The best bull riders in Australia return to Rockhampton’s Great Western Hotel this evening for Monster Energy Tour action under the bright lights. This event serves as the final chance for cowboys to qualify for the PBR Origin series, so they should be extra fired up with a chance to represent their state on the line. The bull pen doesn’t appear as difficult as our previous visits to ‘The Arena’ during May, and I think we should come away with an above-average riding percentage.
Here are my highlight matchups for tonight’s long round:
Brady Fielder on Scooby Doo (Kleier Bucking Bulls)
It has been an excellent start to the season for Fielder. He has been covering the bulls that he should be riding and giving a great account of himself against the higher calibre buckers in the pen. I think this is another one that he should be able to make the whistle on. Scooby Doo is yet to be ridden in PBR competition, bucking off five straight riders at an average of 4.33 seconds with bull scores just short of the 42-point mark. Fielder will be the best rider that this bull has faced so far in his career. They should do battle around to the right and into the Clermont cowboy’s riding hand.
Lawson Nobbs on Sin Wagon (Kleier Bucking Bulls)
Nobbs would have been disappointed with his buck off here in his season debut five weeks ago following his outstanding autumn rodeo run. He quickly put that behind him and went 2-for-2 to pick up his first PBR win of the season at the NQ Elite Touring Pro Division a fortnight ago. Here he faces Sin Wagon, who we have seen just the once in the PBR and on that occasion in 2020 at Bundaberg, the left-handed Jake Curr was awarded 81-points. The bull turned back to the left that afternoon, and a repeat of that trip will be perfect for Nobbs here. Nobbs has two event wins from his past five visits to the Great Western Hotel.
Aaron Kleier on Midnight Hour (MJ Bucking Bulls/Keliher Bucking Bulls)
Midnight Hour comes into this matchup having given up three scores from his four PBR performances. Each of those scores belongs to a right-handed rider, with Lachlan Richardson the highest scored on 83.5 points at Grafton in 2019. He is usually relatively flat and to the right. If a rider can stay centred early, he gets a great chance to open up and score some late bonus point. Kleier has faced a string of bulls that have been turning back away from his left riding hand, and he has been converting those attempts into scores at a high success rate. A good start is what the Clermont champion will be looking for here in his drive for a fourth event win in the arena.
Lachlan Slade on Chemical Weapon (MJ Bucking Bulls/Keliher Bucking Bulls)
Slade has had a tough run of bulls in PBR competition dating back to the Toowoomba event last season, and while things don’t appear any more straightforward here on paper, I give him a great chance to post a score. Chemical Weapon has been on tour for five years now, and he always delivers an honest trip. Of the ten qualified rides allowed from his 25 outs, seven belong to right-handed riders, and the remaining three are by Aaron Kleier. Most righties get deep into the ride, with the average buck-off coming at the 5-second mark. Slade got starts in both of his attempts here at the May doubleheader, and that should have shaken the rust off.
Troy Wilkinson and Kurt Shephard on Ambush and Breaking Bad (MJ Bucking Bulls/Keliher Bucking Bulls)
In consecutive outs to kick off Section 3, we will see two veteran left-handed bull riders against two potential superstar bucking bulls that have made their way through the ABBI Australia pathways to make their PBR debuts. Ambush likes to whip around quickly with some timing, while Breaking Bad seems a lot rawer and more intense. In most trips that I can remember from these bulls, they have both turned back to the left and I think the riding style of each cowboy matches up quite well with their respective opponent.
Wilkinson made his return from a long injury layoff at the NQ Elite Touring Pro Division event and bucked off his long round bull just short of the bell. But he bounced back quickly and picked up a rodeo win in Caboolture just last weekend. That result is precisely what the Upper Horton champion would have been looking for, and we should see him transfer that form across to the PBR arena.
This will be the first time we will see Shephard this season, but he is the type of rider that can and will hit the ground running. He is a proven performer throughout the winter months, so we should see the Mareeba bull rider come into this matchup focused and ready to move his way up the National Standings.
Macaulie Leather on Comeback Kid (Dittmann Bucking Bulls)
Leather is the only rider on tour to have made it back to the Championship Round in all three PBR Australia events so far this season, only to run into Cattle King Boogers Beach and his 45+ point trips on each occasion. Here he will go up against Comeback Kid, who has been ridden just once from eight trips. Bailey Woodard won the long round at the NQ Elite Touring Pro Division event with 87 points on this bull, who has averaged a bull score 43.63 points in his last two trips. We could see the bull turn back to the left and into the Calliope rookie’s hand, or he may take a jump or two to clear the gate and turn back to the right. Either way, this should be a tremendous challenge for both athletes.
Lachlan Richardson on Crocodile Rock (Dunne Bulls)
Crocodile Rock gave up two scores from his eight trips in his debut PBR campaign during the 2020 season. I think we should see another qualified ride added here. Richardson in good form and riding 50% of his bulls so far this season and he wasn’t far away from improving that percentage a fortnight ago at the NQ Elite Touring Pro stop. From the right-handed delivery, this bull seems to turn back consistently to the right, and we rarely see the Gresford cowboy falter riding into his right hand. Kurt Shephard owns the last qualified ride, and that was for 82.5 points at the Grand Finals last season. If Richardson makes the whistle, I think we can expect the score to come in a touch higher.
Bailey Woodard on Freckles Brown (Wallace Bucking Bulls)
Woodard made his season debut a fortnight ago at the NQ Elite Touring Pro event, and he came away with a long round winning 87-point ride aboard Comeback Kid. Over the closing events of the 2020 season, we saw the Dingo talent start to convert his opportunities, and we should continue to see further improvement this year. Here he has a rematch with Freckles Brown from way back in 2017. The bull won on that occasion, and while he still produces solid trips, mainly to the left, we have seen his average bull score drop a point or two. He has given up four scores from his last eight trips in the low-mid 80-point range. Woodard should give us an incredible sight riding into his hand. Fellow left-hander Lawson Nobbs was 84.5 points aboard this bull at the 2020 Grand Finals.