty serious injury to his knee a couple of weeks earlier which had brought him out from competing. However, since this recording, he has been injured again, unfortunately. He's undergoing the necessary steps to make a full recovery and return in 2020. Without further ado, let's get cracking into the show. Good day, Cody. Thanks so much for joining us on the show, mate.

Cody Heffernan:
Hey, mate. Thanks for having me.

Cameron:
Now, I know the last couple of months have been a bit rough for you. You're sitting at number one on the PBR and then looking like not competing at all due to an injury. Can you shed a bit of light on what's been going on?

Cody Heffernan:
Yeah. I started the year in the PBR pretty red hot, won four events there at the start of the year. I was laid in the title. I was, honestly, looking like it was going to be my year again. I was going to win the title and though was not ... Nobody else could do anything else about it. Then I got a bit hurt there at Rockhampton, tore my ACL, MCL and LCL in my left knee as well as the PCL on my right knee. I've done a really good job on it. Also, I've got knocked out, which is a pretty good wreck.

Cameron:
Yeah.

Cody Heffernan:
I actually tried to ride two weeks later at the state of origin in Sydney, but that didn't pan out real well. I had to pull out a lot of vent. Then I finally got the MRIs done, which I found out what was exactly wrong with my knees. Then it's been a few months now. It's been about four months. I've got the braces sorted and then just been doing lots of rehab work on my knees, getting them as strong as possible to come back. The ACL needs surgery, but that can hold off for a little while longer. They don't want to do surgery on the PCL. I decided to get a brace that allows it to be as stable as possible when I ride so it doesn't hurt.

Cody Heffernan:
Yeah. Now, what I'm looking at is, I've slipped back to third in the PBR standings. I'm coming back this weekend for the Macquarie event. I'm looking to just get back straight into it to try and win the Australian title again.

Cameron:
Is this looking like the longest time you'd ever been out?

Cody Heffernan:
Yeah, definitely the longest time, four months. Well, I honestly can't remember the last time I had this long off. It's probably when I was like 10 or 11 or 12.

Cameron:
The injury was looking like you were going to be out for much longer than four months. You were going to be out for, maybe, six or more?

Cody Heffernan:
Yeah, that's right. If I got the surgery on the ACL, probably looking at more. Nine months out, for sure. When I do get the surgery, that's how long I am going to be out for, but definitely looking at finishing this season off and winning that Australian title, making the world forums, and then maybe look at getting the surgery then.

Cameron:
Is there enough time for you to climb back up the ranks?

Cody Heffernan:
As we see it right now, there's five events left and also, the finals. There's still a bunch of points left. Aaron Kleier, he's last year's Australian champion. He's yet, in front at the moment. He's got a decent lead, but the amount of points on offer at the finals, it's still pretty wide open between myself, Brady Fielder and Aaron Kleier. Yeah, I fully expect myself to be up there.

Cameron:
What was it like having that feeling that you might be out for so long? Saying you hadn't dealt with it before, was it a bit daunting for you?

Cody Heffernan:
Yes, definitely frustrating. It's the most frustrating thing I've ever been through. I've been quite lucky throughout my whole career as a bull rider. Honestly, it's the worst injury that I've dealt with. At times, it was very frustrating. At times, I thought my season was done. Maybe next year was done too. I just didn't know what was wrong and how long it would take to come back. Yeah, I mean, lots of doubts crept in. At one point there, I was thinking, "Man, I'm 29. Maybe I'll just hang out the boots," but then-

Cameron:
Yeah.

Cody Heffernan:
Yeah. I'll just shut that down pretty quick. I was thinking, I'm still at the top of my game. I can't go out like this. Yeah, I'll put that to rest.

Cameron:
Yeah. I can only imagine how it would have been played on you mentally, but I bet you're bloody stoked to be back on the circuit and gone for the number one spot. How did you actually get into bull riding? How did your career start?

Cody Heffernan:
I started when I was ... I think I was about four years old. My first ride was at four years old. I have two older brothers, one older sister. One afternoon, we're down at the yards and we had ... I had a [inaudible 00:05:40] in there and they put me on him. That's pretty much my first ride. They were in the rodeos. My whole family was in the rodeo. They'll go and just be out every weekend. When I was born, dad was actually out of rodeo. Mom probably could not forget that. It's funny now-

Cameron:
Yeah.

Cody Heffernan:
... but mom, probably, wasn't happy about that.

