2018 Mackay Invitational Preview

The PBR Australia Monster Energy Tour travels to Mackay, Queensland this weekend as Queens Park hosts the 2018 Mackay Invitational presented by the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal.

Bulls will buck from 7:00pm AEST with tickets available via the PBR Australia website.

The Event

This is the fourth last regular-season event of the extended 2018 PBR Australia season.

There is a maximum of 700 Australian National Standings points available this weekend with 19 of Australia’s best riders set to battle it out in two rounds of competition.

The top 7 riders will return to face Australia’s rankest bucking bulls in the Championship Round.

History

The 2017 Mackay Invitational Event Champion was Fraser Babbington (Gisborne, NZ) who went 2-for-2 to hold off Rohan Markham (Ravenshoe, QLD) and Cliff Richardson (Gresford, NSW). His 89.5-point ride in the Championship Round was one of the highest scoring rides that we have seen in PBR Australia competition in recent years.

Guy Ford (Capella, QLD) took out the 2016 PBR Australia event in Mackay while Cody Heffernan (Singleton, NSW) used the 2015 event win to kick-off his 2016 PBR Australia Championship winning season.

The Contenders

Five riders are battling it out atop the PBR Australian National Standings with Aaron Kleier (Clermont, QLD) currently leading the way by over 630 points.

With No. 2 ranked Cliff Richardson competing in the USA this weekend, Fraser Babbington and Cody Heffernan have the chance to improve on their third and fourth-placed positions and close the gap in the race for the PBR Australia Championship Buckle.

Here is the full 2018 Mackay Invitational Daysheet

Round 1 Preview

2015 PBR Australia Champion Fraser Babbington will get us underway against Fire Ball (Fred Kleier). This bull looks a good fit for Babbington who has been mixing his form over the last few events but has a chance to regain momentum here. Lachlan Slade rode Fire Ball for 85.5 points to finish third in the long-go here in 2017 with Matt Triplett also getting the job done for 82.75 points in Cairns earlier this year.

Welcome back Kurt Shephard! The Atherton, QLD cowboy returns to PBR competition at the Mackay Invitational after making a successfully returning to the bucking chutes a few weeks ago. The 24-year-old was dealing with a fractured vertebra suffered in competition earlier this year. Shephard has drawn Road Rage (Fred Kleier) in Round 1 who has not been ridden since June 2017, but young-gun looks have his groove back after winning the Queensland Elite Rodeo back in mid-August.

Cody Heffernan has been one of the most consistent riders on tour since PBR Australia action resumed in Newcastle after the Winter break. The 28-year old has covered six of his last eight bulls and with face off against Ram N Ewe (Wallace Bucking Bulls). We have only seen this bull out twice, recording two buck-offs in Mount Isa back in June. Heffernan looked very good last weekend in Blackall, covering Chrome for 84.0 points and I think he should be able to get a score on the board here.

Ratings leader Aaron Kleier could not have dreamt for a better draw here. The 2017 Rookie of the Year rode 5th Battalion (Dunne Bucking Bulls) at Last Cowboy Standing in 2017 for 86.0 points and we should see a similar result here. Kleier has covered his last 6 bulls while the bull has been ridden in his last two outs, with Matt Triplett and Jared Parsonage both making the whistle at the PBR Global Cup in Sydney.

Local Cowboy Mitchel Paton (Nebo, QLD) went 3-for-3 to win the Touring Pro Division event last weekend in Blackall, QLD but has a tough task in front of him here. Paton will face Plant Hire in Round 1, and unridden bull from Dunne Bucking Bulls. In his eight outs in PBR competition, Plant Hire has added some of Australia’s best riders to his list of buck-offs. Paton has covered five of his last six and will be pumped up to win at home, so we could see a qualified ride here.

Ryan Storey (Mackay, QLD) is another local cowboy who rode well in Blackall last weekend. Storey has drawn Jackie Who (Dunne Bucking Bulls), who we have not seen out this year. Jackie Who carried Jay Borghero and Michael Smith to round placings last year in Townsville and Rockhampton. I think Storey looked in good enough form at Blackall to make the 8 seconds here and get a qualified ride on the Mackay Invitational leaderboard.

