We head back to Tamworth for the second time this season, and the bull riders will have to overcome a tricky pen of bulls if they are to be crowned the Iron Cowboy. In April at PBR Origin II, the riding percentage in this arena finished at just over 35% for the night. We can expect to land somewhere similar tonight, with a good batch of experienced bulls drawn amongst the up-and-coming talent in all three rounds.
A lot of the chatter this week has been about the double championship points on offer. That means that there are 210 points up for grabs available tonight, and with the No. 1 ranked Aaron Kleier absent from competition with a leg injury, there are some massive gains to be had at both ends of the National Standings leaderboard.
Here are my highlight matchups:
Round 1 Matchups
Lachlan Slade on 521 Outback Cat (Lazy G Bucking Bulls)
The Tamworth cowboy has put together some nice rides at his last couple of appearances at the Touring Pro Division level to sit just inside the top 20. He picked up the opening-round win at Quirindi and also got on the board in the early round at Kilkivan last month. Outback Cat has only had two trips this season, and he has picked up the wins in 5.18 and 3.74 seconds, with bull scores averaging 39-points. In the bull’s other career out, he was ridden by Jake Curr for 81-points at the 2019 Melbourne Invitational. On that occasion, he turned back to the left, but he has since shown us a preference to turn right, which should suit the right-handed Slade.
Dan Ruhland on 717 Colewell King (MJ Bucking Bulls and Keliher Bucking Bulls)
We have only seen one right-handed rider draw Colewell King so far in his career, and that was Cody Heffernan. He came away with 83 points at Cooyar earlier this season. Aaron Kleier made the bell for 81-points a fortnight later in Rockhampton. This bull likes to take a jump or two out into the arena and turn back to the right, so I think the righties will continue to do well aboard this bull. Ruhland has come away with just one score from his past three events. He sits 30th in the National Standings, so he has a bit of work to do if he wants to make it to Townsville, and a qualified ride here will give the Mount Walker young gun a nice push towards that cut line.
Will Purcell on 910 On Bail (MJ Bucking Bulls and Keliher Bucking Bulls)
The Merrijig talent has slid to the 14th position over the past few months and he has covered just one bull from his last seven attempts, but he has drawn some difficult bulls during that run. On Bail has had four trips in the PBR, and he has been ridden for a score three times. All three scores belong to right-handed riders, and I think it will be Purcell’s turn to add his name to the list of successful cowboys. Cody Heffernan was 84.5 and 85.5 points at Bloomsbury and Kilkivan, while Lachlan Richardson was 83-points at Maryborough. This bull likes to turn right and spin quickly.
Brady Fielder on 621 Rip Slinger (MJ Bucking Bulls and Keliher Bucking Bulls)
Fielder holds down the sixth place in the standings despite spending much of the year competing in the USA. He rode very well through September, covering a bunch of bulls to help the Rattlers begin their rise up the PBR teams leaderboard. In the opening round tonight, he has picked up a rematch with Rip Slinger, who has been covered in around 33% of his trips for an average score of around 81.5-points. This bull got the better of him during the 2020 season in Rockhampton, with the buck-off coming at 5.16 seconds. Advantage should tip the way of the Clermont bull rider, with the bull expected to continue to turn back to the right.
Round 2 Matchups
Qynn Andersen on 710 Great White Hunter (TnR Bucking Bulls)
The Koumala talent has been riding very well over the last few months of competition and sits third in the standings. He continues to cover over 50% of his bulls this season and looks to be riding full of confidence. Last weekend in Rockhampton, he went 2-from-2 to pick up the third event win of his career and cut Kleier’s advantage by over 70-points to 280-points. With a strong result here tonight, he can keep his name in the Gold Buckle conversation and secure the Rookie of the Year award. His opponent is one of the lesser-known bulls in this round, but from what we saw from Great White Hunter at the K-Ranch Invitational in October, I think he will turn out to be quite a friendly draw. In the bull’s debut trip, he cleared the chute and turned back in a clockwise direction. If he produces a similar trip here in Tamworth tonight, I think Andersen will finish on top with a low-mid 80-point range score.
