For the second time in the extended 2018 PBR Australia season, the Monster Energy series rolls into the Newcastle Exhibition Center with some of Australia’s best Bull Riders and rankest Bucking Bulls set to face off in the 2018 Newcastle Invitational.
With just six Monster Energy series events remaining until the PBR Australia Grand Finals, the Newcastle Invitational is shaping to be the last chance for riders outside of the current top 5 on the Australian National Standings leaderboard to make their move in the battle to become the 2018 Australian National Champion.
Newcastle Invitational Event History
PBR Australia celebrates its 10th Anniversary in the Steel City with the inaugural Brendon Clark Invitational being held in 2008.
The 2017 Newcastle Invitational was taken out by Aaron Kleier (Clermont, QLD) and Fraser Babbington (Gisborne, NZ) who both went 2-for-3 and recorded ride scores totalling 173.75 points.
Both riders recorded 88 points in the Championship Round to take home the high marked ride of the night with Kleier making the whistle on Hillbilly Deluxe (Maynes Bucking Bulls) with Babbington matching that performance on High Flying Akubra (John Gill & Sons).
In 2016, Matt Triplett (Columbia Falls, MT) went 3-for-3 to take out the event title with Uralla, NSW cowboy Chris Lowe taking home the buckle for his event win in 2015.
The Current Standings
Heading into the 2018 Newcastle Invitational, Aaron Kleier is the number 1 ranked rider on the Australian National Standings leaderboard with 3495.83 points and leads Fraser Babbington by 287.49 points.
Cliff Richardson (Gresford, NSW) has recorded wins in two of the last three PBR Australia events including the PBR Australia’s Last Cowboy Standing to move within 525.82 points of Kleier with Singleton, NSW cowboy Cody Heffernan a further 934.17 points adrift on 2035.83.
The only other rider within 2000 points of Kleier at this stage is Justin Paton (Nebo, QLD) who has headed across the Pacific to compete in Canada this weekend.
So I believe we have a race in four unless a rider decides to make a big move up the leaderboard this weekend.
View the current Australian National standings HERE
The 2018 Newcastle Invitational Format
The Newcastle Invitational will feature three rounds of bull riding on Saturday night. Each rider will get on one bull in both Round 1 and Round 2.
The 10 bull riders with the top combined ride scores will advance to the Championship Round where a winner will be crowned.
Round 1 Preview
Cliff Richardson has drawn StreetWise from Throsby & Russell Bucking Bulls has been unridden in his four appearances this year. Last time we saw this bull was on Night 2 of the PBR Global Cup in Sydney where he dispatched Francisco Morales in 7.96. I wasn’t the best performance we have seen from the bull, but I think he can combine with Richardson for a good score here.
Aaron Kleier has a good opportunity to right the ship here in Round 1 after battling injury and inconsistent form heading into the break. The 2017 Rookie of the Year has drawn the rider-friendly Red Man from Throsby & Russell Bucking Bulls. This bull has been ridden in his last two outs with Jess Lockwood (82.75) and Dakota Buttar (83.50) winning their matchups in Sydney at the Global Cup.
Budd Williamson faces a tough draw here in SweetPros Deceptacon (Kasper Bucking Bulls) who has been ridden twice so far in his limited career (Both by Cliff Richardson). Williamson has not been the most consistent rider of 2018 but I think he matches up well with this bull and we could see a good score posted.
Fraser Babbington takes on the bull that Kleier rode in Round 1 at last year’s event for 85.75 points. That bull is Chocolate Thunder from the Eric Yates Pen. Babbington will have his work cut out to get by this smart bull. Forgive the bulls out at the PBR Global Cup where most bulls struggled on Night 1. I think we will see Chocolate Thunder at his best here.
Braydon Wellby finished fifth here in the 2017 event and has drawn a nice bull who can get his 2018 event off to a good start. Buck from Eric Yates has been ridden 3 out of his 7 career outs and I think he should fit the 21-year-old well enough to get a score on the board.
Cody Heffernan faces an unknown bull from Eric Yates called Western Ways. The Singleton Cowboy simply has to have it to keep himself in the running for a second PBR Australia National Championship.
