Last weekend in Cairns, we saw the gold buckle contenders fight it out for the win, but I think tonight in Caboolture, we will see those cowboys battling for Grand Finals qualification spots take centre stage.
The set of bulls contracted to buck inside the Queensland State Equestrian Centre looks a tricky one on paper, with a lot of inexperienced bulls mixed in with a handful of rider-friendly types. I think we will see riding percentages and bull scores hover around the season average for much of the long round before we kick things up a notch with another draft Championship Round.
Here are my most intriguing matchups:
Round 1 Matchups
Will Purcell on 93 Meet Ya Maker (MJ and Keliher Bucking Bulls)
This will be one of the most anticipated matchups of the evening. Purcell missed out on the big points last weekend in Cairns after riding two bulls in Mount Isa last month, so he will be eager to bounce back fast. Meet Ya Maker allows a score in around 33% of his trips. The most recent score went to Qynn Andersen for 83.5 points last weekend in Cairns. We have seen this bull buck from the right side chutes at recent events, and he has started to turn back to the left consistently. That will put him away from Purcell’s riding hand, but I think the Merrijig talent will be able to get himself a score.
Jack Keats on RR50 Titanium (Ruhland Ranch)
Titanium has been rather friendly to the cowboys in his first year on tour, giving up three scores from four outs averaging 83-points. Two of those qualified rides went the way of right-handed riders. He likes to fake a spin to the left before turning back to the right, which should suit Keats. The Cloncurry bull rider has bucked off his last four bulls, but he had ridden three of his previous four. This bull looks much more manageable than what he has climbed aboard at recent tour stops, and I think he can get his name back onto the Monster Energy leaderboard and edge closer to the top-22 in the standings.
Lachlan Slade on 727 Bad Romance (BK Bucking Bulls)
Bad Romance is a bull that likes to mix up his trips, and we have seen him turn back in both directions in his four PBR Australia performances. Lane Mellers and Kurt Shephard were able to collect scores last season, but this year the bull has evened the score at 2-all with buck-offs at Toowoomba and Brisbane. Slade has been struggling for consistency in the current season, but he looks to be building. He has posted two qualified rides at the last three tour stops, including an encouraging ride away from this hand at Cairns aboard Ariat’s Ol’ Son last weekend. Whichever way the bull decides to turn, I think the Tamworth cowboy should be able to handle him for the eight seconds.
Kurt Shephard on 21 Rata Tat Tat (BK Bucking Bulls)
We haven’t seen Rata Tat Tat buck at this level since Aaron Kleier got the job done at the 2020 Toowoomba Invitational, so I am interested in seeing how he returns. He has been tough to get past in his long career, with buck-off times in the 1-2 second range and bull scores between 43 and 44.5 points common. Historically, left-handed cowboys have matched up a bit better with this bull which is why I am interested to see how Shephard goes aboard him. The Mareeba bull rider was another that missed out on the double points in Cairns. He has gone 2-for-6 since his return from injury, and he will be looking to maintain contact with the top 10 on the National Standings leaderboard with a strong performance.
Bradley Wheeler on 864 Night Fury (ST Bucking Bulls)
Grafton talent posted good scores in the opening round on both nights at Mount Isa, and he gets another good chance to feature in the Round 1 results against Night Fury. This bull has allowed three scores from his eight trips, with the latest going the way of Cody Heffernan at Toowoomba for 83-points. He doesn’t have a set trip, and we have seen him buck well from both deliveries, but he looks stronger from the left chutes. Wheeler has put together some very nice rides so far in his debut season, and he gets an excellent chance to post another handy score here and climb into a Grand Finals qualification spot.