Another rider who looked very good in Blackall last weekend was Bailey Woodard (Dingo, QLD). Woodard went 2-for-3, winning the Championship round with 87.0 points on Shots to split fourth place in the event with Storey. The 19-year-old has drawn High Class Hooker from Dittmann Bucking Bulls. This bull is becoming a rider favourite with qualified rides recorded in three of his last five outs. Woodard and High Class Hooker have faced twice before with the bull winning both matchups at Last Cowboy Standing and the Innisfail Touring Pro event in 2017.

Round 2 Preview

Heffernan will get us underway in Round 2 against Ride The Lightning (Diamond J Bucking Bulls). The bull has a good record in PBR competition, winning seven of his 9 match-ups. In saying that, this bull has not really faced any riders of Heffernan’s calibre and I think he should go close to making the whistle here.

Babbington is next to go, and he faces a bull that we haven’t seen too much of in the last year. Disco Duck (Diamond J Buking Bulls) put together some nice outs back in the 2017 season. American JW Harris got the job done for 84.5 at Last Cowboy Standing before the bull changed pens and he if he produces an out like that, Babbington should have no troubles getting by.

Bring It On, an unridden bull from the Diamond J Bucking Bull pen is Kleier’s matchup in Round 2. Last time these two matched up the bull came away with the win, putting the 19-year-old in the dirt just before the whistle blew. Bring It On regularly posts bull scores upwards of 43-points so this looks to be one of the match-ups at the Mackay Invitational.

Current Rookie of the Year competition leader Michael Smith (Tully, QLD) has drawn POA Ray Ban from Dittmann Bucking Bulls. We haven’t seen the best of this bull in the last few events but after the long break, I would expect him to be back at his best. Ray Ban produced four straight bull scores over 44-points back in the Autumn PBR run with just one qualified rider recorded (Heffernan, 89 in Shepparton). It looks a tough draw for Smith, but it will be a matchup to watch.

Storey has drawn well with Superstitious (Wallace Bucking Bulls) and looks a good chance to make it to the whistle. This bull was last out at Mount Isa where he was ridden both nights. Bailey Woodard scored 83.5 points on his way to winning night 1 while Lachlan Richardson was awarded 80-points on his way to finishing second on night 2.

Matthew Bee (Weipa, QLD) will face Iron Jacket (Wallace Bucking Bulls) and I think this bull looks a great fit for Bee to get a good score on the Mackay Invitational leaderboard. Iron Jacket has become a rider favourite, combining with riders for three round wins (Heffernan 87.5-Rockhampton, Cooper Davis 86.5-Global Cup Sydney and Mitchel Paton 84.5-Mount Isa) in his seven-out career. Bee looked good in Newcastle going 2-for-3 to finish sixth in the event and if he can bring that form to the Mackay Invitational, we may see him put up some good numbers here.

Championship Round Pen

The short-go pen looks a tough one with some big, consistent bucking bulls on the list.

Barn Yard is a big strong bull from the Fred Kleier pen. Regularly puts up bull scores around the 44-point mark. Last time out in Cairns he added Matt Triplett to his list of casualties with a 3.11-second buck-off.

POA Palooka (Dittmann Bucking Bulls) will make life very tough for any cowboy who gets a shot at riding him. Put together an impressive list of Cup Season buck-offs including 2016 PBR World Champion Cooper Davis, Nathan Burtenshaw, Aaron Kleier and Budd Williamson.

Another of the regular short-go bulls from Dittmann Bucking Bulls is POA Fully Locked and Loaded. With an average bull-score of just under 44-points, this bull spins to the right and bucks hard. Fully Locked and Loaded combined with Fraser Babbington for a massive 89.5 ride in the 2017 Mackay Invitational Championship Round.

Predictions

I think Aaron Kleier has shaken off his mid-season groin injury and is full steam towards the PBR Australia Grand Finals. He gives off the vibe that he could just about ride anything lately.

Cody Heffernan will be eager to keep pace with Kleier and has drawn well in the long rounds and should put himself in a nice spot to contend for the win.

Ryan Storey will be carrying the hopes of the local crowd and won’t be too far behind.

Coverage

If you can’t be in attendance I will be providing coverage on RidetheRage.com and on Social Media during the Mackay Invitational.

I have created a Live Updates page where I will be posting news, ride scores, pictures and videos from Queens Park.