We haven’t seen Trefor Sproule (Singleton, NSW) at PBR Australia events for quite some time but the Hunter Valley cowboy has drawn the rider-friendly Windy Gate from George Hempenstall in Round 1. This bull has been ridden in his last four outs and I think Sproule has a great opportunity to get a score on the board.
Round 2 Preview
Aaron Kleier has drawn Maximum Rat (George Hempenstall) in Round 2 and I think we could see some big numbers posted. From the vision I have seen, this bull should be a good fit for a left-handed rider of Kleier’s calibre. The bull has only been ridden once in the last two years of PBR competition with Ethan Watts taking home the Round 1 win in Wodonga with 86 points earlier this year.
Fraser Babbington will be next out aboard another George Hempenstall bull, Eight Gauge. I will side with the Kiwi in this matchup. The bull doesn’t have the best timing in the pen but if Babbington can stay with the bull until he turns back into his quick spin, he should be able to flash the ride up and increase the ride score.
Jason Mara (Cloncurry, QLD) has drawn Twisted X from Maynes Bucking Bulls and should get a score on the board here. This bull has been ridden 4 of his 6 outs with Cliff Richardson producing the high marked 85.5 point ride in Round 1 of the Bendigo Invitational earlier this year. After bucking off his last 4 bulls, Mara will be looking to regain the form that saw him win three straight PBR Australia events leading into the Sydney Global Cup.
Cody Heffernan looks to have a nice one under him here. Silverback (Maynes Bucking Bulls) has been covered in both of his outs this season with CJ Foxlee and Mitchel Paton making the whistle for 83.0 and 83.5 points respectively.
Cliff Richardson faces Cherry Ripe from the Dan Klabe pen in Round 2 and we have only seen this bull once at PBR Australia events. Brock Radford made light work of this bull at Last Cowboy Standing in Brisbane for 82.75 points and I expect Richardson to make the whistle in this matchup.
Michael Smith (Tully, QLD) returns to Australia after competing in Canada and the USA throughout July. Smith will face Lost Signal from Throsby & Russell Bucking Bulls who we have seen ridden 3 times this season. The last was at the Global Cup in Sydney by Cody Heffernan for 83.25 points and I think Smith will get a score here.
Matty Bee (Weipa, QLD) has a great chance to close out the round with a qualified ride. Light Em Up (Throsby & Russell Bucking Bulls) has been ridden in 10 of his 12 outs so far in the 2018 season, carrying 4 cowboys round wins. Bee’s form has been patchy on the Monster Energy series but he should have enough to get by this bull.
View the full daysheet HERE
Championship Round Bull Pen
It looks to be quite a solid set of bulls and I think we will see some high scoring qualified rides.
Bring The Action (Throsby & Russell Bucking Bulls) consistently averages bull scores around the 43.5-44.0 point mark and when things do go right, the rider is usually a ton of points. Bailey Woodard recorded 88.5 points in the Championship Round at Wodonga earlier this year.
Night Hawk (Throsby & Russell Bucking Bulls) has been unridden in his 8 trips so far including a 2-for-2 effort at the PBR Global Cup.
Volatile (Kasper Bucking Bulls) and The Doorman (George Hempenstall) look to be bulls on the rise. Volatile recorded a 44 point buck off in his only out at Mt Cotton while The Doorman is unridden through 3 outs at PBR Australia events.
Call Me Joe is another from the Throsby & Russell Bucking Bulls pen of bulls and is a rider favourite with Fraser Babbington recording 90.0 pints at Nowra last year. Cody Heffernan and Justin Paton have also covered him this season for 89.0 points at Bendigo and Wodonga respectively.
This event will come down to the draws in the Championship Round but I will pick Cliff Richardson to take home the 2018 Newcastle Invitational buckle. He has been unbeatable over the past few months and I expect his hot streak to continue.
Aaron Kleier should rebound after the extended break and won’t be far away with Cody Heffernan rounding out my Top 3 with a couple of nice draws up his sleeve.
Outside of the favourites I think Matty Bee and Trefor Sproule have great chances to record a solid result in Newcastle.