It all comes down to this — The Decider.
Tonight, I think that we will see a fair few scores posted in Round 1 of the event, but the second round is where both the Queensland and New South Wales teams will be looking to make their moves, and we should see some big scores recorded.
Here are my most anticipated matchups:
Round 1 Matchups
Aaron Kleier (QLD) on 71 Freckles Brown (Wallace Bucking Bulls)
We get things off and running with an outstanding matchup. Kleier and Freckles Brown have gone head-to-head multiple times in PBR Australia competition. The Queensland captain picked up 89-points for the Round 2 win at the 2019 Cairns Invitational, but later that year on New Year’s Eve in Rockhampton, the bull got his revenge with a 4.00-second buck off. This bull prefers a left-handed spin, which will put him into Kleier’s hand, but as seen in his Cairns trip, he does have the odd trip to the right. He averages a bull score of 42.85 points, and the average of the ten qualified rides is over 85-points. The Clermont champion is in outstanding form, going 5-for7 across his last three events, and I expect this matchup will set the tone for the night.
Cody Heffernan (NSW) on 222 Rifleman (BK Bucking Bulls)
Heffernan is also flying at the moment, covering nine of his last fourteen bulls and comes into Origin III fresh off a Touring Pro Division win in Berry a fortnight ago. Rifleman made his debut late in the 2021 season, and he is developing into a nice draw for most riders. He was ridden by Brady Fielder for a round winning 86 points in the first tour stop of the 2022 season, and then Will Purcell reached the whistle on day one in Toowoomba for 82.5 points. He had been exclusively turning back to the right, but he surprised us all in his last trip by faking right and turning left to dislodge Nathan Burtenshaw on the second day of competition. I think the Singleton bull rider can get the job done and get his NSW side off to a fast start.
Nathan Burtenshaw (NSW) on 303 Shotgun (ST Bucking Bulls)
Shotgun can be a tricky bull to get by, but we have seen him covered in 25% of his trips for an average score of around 82-points. We saw him ridden for 83.5 points by Michael Smith at Origin II in Tamworth a month ago, and that broke a run of four straight buck offs which averaged 6-seconds. This bull tends to finish off his outs in a clockwise direction, but he can fake in either direction before settling into the spin. I like this matchup for the right-handed Burtenshaw, who has covered 4-from-8 bulls across his last three entries. The Coonamble cowboy is 3-for-4 at his two Origin starts, and he is always at his best when the lights are brightest.
Jackson Gray (QLD) on 93 Meet Ya Maker (MJ and Keliher Bucking Bulls)
The Barcaldine talent is quietly going about his business, covering three of the six bulls he has faced at his last three starts, but the scores have been low, and I think he will appreciate the extra scoring potential in this matchup. Meet Ya Maker gave up scores in five of his first ten trips, but he has since gone on to buck off five straight cowboys with some long buck off times. Initially, he turns back to the right but then reverses back to the left. Left-handed riders own three of five scores, and I am backing Gray to become the fourth.
Will Purcell (NSW) on 27 Pirate Patch (Running Gold Bucking Bulls)
I sense that this will be an important trip for the New South Wales team as we edge towards the end of Round 1. Pirate Patch returned to PBR Australia competition at Toowoomba with two solid trips against left-handed riders, with Aaron Kleier coming away with 83.5 points and the Round 3 win. Purcell will be the first right-hander to climb aboard, and the bull’s pattern looks as though it will suit righties more than lefties. The Merrijig bull rider has had an injury-affected run through the last month or two of competition, but he has emerged with a couple of scores and a round win at Origin II in Tamworth. He should be able to build off that performance.
Michael Smith (QLD) on Y62 Super Natural (CF7 Bucking Bulls)
Super Natural has had 25 trips in the PBR, and he has been ridden 11 times for an average ride score of 84.84 points. The last of those went to Sam Woodall at the 2021 Grand Finals for 86.25-points. He is an excellent draw for right-handed riders, with 8 of those qualified rides belonging to right-handed riders. Smith finished runner up to Lachlan Richardson at Origin II with his own 3-for-3 performance to make it 4-from-6 across his last three tour stops. The bull prefers a spin to the right and can’t see the Tully cowboy letting an opportunity this good opportunity slip by into his hand.