Jay Borghero on 411 Mr Buckmore (TnR Bucking Bulls)
This matchup looks fantastic on paper. Mr Buckmore is one of the better-known bulls in this round, and he gets ridden around 25% of the time. Five of the six qualified rides have resulted in round wins. Four of those six belong to right-handed riders (The other two belong to Aaron Kleier). Borghero has been fired up since his return to PBR competition, and I know he really enjoys getting on these rank ones. He has come away with a couple of round wins from his two event starts and climbed all the way to the No. 13 spot in the standings. Look for the Beaudesert cowboy to throw everything at this bull, and an 8-second ride should almost guarantee him a pick in the Championship Round draft.
Jake Curr on 31 Ranch Kitty (MJ Bucking Bulls and Keliher Bucking Bulls)
Curr is another rider who has been going along nicely, sitting fifth in the country with his season riding percentage sitting above 50%. He has covered four of his nine bulls across his last four events, and he picked up a big event win in Mackay last month. That was the Mount Isa talent’s third event win from his past six events across PBR Australia’s tours. Aaron Kleier rode ranch Kitty in his debut trip for 83-points, but the bull has since gone on to buck off three-straight cowboys. I am not too sure what this bull’s regular trip is. He tends to leave the chutes, fake right and feel for the rider before choosing a direction. If he goes left I think they combine for a score, but if he decides to go right, it’s more of a coin toss.
Lachlan Richardson on 618 Shotgun Willy (Lazy G Bucking Bulls and May)
Shotgun Willy is a bull that we have only seen a handful of times on tour, but it appears he may be a favourite of the riders. Brady Fielder covered him in his debut for 85-points at Scone, and Aaron Kleier scored 84 points for a round win at the K-Ranch. On each occasion, he has been out and around to the right, which should suit Lachlan Richardson. The Gresford veteran struggled through the middle of the season, but he looks to be gaining some momentum and still holds onto the No. 4 ranking. He has ridden three bulls across his last four tour stops, and last weekend in Rockhampton, he took both of his bulls past the 6-second mark. This bull looks like an excellent fit for him, and he needs a solid finish to keep himself in title contention.
Sam Woodall on 689 Russian Roulette (ST Bucking Bulls)
Woodall and Russian Roulette have matched up three times in their PBR careers, and the bull has won on all three occasions. In their latest matchup at Rockhampton last year, the clock stopped at 5.72 seconds with a 42.5-point bull score awarded. Russian Roulette is a bull that makes you work for your points. He has a lot of tricks up his sleeve, with the only consistent trait being that he prefers a turn back to the left. He has bucked off eighteen-straight cowboys since Fraser Babbington produced a gem of a ride for 88-points on his way to winning the 2019 Newcastle Invitational. Woodall sits 22nd in the standings and will need to give this everything he has to reach the bell. With a Grand Finals spot on the line, I doubt the Heywood cowboy will be far away.
Cody Heffernan on 624 A Force (ST Bucking Bulls)
The No. 2 ranked Heffernan has been riding great. He has ridden five of his last nine bulls, with four of those good enough to take out the round. That four-event stretch has seen him trim Kleier’s lead in the gold buckle race from 320 points to 258 points, so a strong performance can close that gap down to just a couple of placings in the Grand Finals aggregate and really apply some pressure. This is a very interesting matchup. When I was doing the stats on A Force, it was a surprise that right-handers cover this bull at a very similar success rate as the lefties, given that this bull prefers a spin to the left. But in just four of his eighteen outs in the PBR, we have seen him turn to the right. In all four of those trips, he has had a right-hander aboard, and Lane Mellers, Mitch Paton and Lachlan Slade all took full advantage. Coincidence? Probably not. Do I look way too closely into statistics sometimes? No doubt, but no matter which way the bull turns, I think the Singleton cowboy has a great shot, but as you see above, it’s probably not going to be as straightforward as a glance at the stats suggest.