Cameron:
You wrote for a little bit and then you did a bit of writing in the show and then went over to the US.

Cody Heffernan:
Yeah. I continued riding through the junior ranks all the way up to ... I broke into the open ranks when I was 16 years old. These days, you can't ride open bulls until you're 18, but back then, it was a pretty big thing to break into the open ranks before you go to 18. That was the goal back then. I managed to do that. Then I went into the PBR circuit there when I was 18, made a pretty big splash, won an event, made the finals that year. It felt like after that first year in the PBR when I was 18, 19, after that year, I just don't know what happened. I started riding bad and it went through fairly well. Maybe six months, 12 months, I wasn't riding any good. I felt like "All right, time to take a backward step." That's when I went out for the USA to ride on the USA College Rodeo Circuit.

Cameron:
How was the College Rodeo Circuit over there? Was it something that you enjoyed?

Cody Heffernan:
Yeah. I definitely enjoyed. I took a lot out of it. The whole reason to go over was to take that step back. In order to go two steps forward, so one step back, two steps forward and I was able to do that. I lived over there for three years, two years in New Mexico and one year in Texas, made the college national finals. I've done a bunch of pro rodeos, a bunch of PBRs over there as well in between those college rodeos. Also, I did do a little bit of stallion, so I learned something.

Cameron:
What was your plan when you were in the US? Were you looking to really pursue and got the ranks in the circuit there or were you just putting in a bit of work before you came back and return to Australia?

Cody Heffernan:
The main goal is to go to America and be a world champion in the PBR, but at that time, I think I was 21 when I first went over to the college. I was really just thinking about just learning, just meeting people, getting used to the bulls over there, just getting used to different atmosphere. Being away from home, there's a whole lot of different things that you've got to deal with being over there. I was, really, just wanting to get a taste of it. I spent three years there at college. I did do some PBRs and pro rodeos when I'm in those time. I made the college finals twice. Then from there, I just wanted to ... I felt like I've gained that experience over there. That I was ready to come home, win some titles and then go back to the PBR in America.

Cameron:
What year did you come back to Australia?

Cody Heffernan:
It's 2014. That was my last season there at college.

Cameron:
Then you win an Australian national title in 2016. What was the lead up like going into that?

Cody Heffernan:
Yeah. Coming back from college, I really felt like it was ... I was probably 24 years of age. I really thought it's my time to win everything back here. I've got the experience. I've got the skills. That first season, I was just getting used to the bulls again. I spent three years away, so I didn't know any of the bulls. That first year, the first full year, 2015, I finished fourth in the PBR, which is fairly good. I was pretty close to ... It was only a few bulls away from actually winning that title. That lit fire onto me. Coming into the 2016 season, I really felt like "This is me. This is my year. Nobody's going to stop me." Then I already did and I won that title in 2016.

Cameron:
You put in a lot of work to get that title or was it just coming naturally for you?

Cody Heffernan:
No, there was a lot of work. There was a lot of buildup to that season. I felt like towards the end of the 2015 season when I was starting to play in my 2016 season. What it would be like, I was envisioning a dominating year that nobody was going to touch me. I was going to lay it from the start to the finish. I'll put that into my head well before the season started. Yeah. That's how it went. I won the first event. I didn't let it go and go until I won that title.

Cameron:
After you win the Australian title, did you have goals to go back over the US or are you chasing a title over there as well?

Cody Heffernan:
Yes. Because I was doing so well over here in the PBR, I was laid the title, I was also up there in the world standing. That did mean that I could go over to the USA to pursue the top tour over there. At the time, my main goal was to win the Australian title. I actually turned down events, the top tour over there, to come back home and win the Australian title. Once I've finally done that, won that title, the next step was to, yeah, go to America and make the world finals. I did make the world finals. I was 37th that year. Held 35, go to the world finals, but due to injuries, of course.

Cameron:
Yeah.

Cody Heffernan:
I did get to go to the world finals and ride there. That was really good.

Cameron:
Where were they held at?

Cody Heffernan:
Las Vegas. Yeah, that was pretty good. Also in finals, but I guess after winning that Australian title, I lost a bit of a mental edge, I think. I guess, I've been inside long and trying to win something and then finally getting it. I lost a bit of drive. I lost a bit of drive and it took me a little while to get it back. 2017 wasn't a good year for me. I finally found it at the end of 2017. Coming into 2018, I really wanted to win another title again and get back to the top. I finished 2018. Ranked fourth in Australia. Had a good shot at winning that at that year's finals. That comes into 2019 where I started out so great, but I got injured.

