Twenty-three of Australia’s best bull riders will face a similar bull pen as they faced at the last PBR Australia Monster Energy Tour event in Mackay a fortnight ago.
With two full rounds and no championship round, it could be a tough night for riders with many of the regular short-go bulls allocated in the long-round draws. Riders only covered 23.25% of the bulls in Mackay, but we usually see the riding percentage rise as we string a few events together.
Round 1 Matchups
Aaron Kleier vs Cloud Jumper (Dittmann Bucking Bulls)
The current No. 1 ranked bull rider in the country gets us underway in Rockhampton. Kleier has faced Cloud Jumper twice, recording scores of 89.0 and 86.0 points. The bull tends to jump around and mixes up his trips but always has a nice high kick. Kleier was on fire before the event in Mackay where things didn’t go to plan. I expect him to bounce back here and get the night off to a great start.
Michael Smith vs Jungle Thunder (Dunne Bulls)
Smith currently leads the PBR Australia Rookie of the Year race and looks to have drawn a nice bull here in Round 1. Jungle Thunder has been covered in three of his four outs at PBR level. He is a nice fit for right-handed riders and bucks with good rhythm. Sonny Schafferius made the whistle for 83-points in Mackay a fortnight ago. Smith has bucked off his last five bulls but this looks a good opportunity to get the train back on the tracks.
Cody Heffernan vs Jackie Who (Dunne Bulls)
Jackie Who combined with Ryan Storey in Mackay for a round winning 86.5 points and I think we could see a replica of that ride here with Heffernan aboard. The bull has now been covered his last three outs with the bull usually turning back to the right after a few big jumps. Heffernan has covered seven of his last twelve bulls since Newcastle and he gets another bull that suits him here.
Bailey Woodard vs Domino Effect (Dunne Bulls)
This is a rematch from the 2017 Iron Cowboy where the bull won in 4.16 seconds with a score of 42.75. The bull can mix his trips and try to fake riders out but he generally ends up to the left. In Mackay he stayed right and bucked off Kurt Shephard in 4.55 seconds. Woodard has been riding well, covering 5 of his last 9 bulls and despite going scoreless in Mackay, looked to be holding his good form.
Cliff Richardson vs Zoo Animal (BK Bucking Bulls)
Richardson returns to home soil and has a tough draw here in Round 1. The bull is unridden but from what we saw in his last out, I think Richardson will be the rider to conquer him. Braydon Wellby took the bull to 7.24 seconds in Cairns with the bull taking a big jump out of the chutes and turning back to the left. I think Richardson will be hungry to get an early score on the board in Rockhampton and keep the pressure on Kleier in the race for the PBR Australian National Championship.
Ryan Storey vs Disco Duck (Diamond J Rodeo Co.)
Storey is in the midst of a purple patch, covering four of his last six draws which includes the 90.5-point ride in the Mackay Championship Round. I think he will match up with Disco Duck quite well. We have only seen this bull ridden once and that was at the 2017 Last Cowboy Standing by J.W. Harris for 84.5 points. They bull tends to turn back left initially before changing direction. With Storey in such good form, it is hard to bet against the veteran in this matchup.
Kurt Shephard vs Iron Jacket (Wallace Bucking Bulls)
The 24-year-old made a solid return to PBR competition in Mackay and I like his Round 1 matchup. Iron Jacket has become a rider favourite giving up four qualified rides in seven outs. The bull takes a big leap out of the chutes and turns back to the right, which isn’t ideal for a left-handed rider, but if Shephard can make the turn back, we could see some big numbers posted.
Round 2 Matchups
Kurt Shephard vs Road Rage (Fred Kleier)
This matchup is a rematch from the last event in Mackay where they combined for 83.5 points to finish second in Round 1. If they bull turns back to the right again, we should see another qualified ride posted.
Ryan Storey vs Super Natural (Wallace Bucking Bulls)
This bull likes to turn back to the right and seems to get faster and faster as the ride progresses. Budd Williamson faced this bull in the Mackay short round, lasting 3.2 seconds but he is better suited to right handed riders. The bull was last covered by Brennon Eldred at the Global Cup for 84.25 points but we could go a tick higher here if they make the whistle.
Sam Woodard vs Silent Rage (Dittmann Bucking Bulls)
Another rematch from Mackay where I expect a reverse in the result. Silent Rage won their matchup in Mackay in 3.11 seconds. The bull is a great fit for most right-handed riders and I think that gives Woodard a big advantage here. With the experience of their last matchup under his belt, we should see the cowboy get a score here.
Bailey Woodard vs High Class Hooker (Dittmann Bucking Bulls)
Woodard will face High Class Hooker for the second time in a fortnight. The bull did stumble in Mackay which resulted in a 3.18-second buck-off. High Class Hooker is usually to the right and he gets away clean, I think Woodard will be hard to dislodge.
Cody Heffernan vs POA Fully Locked & Loaded (Dittmann Bucking Bulls)
Fully Locked & Loaded has now given up two qualified rides in his last three outs. We could see another score here with Heffernan in good form. These two are yet to meet but I think they will be a good fit for each other. A score here should be in the excellent range.
Aaron Kleier vs King Kong (Fred Kleier)
Kleier will be the last to go and will face King Kong for the first time in PBR Competition. The bull consistently produces strong outs and is generally to the right with a good kick. If Kleier can stay out over the front end we will see a score with big numbers expected.