With two long rounds each night plus a short-go on Saturday, it is very important for riders to take full advantage of any favourable matchup that falls their way through the draw. There are some very nice matchups on the opening night and we could see some monster scores posted.
Round 1 Matchups
Cody Heffernan on Ride The Lightning:
Heffernan was 82.5 points on this bull in Mackay earlier this season. We did not see the best of that bull in that matchup with the flank strap coming loose mid-ride. Ride the Lightning was back to his best in Rockhampton with a quick buck off. He will be around to the left in tight to the gate and if Heffernan can make the turn he should get his quest for a second Gold Buckle off to a good start.
Mitchel Paton on I’m Wicked:
These two will matchup again for the third time with the series tied at once apiece. Paton won their battle on New Year’s Eve back in 2015. The bull got his revenge in Mackay a few months later with a 5.34-second buck off. I’m Wicked has been covered in his last four outs with scores between 80.5 and 83.5-points. He can try to fake the rider out and sling his head around but I think Paton should finish on top here.
Kurt Shephard on Road Rage:
Shepard has only been back competing for a handful of events but this will be his third matchup with Road Rage since September. Shephard made the whistle for 83.5 points in Mackay but Road Rage won the second matchup in 7.45 seconds. The bull is mostly around to the left and once again should fall right into Shephard wheelhouse.
Aaron Kleier on Booger Man:
The No. 1 ranked rider in the country is the only rider in PBR competition to cover Booger Man and he has done it twice. The first was in Mackay last year where the score was 85.50 points and the second in Cairns this past June for 83-points. Booger Man will turn back to the left and enter a fast spin. He sometimes can throw a changeup or two into the second half of the ride but I expect Kleier to remain perfect against the bull.
Lucas Divino on Jackie Who:
I think these two will match up very well. The bull has been covered in his last five PBR outs and turns in an almost identical out every time. Jackie Who puts in a fake to the left as the gate cracks and then turns back to the right. He will turn back into Divino’s hand and tends to get a bit faster as the ride progresses. Expect the Brazilian to add some sparkle to the ride.
Round 2 Matchups
Cody Heffernan on King Kong:
King Kong has only been conquered once in PBR competition and that was in this arena last year with Lachlan Richardson putting up 87.75 points in the Iron Cowboy. Aaron Kleier went close in Rockhampton but lost his rope at 7.97 seconds. This big powerful bull will be around to the right and I think Heffernan has a great chance to put another score on the leaderboard.
Cliff Richardson on Devils Diamond:
This is the type of bull that Richardson has made a habit of covering throughout his career. Devils Diamond will be around to the left and does spin quite quickly but he tends to throw a few tricks into his outs which can make him tricky to ride. Following a tough Round 1 draw, Richardson simply must have this to keep pace with his rivals. Justin Paton was 81-points in Rockhampton on New Year’s Eve but the bull’s last three opponents have ended up in the dirt mid-ride.
Lucas Divino on Ryans Gangster:
Divino has another favourable matchup here. Ryans Gangster has only been covered once in PBR competition and that was by Cliff Richardson for 86.25 points and the Round 1 win at Last Cowboy Standing. The bull takes a few jumps forward before turning back to the right. If Divino can stay up on his rope he should be able to finish the ride off strong.
Braydon Wellby on Annihilation:
Wellby has drawn a nice bull here. We have seen Annihilation ridden twice this year with Nathan Burtenshaw scoring 86.5-points in Cairns and Tanner Byrne also going the distance at the Global Cup. The bull will turn back to the right as soon as the gate cracks and he bucks with good rhythm. Wellby has a great chance to get a score on the board here.
Aaron Kleier on POA Fully Locked & Loaded:
Fully Locked & Loaded has given up four rides from his fifteen outs in the last 18 months of PBR competition. We saw Nathan Burtenshaw win the Championship Round at the 2017 PBR Australian National Finals with 88.75 points. Ryan Storey was a massive 90.50 points to win in Mackay just a couple of months ago. The bull is around the right with plenty of power and if Kleier can be there at the whistle, it might just be the ride that seals the championship.