Cameron:
Yeah, and you're on fire.

Cody Heffernan:
Yeah.

Cameron:
Now, you're back on. Hopefully, when you say, "Another title," that'd be absolutely insane. Who have been your biggest influences and inspirations during your career?

Cody Heffernan:
When I first started, it was my brother, Craig. He was riding. He was competing. He helped me on that first one when I was four years of age. He was a huge inspiration all the way up through the junior ranks. I think that movie, Eight Seconds, it came out in '94. That was a pretty big inspiration as well. I just wanted to be a bull rider just like Lane Frost. We watched that video tape over and over again. You can just memorize every line from that movie. Then growing up, when you're a teenager, you start to look at some other goals, Troy Dunn, of course, the only PBR world champion Australia has got. I really watched a lot of his videos and listened to everything that he said. Brendon Clark, of course. Yeah, and then there are more Australian guys, but then, I also watch lot of Jim Sharp, one of the greatest bull riders of all time. Justin McBride, guys like that really started to change my style to mimic their styles.

Cameron:
Is there anyone that really is a standout that you tried to mimic their style coming up as a junior and going in the US?

Cody Heffernan:
Well, when I was growing up, I just really had my brother, Craig. He was just telling me what to do. I really listened to him. Craig, he would also tell me when I was young, "Pick little things yet from the best riders and try and copy what they do." As a teenager, that stuck in my head and I started to research a little out of the road as Justin McBride and Jim sharp and Troy Dunn. I really tried to pick out the best things of those styles and trying to add them to my style and create why I'm still in the process. Yeah, those were the guys that I looked at, yeah.

Cameron:
Being such a dangerous sport, what actually draws you to want to ride all the time?

Cody Heffernan:
Well, that's a good question. I guess because I started at such a young age that the danger element of it isn't as great as somebody who's starting at 18, if you know what I mean.

Cameron:
Yeah.

Cody Heffernan:
I went through it all my life that ... Not to say that I don't get a little bit nervous here and there. You got to build that fell and so get a little bit nervous but then you ... I'm able to use that adrenaline and a little bit of fear. It's going to work in my favor, so I can definitely do that. Yeah. I don't know what to say. There's a little bit of fear there, but I've definitely got that worked out. I'd want to open that and I've got that worked up by now.

Cameron:
Yeah. Definitely. When people first meet you and they don't know that you're a bull rider, are they surprised when you tell them?

Cody Heffernan:
Yeah, probably. Definitely. Yeah. Yeah, I'm not the typical ... I'm probably not the typical bull rider. Until we got going and ... Yeah, they are probably surprised that I do ride bulls.

Cameron:
What is that feeling like before you're actually jumping on the bull? Is there a lot of nerves? Run us through how you're feeling.

Cody Heffernan:
I guess, now, when you've got a bull that's very tough to ride or maybe they had never ridden him before, that's when my motor gets really going because I want to be the first guy to ride him for eight seconds. Then also, you throw an account that you could possibly win this PBR if you ride this bull. There's a lot of things going on right there. At that point in time, I'm just focused on riding the bull for what he is. He jumps and kicks. He's going to spin. I'm just focused about that. At that point, I'm not worried about he's throwing everybody off. I'm just worried about ... I'm just thinking about riding him for what he does. It works for me. I think I've had a lot of bulls that nobody else has rode and so that's what I'm trying to do.

Cameron:
In the week leading up to a ride, do you have visualizations going through your mind on what's going to happen or do you try and block it out and not let it play on your mind too much?

Cody Heffernan:
Just trying to keep it simple. He can only come up in the front end, kick in the back end and turn left or turn right. Just trying to keep it simple. Visualizing the nerves that I can make in a perfect way, real controlled, movements. Just trying to picture it like that. It doesn't always end up like that. It's going to get a bit wild. You're not going to ride every bull perfect, but I feel like visualizing riding them perfect is a great help.

Cameron:
Do you have a bit of a schedule for preparing like physically and mentally before a ride in the week leading up?

