All the numbers reset to zero this weekend as the 2019 PBR Australia season kicks off this Saturday night with the Melbourne Invitational.
Australia’s best bull riders will face off against a solid pen of bulls inside Melbourne Arena with the action beginning at 7:30 pm (6:30 pm AEST).
Head to the PBR Australia website on Saturday morning or keep your eye on Social Media for this weekend’s edition of The Morning Line where I will take a look at the individual matchups!
The Defending Champion is Lucas Divino (Nova Crixas, Brazil), who went a perfect 3-for-3 inside this arena last year to take home the buckle. Divino sealed his second win on Australia soil with an 87.50 point ride aboard High Flying Akubra in Championship Round after taking out the Tamworth event a fortnight earlier.
Divino held off a pack of five riders who finished the event 2-for-3 that included Sonny Schafferius, Bailey Woodard, Gustavo Pedrero, Michael Smith and Braydon Wellby.
Twenty-two riders will line up against a handy pen of bulls over three rounds of competition.
All 22 riders will face a bull each in Rounds 1 and 2 with the top-8 riders on the event leaderboard returning for the Championship Round.
The quality line-up of riders features the newly crowned 2018 PBR Australian National Champion Aaron Kleier (Clermont, QLD) who will be hoping to commence his third PBR season with a strong result in Melbourne.
2018 PBR Australia Rookie of the Year Lane Mellers (Mundubbera, QLD) is riding a wave of confidence after making two consecutive short rounds and is aiming for the top, following a successful debut PBR Australia season.
Melbourne will also host PBR World Finals qualifiers Lachlan Richardson (Gresford, NSW) and Nathan Burtenshaw (Coonamble, NSW) this weekend. Richardson returns to Australia after beginning his 2019 PBR campaign with a top-10 finish at the Canadian National Finals last weekend while Burtenshaw spent a fortnight away from the arena and should be raring to go.
2017 PBR Australian National Champion Troy Wilkinson (Upper Horton, NSW) makes his long-awaited return from injury, entering his first event since June’s Global Cup in Sydney. Wilkinson underwent elbow surgery following Team Australia’s second-place finish in the event.
Justin Paton (Nebo, QLD), the 2018 PBR Iron Cowboy Tamworth Champion will also be back in action after being cleared of injury to his riding arm. Paton missed the final rounds of the Grand Finals after being stepped on by Need For Speed during an awkward dismount in Round 3.
The International talent will be led by Lucas Divino, who returns to defend his 2018 event win. Divino took home the 2018 PBR Australia Grand Finals event win last weekend with a 4-for-5 performance.
Joining Divino will be fellow countrymen Rubens Barbosa and Junio Quaresima.
Barbosa comes into the event in good form following his second place finish in the Grand Finals while Quaresima will be hoping to bounce back after a disappointing 1-for-4 across the weekend in Townsville.
Notable absentees from the Melbourne Invitational field will be perennial championship contenders Cliff Richardson and Fraser Babbington.
Richardson suffered a back injury after landing awkwardly in his buck off from King Kong in last weekends Championship Round.
Babbington will also take time off to recover from a punctured lung which he sustained in Tamworth a fortnight ago.
Inside the Bull Pen
2018 PBR Australia Stock Contractor of the Year, TnR Bucking Bulls will headline the Melbourne Invitational bullpen with a solid team of buckers making the trip south. Championship Round regulars Call Me Joe, Mr Buckmore and Night Hawk will all be out in Saturday night’s final round with the trio averaging an outstanding 43.33 point bull score in the 2018 season.
High Flying Akubra will lead the John Gill & Sons bull heard into battle off the back of an impressive 2018 season where he posted an average bull score of 42.68 points in PBR competition. Short round regular Coors Light will ably support him in the Championship Round.
George Hempenstall‘s team will be led by Maximum Rat and Stealth who will both be out in the final round of the night. Maximum Rat has given up three rides in his last three outs with an average ride score of 86.5 while Stealth recorded an average bull score of 42.59 last season.
Woodall Rodeo brings a solid pen of long-round bulls to Melbourne with most giving the Cowboys an opportunity to post quality scores. Kristy’s Curse has been marked as high as 42-points in PBR competition and will be lining up in the short-go.
Chocolate Thunder from Eric Yates will also make the trip south for an out in Round 2.
I am struggling to separate Lachlan Richardson and Nathan Burtenshaw this week. If they can both stay perfect through the long rounds, it will come down to draws in the final round.
The Brazilian trio will be hard to beat, and I will throw Justin Paton in the mix for another strong finish.