Newly-crowned PBR Australia Rookie of the Year Lane Mellers says he plans to use the success of 2018 PBR Australia Champion Aaron Kleier as the blueprint for his 2019 campaign.
“I would really like to do what Aaron (Kleier) has just done and go on to win the Australian Title and then onto bigger things like the World Title”.
In his rookie season, Mellers signalled that he would be a force to be reckoned with when the 2019 PBR Australia season which kicks off this weekend in Melbourne, Victoria.
Consistency is something that young-gun has been concentrating on this year, and he made good progress on this goal, achieving a high riding percentage through the ‘winter run’ as he went 6-for-10 at PBR events in May and June.
The run was highlighted by a top-4 finish at Last Cowboy Standing in Brisbane with podium finishes at the Touring Pro events in Mount Isa and Rockhampton supporting his rise up the PBR Australia standings.
Mellers puts up 85.5 aboard Kings Ransom at the Beef Australia PBR in May.
Mellers’ success during this period was not just limited to PBR Australia events.
“I rode 26 of 30 open bulls through that period, so I was feeling pretty good,” he said.
After spending the final months of the 2018 season competing in the USA, the 19-year-old says that the familiarity of being at home and the confidence gained during his winter run was significant in his end of season success.
“Getting back home, being around people I knew and being able to eat Australia food made me a lot more comfortable”.
A relaxed Mellers progressed through the Iron Cowboy draw at the penultimate event of the season in Tamworth, and he backed that up with a fourth-place finish in the 2018 PBR Australia Grand Finals in Townsville last weekend.
Heading into the Grand Finals, Mellers said he was not aware that the Rookie of the Year race was still alive after Michael Smith picked up a top-8 finish in Tamworth.
“Somebody told me that he (Smith) had sealed the deal in Tamworth so I was just going to make as much money as I could,” he said.
With a maximum of 2500-points available across the weekend, Mellers was well within striking distance.
After bucking off Django (Wallace Bucking Bulls) in Round 1, Smith was able to open that gap by a further 150-points, courtesy of a second place finish in the round.
Mellers drew Tough Task from Dunne Bulls in his second out of Night 1 at the Grand Finals.
“I’ve seen the bull plenty of times before,” he said. “I thought the other bulls I drew would have suited me a lot better than what he would”.
Tough Task left the chute with his usual vigour, high kicking in a tight left-handed spin before it became evident that Mellers’ had a great seat.
The bull then changed it up mid-ride and attempted to get the Mundubbera cowboy back off his rope by taking a few big leaps forward, adding some belly rolls into the 8-second ride for good measure.
“He just felt good and stayed underneath me and really made it work”.
Mellers combines with Tough Task for 87.25 points and the Round 2 win at the Grand Finals.
Mellers was too good. The result was 87.25 points and the Round 2 win. The round win earned him 250 points, and the gap between Mellers and Smith in the Rookie race was down to 301.99 points.
On night 2, Mellers rode Disturbed (Diamond J Rodeo Co) to add a further 77-points to his event total.
It was not Disturbed’s best day, but he did make Mellers work hard for his ride score, forcing him to make multiple corrections. The judges awarded him a re-ride option, but Mellers knew that this score would put him in line for a strong finish in the event.
“I’ve won bull rides on him before, and when they offered me a re-ride, I thought, well, the average points will go a long way towards bigger money, so I thought I would keep that score and aim to ride my remaining bulls hoping to win the average.”
The ride moved Mellers into the fourth spot on the Grand Finals aggregate leaderboard and within striking distance of the leading Brazilian pair of Rubens Barbosa and Lucas Divino.
He also closed the gap to Smith by a further 100-points with the margin now standing at just 201.99 points.
Mellers managed to maintain his position through the final two rounds of competition despite bucking off the unridden pair of Ted from Dittmann Bucking Bulls in Round 4, and I’m A Freckle Too from Wallace Bucking Bulls in the Championship Round.
He earned a further 260 points thanks to his fourth-place finish in the 2018 PBR Australia Grand Finals with Smith only receiving 25-points for his ninth place finish.
It was enough to get Mellers over the line, and he took out the 2018 PBR Australia Rookie of the Year competition by just 33.34 points.
He finished the 2018 PBR Australia season ranked 13th in the standings after attending just 17 events and covering 35.29% of his bulls.
“The PBR hasn’t seen the best of me because I haven’t been as consistent as I would like,” he said. But now with this title behind me, I’m sure I’ll have the confidence to do what I can do elsewhere”.
While he hasn’t completely ruled out a return to the USA later this season, Mellers has shown that he is more than capable of competing at the highest level of bull riding here in Australia. His determination and vibe indicate that his career will continue to trend upwards in 2019.