Cody Heffernan:
I guess, before I ride, there's definitely an hour there where I need to be getting ready. Now, it's probably going to increase because I've got to put some knee braces on and do a bit more strapping. I've got to be getting ready for that a bit more earlier. In terms of during the week, what do I do? Yeah, mental prep. Probably half an hour a day there, maybe, or it might be every second day. I go to the gym probably three, four times a week. Maybe swim once a week and just trying to get the body ready and not feeling sore for that day. I ride on Friday in Singleton and not my home town show. I won't really do nothing on Thursday. Maybe I'll go jump into sauna or the pool. I won't do nothing that's going to leave me sore the next day when I'm going to ride. That's about the only thing I'll make sure of.

Cameron:
Do you have any rituals or superstitions?

Cody Heffernan:
No, not really. I like to do those things that nobody does. Putting your [inaudible 00:19:34] out on bed. I think rituals and superstitions are a little bit silly. Like man, if I'm superstitious and there's something that I need to do every time before I ride, if I don't do it then I'll fall off, that's just not good.

Cameron:
Yeah.

Cody Heffernan:
There's not every time that you can do it. Now, you're getting on a bull thinking, "Oh, because I haven't done this, then I'm going to fall off." You're working against yourself. I try not to be superstitious at all.

Cameron:
Yeah. That's a pretty good mindset to have. Have you ever been injured or had a few close calls at the point where you go like, "Screw this. I'm done. Bull riding isn't for me"? Has there ever been any moments throughout your career?

Cody Heffernan:
There's definitely one that hits them on straight up. I got knocked out in a town called, "[Blacko 00:20:26]." In 2014, I'd come home from college. That's possibly early 2015 it was. I got knocked out. I woke up in the ambulance. They got to the hospital. I'm really worried about my neck. Yeah, I was in the ambulance and thinking, "Oh man, I'm done and hopefully not going to ride again." I was just coming to and doing a bunch of X-rays and all that. They finally put me in the room and I'm by myself. I've come to, like, I know what's going on now. Now, I think I'm half paralyzed or something, I don't know. I start wiggling my toes and that's good, at least.

Cody Heffernan:
Still, I think I'm done and just ... I called mom. I shed a tear. I'm like "Oh, geez. I think, probably, I'm not going to ride again." Yes, that was pretty surreal, I guess, calling mom and telling her that. I guess the other thing is that, I bloody rode the next weekend. Yeah.

Cameron:
Geez.

Cody Heffernan:
I didn't obey that bad. I was concussed. I was knocked out.

Cameron:
It wasn't for that long then.

Cody Heffernan:
No. I shouldn't have been riding the next weekend, but you do that when you're a bit younger.

Cameron:
Is your mom pretty supportive or she gets a bit nervous when you get on the bull or she come good now?

Cody Heffernan:
No. She's been good all through my career. Both my parents have been awesome. They don't really talk about the injuries. I guess they know that if they talk about injuries and getting hurt, then there's a whole lot more chance of actually getting hurt. I believe that 100%. If I sit around watching a bunch of wrecks, that's all me, mine, and I'm probably going to go to the rodeo and get wrecked out. They've been really good about injuries and not putting that bad stuff in my head.

Cameron:
What are some of the favorite places you've ridden throughout your career? Because you've obviously been around the world, where are some of the standouts for you?

Cody Heffernan:
I would say Madison Square Garden. It was pretty cool. I rode there three years in a row back in 2015 and '16 and '17. I rode there. Yeah, it was a great building. The name speaks for itself, really.

Cameron:
Is it intimidating having a crowd like that?

Cody Heffernan:
Yeah, they're very loud in New York. Yeah, very, very loud. They will boo and cheer very loud. Yeah, it's pretty crazy there. Vegas is always a fun one. The Cowboy Stadium, the AT&T stadium there in Dallas, it's massive, that building. We all got to ride there back in February for the Global Cup team for team Australia. That's definitely a favorite.

Cameron:
Yeah. When you're stepping on Madison Square Garden, obviously, a huge crowd, can it be off putting or distracting or are you just so focused on the job at hand you just block it out?

Cody Heffernan:
Yeah. Honestly, at this point in my career, it's ... Yeah, the crowd doesn't worry me one bit. I think I never really has and not really thought about it. The crowd and riding in front of people, that's never been an issue for me. Yeah. I'm just so focused on what I've got to do, really.

Cameron:
Are there any bulls that really stand out as highlights in your career, big or small, over the years?