Round 2 Matchups
Sam Woodall (NSW) on 627 Ranga (MJ and Keliher Bucking Bulls)
Woodall returned to Australian competition at the Touring Pro Division event in Bloomsbury after spending much of the first half of 2022 competing on the Premier Unleash The Beast tour in the USA. He went 0-for-2 at that event, and things don’t appear much easier here against Ranga, who has bucked off his last five cowboys. We have seen him ridden just four times from 21 trips for an average score of 83.75 points. The interesting stat with this bull is that three of the four scores belong to right-handed riders, even though he almost exclusively turns back to the left. We have seen the Luddenham talent put together some outstanding bull rides in the past six months, so while I don’t have him starting the favourite in this matchup, a qualified ride wouldn’t be a complete surprise.
Kelsey Pavlou (QLD) on Y60 Iron Jacket (Wallace Bucking Bulls)
Iron Jacket is the most rider-friendly bull in the draw for Origin III. He has been covered for 18 qualified rides in his 35 trips and the average score awarded is 85.5 points. This is a rematch from the final round of the 2021 Grand Finals, where the bull won in 4.49 seconds. Pavlou got knocked around at Origin II, and I think the month between events will serve him well. Previously, he had ridden a bull at each of the last five tour stops. The bull likes to turn back to the left, so the Gracemere cowboy will need to get him done away from his hand.
Braith Nock (NSW) on 764 Pay Cheque (CF7 Bucking Bulls)
The Bendemeer rookies form has simmered since he recorded a runner up finish at Toowoomba, covering just one of his last six bulls. He gets an excellent chance to right the ship in the second round against Pay Cheque. This bull does prefer a right-handed spin, but his tempo is very good, and I think he will continue to get along with most riders. At last season’s grand finals, Lachlan Richardson won a round on this bull with 85.5 points, and Caiden Sandilands chalked up a qualified ride for the lefties worth 84.5 points at Rockhampton earlier this year. We can expect Nock’s score to be around the same range.
Jake Curr (QLD) on 636 POA Reload (Dittmann Bucking Bulls)
I think this could be a potential round winning matchup. We have only seen Curr ride at three events this season, and he has covered two of his five bulls. Here he goes up against Reload, who gets ridden 25% of the time, and four of those six scores have been good enough to take the round win. Kurt Shephard is the only left-handed rider to taste success on this bull, twice. During the 2021 season, he was awarded 85.5 points in Rockhampton and 88 in Emerald. This bull prefers a spin to the right, but the left-handed Mount Isa bull rider has the talent to make this one stick.
Lachlan Richardson (NSW) on 664 Flyin Hippie (Wallace Bucking Bulls)
The Gresford veteran leads the Cowboy of Origin competition and is 3-from-4 across his long round bulls in the 2022 Origin series. He is 7-from-10 since Toowoomba, and he has finished inside the top-6 at his last six events. He has faced Flyin Hippie twice so far in PBR competition. In 2020 at Airlie Beach, the bull won quickly in 1.86-seconds, but Richardson bounced back to win the short round at Burnett Heads with 87.5 points a year later. The bull is likely to turn back away from his hand again, but Richardson is in outstanding form, so I will side with the cowboy.
Qynn Andersen (QLD) on 469 Comeback Kid (Dittmann Bucking Bulls)
This is another rematch where bull and rider will do battle for the third time. Comeback Kid has only been out twice in the PBR this season, and on both occasions, it was Andersen who he bucked off. The first was at Rockhampton in April, with the clock stopping at 1.72 seconds, and the second was at the Bull Pit, where the ride lasted 3-seconds. Andersen claimed the Cowboy of Origin award in Newcastle with a 3-for-3 performance, but he has cooled off since then. The bull will turn back to the left and away from the Koumala young-guns hand. We can expect the whole Queensland team to be up and about on the back of the chutes for this matchup, so expect fireworks in what will be an ultra-important late-round matchup.