Last weekend in Bundaberg we witnessed a great battle between the cowboys and bulls of the PBR Australia Monster Energy Tour, and this afternoon they will go at it again at the 2020 Mackay Invitational.
The leaders in the race for the 2020 PBR Australian National Standings are in great form and showing no signs of slowing down. Still, there is a bunch of young guns who are raising their game and putting themselves into contention with some very impressive performances.
There are also a handful of names that we would expect to be towards the pointy end of the leaderboard that have not fired since the restart of PBR Australia competition, but they all look to get their chance here in the Sugar City to make their moves.
We always see big numbers posted in Mackay and it ranks high on everyone’s list of favourite tour stops. So, with that in mind, here are my highlight matchups:
Event 1 – Round 1 Matchups
Matt Hollis on Personal Space (Dunne Bulls)
Things did not go Hollis’ way in Bundaberg with a pair of rapid buck offs, but I think he can bounce back and post a score here in the first event long round. Personal Space has been covered in his last two trips for scores of 84 and 82 points. He prefers to take a few jumps to leave the chute and then enters a left-handed spin. If the 19-year-old Tamworth cowboy can stay in good shape until the turn back, he should be there at the bell and will be finishing strong.
Kurt Shephard on High Class Hooker (Brandenburg Bucking Bulls/MJ Bucking Bulls)
This will be the second time that Shephard has drawn High Class Hooker in PBR Australia competition, with the first resulting in a round-winning 88-point effort at the 2019 Origin in Sydney. This bull can be a handful in the chutes and will turn back away from the Mareeba talent’s left hand, but if they can get out clean, that previous effort will be a big boost to Shephard’s confidence. The 26-year-old has struggled to make his mark since returning from a long injury layoff, but this matchup may provide the boost he needs at the right time.
Aaron Kleier on Mixed Culture (Brandenburg Bucking Bulls)
The defending National Champion bounced back in a big way last weekend in Bundaberg, going 3-for-4 to pick up an event win and a third placing. Kleier’s Round 1 opponent this week is Mixed Culture, a bull that he has faced twice previously at PBR Australia events and they each have a victory to their name. The 22-year-old scored a round winning 88 points at Mount Isa in 2019, but the bull got his revenge at the 2019 Grand Finals in 5.63 seconds. This bull likes to start with a turn back to the left, but in his past few outs, he has stalled on the spin but keeps bucking hard. The Clermont cowboy should start the ride strong, but he will have to counter with some late moves of his own to make the whistle.
Michael Smith on Home Grown (Dunne Bulls)
As I mentioned in the Bundaberg edition of The Morning Line, I don’t think Smith is too far away from putting it all together and contending for an event win. The 23-year-old made it back for the short round in Event 2 last weekend but ran into the reigning PBR Australia Bucking Bull of the Year, POA Fully Locked & Loaded. Smith has drawn the high marked bull of the 2020 Caboolture Invitational here. Home Grown was very impressive, posting a bullscore of 45 points in his debut. That afternoon, he was to the right with lots of power, and if he replicates that trip pattern, I give the Tully cowboy a big chance.
Lachlan Richardson on Ranga (Dittmann Bucking Bulls)
Richardson holds down the No. 1 spot in the 2020 PBR Australian National for good reason, and it is hard to go against him in any round. But I think Ranga looks an excellent test for the 27-year-old. The bull is unridden in his three trips, averaging 42.25 points per trip and a buck off time of 3.12 seconds. He likes to turn back to the left just outside the gate and hits the accelerator, but he can shoot forward or produce an off-time kick as he feels the rider getting comfortable and that is where most riders falter. Richardson has already ridden The D.O.C and Big Buck Hunter for big points away from his hand this season, so with those rides fresh in my mind, I will side with the Gresford talent.