Cody Heffernan:
A couple bulls, I guess. One on '17, I got on a bull called, "Cyclone." He didn't get rode very much and I didn't ride him. He back slammed me into the ground. He was a very big bull. [Nalbu 00:24:03] really stands out. Hillbilly Deluxe, he's a 2016 PBR champion bull. He won it the year I won my title. He was actually the bull that I won Brisbane on, which sealed the deal for me. It sealed the national title for me. Yeah. He's always been special to me. I was the first one to ride him. I've actually got one of his cubs here at my home. Yeah. I'm pretty partial to him.

Cameron:
Nice. What can you share which is about a bull named, [Ogazma 00:24:40] ?

Cody Heffernan:
Ogazma, he was a black and white bull. He came about when I was going through the junior rank. I think I got only once or twice in the junior ranks and he progressed up until the novice and the open just about same time I did. I drew him a fair few times. I think, Seven All Up I got on him and I rode him once. He was a pretty good bull. He was first ridden by Jason O'Hearn at [inaudible 00:25:10]. He was the first one getting rode and then Jared Farley rode him. They're both Australia's greatest bull riders out there. Then, yeah, [Little May 00:00:25:23], I think I was 18 when I rode him. That was pretty special. After those two guys, I got him rode and yeah, that's definitely special.

Cameron:
Yeah. You were in bloody stoke. So do you have a bit of a vision or a plan on where you want to be in the next five years?

Cody Heffernan:
Yeah, Well, I definitely got a vision that I'm going to win this Australian title. If I can do that, then I can spend all the next year in USA chasing the world title and the world saying, "If I can get a good year over there in America, then I can come back. Still ride bulls until I'm, what, probably 35 I think. I'll probably give it up and well, by then I'll actually have enough money to buy a big property around a bunch of gas on, a bunch of bulls and that would be me.

Cameron:
Life after bull riding, would you ever take on a bit of a mentoring and coaching role?

Cody Heffernan:
Yeah. I've been doing a few one-on-one lessons lately. Run on the school is definitely a thing that I will do in the future. Yeah. Definitely, I think, I'll be doing that. Yeah.

Cameron:
So your advice, probably for anyone wanting to get into a school or is that their best-

Cody Heffernan:
Yeah. Definitely.

Cameron:
... way to get into bull riding?

Cody Heffernan:
Yeah. Definitely a school and then just thought entering up. Oh man, you just got to go.

Cameron:
Are there any traits that you think that you need to possess to be a successful bull ride?

Cody Heffernan:
I guess you just got to have that drive. You got to want it. You got to want to be the absolute best at it. It's too dangerous of a sport to do as a hobby. The day that I turned up just because my mates are there, he's, "I'll be giving it up because it's not worth getting hurt."

Cameron:
Yeah.

Cody Heffernan:
Yeah. It's got to mean a lot to you.

Cameron:
Growing up, what did you make school think, because obviously, being a bull rider is a pretty unique career path?

Cody Heffernan:
Well, I was pretty lucky. I grew up out of town and not a couple of mates that lived around by me. I was forever at their house and now, country kids as well. I'll was just always at country mates, really. Two of my good mates actually ended up getting on stage. When they got out around the teenage years, they started riding a lot. I guess, I'll never really had a drama with that.

Cameron:
For anyone that wants to go to a rodeo who hasn't been before, what's a rodeo you think they should attend in Australia? One that stands out, you go, "You must go to that."

Cody Heffernan:
Oh, I guess probably Mount Isa is the biggest rodeo in the southern hemisphere. Yeah, if you're going to go to a rodeo, go to Mount Isa or the farms in Tamworth are, of course, pretty good. We got the best of the best ride in there and then any PBR you go to is definitely going to be pretty fun and good to watch.

Cameron:
Yeah. Nice. I'm mindful of your time. Unfortunately, we have to look towards wrapping up. I want to thank you so much for your time and joining us on the show. Last question is, where's the best place people can find out a bit more about you and your bull riding career?

Cody Heffernan:
I guess just on Facebook. I'm have an athlete page there in Facebook. People can jump up there and I often update. That was what I've been doing and also, Instagram. I'm posting pretty regular on that. That's where people can find me and follow my career.

Cameron:
Thanks so much for listening, guys. I really hope you enjoyed this episode. If you want to find out a bit more about Cody, just head to our website, www.fareanddinkum.com. Also, let us know who you want to hear next on the podcast and make sure to keep an eye out on our Instagram and Facebook to know when the next episode comes out. Cheers.

 

December 11, 2019 — Cameron McFadyen