Lane Mellers on Cattle King Ray Ban (Dittmann Bucking Bulls)
The Mundubbera bull rider will be the first to admit that his form hasn’t been up to scratch since the PBR Australia restart, but he has been working hard, and he gets a chance to put it all behind him and post big numbers here. In the past, Ray Ban would have turned back into Mellers’ hand, but since changing to the right delivery at the Grand Finals last season, he has mostly turned around to the left. He is a smart bull and often reacts to the feel of the rider, so I don’t think that this change is permanent. The pair met last season in Cairns where Ray Ban was marked 44 points in the 3.3 seconds contest, and I do not doubt that the 21-year-old will put everything into this bout to try and reverse that result.
Event 2 – Round 1 Matchups
Brady Fielder on Double XL (Wallace Bucking Bulls)
While Fielder’s PBR Australia record this season isn’t anything to write home about, he seems to be working himself into form despite encountering some very unfavourable draws in the last two tour stops. I think the 20-year-old will match up with Double XL quite well. This bull was very impressive in his Event 1 performance at Bundaberg last week with a 43-point bullscore awarded. He turned back to the right and bucked with excellent timing. If he can bring that type of trip to this matchup, I can see the Clermont sophomore being a bunch of points and putting his season well and truly on track.
Mitchel Paton on Guilty Pleasure (Dunne Bulls)
This is a rematch from just a couple of weeks ago at Caboolture where Paton finished with 81.5 points in the second event. That was the first time that we have seen Guilty Pleasure ridden, but it was not his best day with his high marked trip of 43.5 points coming at this event last season. We have regularly seen Top-15 ranked riders take this bull deep into the 8-seconds, and from the left delivery, he prefers to turn back to the right. That will be into Paton’s hand, and it should tip the odds in the Nebo bull rider’s favour.
Kurt Shephard on 25 to Life (Dunne Bulls)
Shephard gets another rematch in the second event long round, but this time he will be looking to avenge his 2.46 seconds buck off from Cairns last season. On that occasion, 25 to Life turned back to the right and away from the Ariat Australia bull rider’s hand, but in his latest seven outs, the bull has turned back to the left and produced a very consistent pattern. While I am not expecting a score that will contend for the round win, a qualified ride will position Shephard nicely to get another bull in the final round.
Lachlan Richardson on Reload (Dittmann Bucking Bulls)
Like his Event 1 long round draw, Richardson again faces a bull that is unridden in three trips. Reload averages 42.67 points an out with an impressive average buck off time of 2.76 seconds. But unlike Ranga, this bull is expected to make the turn back and into his hand. The seven-time PBR World Finals qualifier has a proven record aboard the rankest bulls in the pen. In fact, of the 12 bulls that he has faced that were marked 42.5 points or higher dating back to the 2019 Mackay Invitational, Richardson has covered 9 of them for an average ride score of 87.97 points. Incredible. I’m sticking with the Ariat Australia cowboy to break the streak.
Sam Woodall on POA Lock n Load (Dittmann Bucking Bulls)
The Heywood bull rider has looked very good in the practice pen and most importantly, inside the PBR Australia arena since the season restart. Woodall picked up a Top-3 finish at Caboolture with a career-high equalling 88-point ride. He then added a fourth-place finish in Bundaberg to find himself ranked inside the Top-10 in the 2020 National Standings. The 22-year-old faces Lock n Load, who has given up four scores in his past five outs averaging 87.31 points, with the buck off coming at 7.96 seconds in the Iron Cowboy format. He should turn back into Woodall’s hand initially before making a mid-ride reversal and spinning left. The Victorian will be looking forward to this matchup.
Aaron Kleier on Slam n Jam (Brandenburg Bucking Bulls/MJ Bucking Bulls)
This will be the first time that we will see Kleier and Slam n Jam matchup in PBR Australia competition. The bull’s record is extremely impressive – 39 and 5 with all scores going the way of right-handed riders. That statistic doesn’t bode well for the left-handed dual Australian Champion, but Kleier doesn’t let opportunities like this slip by very often. Slam n Jam has no set trip, but he bucks hard to the left, or hard to the right, he can reverse direction or keep the power down in one direction. We will have to wait and see what kind of trip he produces. Kleier will need to take this one leap at a time, and I can’t wait to see them do battle.