THE president of the Weipa Rodeo Association says this year’s event might have been the best one yet after record crowds filed through the gates on the weekend.
“I think it went all right,” said the modest Russell Scikluna.
“We’re always fine tuning things but I think the addition of the new events made a positive difference.
“Having the barrel racing does add a new element and gives some more opportunity for people who might not be interested in getting bucked off a bull.
“It certainly helped lift female participation, which is important to us as a committee.”
The other new addition was the introduction of mini bulls, which gave older kids something more serious to jump on instead of the usual poddy ride.
“They were awesome, but I must admit we did have six or seven young kids pull out because they were a bit bigger than what we are used to seeing in Weipa,” Russell said with a smile.
“But the point of doing it was to give Cape York kids a chance to develop their skills because there isn’t a lot of opportunity up here.”
Russell also paid tribute to the long-serving committee stalwarts, such as Dave Rutherford, Tammy Tierney and Steve Fairbrother.
“Those names you just mentioned – and there are a few more – are the reason the Weipa Rodeo is what it is today,” he said.
“They are the core of the event and we’re just adding to what they built. The work ethic they bring and the vision they started set the bar very high for us newcomers.”
The president was thrust into a less comfortable role over the two days following the withdrawal of Weipa Rodeo royalty Luke Quartermaine, who was spending time with his family after long periods away working.
Luke is the perfect secondary man on the microphone to complement Locky Bensted, but is best known for his work with the gas-fired lolly gun – a favourite of the kids.
“I think I may have filled one shoe and that’s just about it,” said Russell.
“Lukey Quartermaine is our number one person and it’s his job next year if he’s here.
“He had other commitments this year and he was missed, for sure.”
The president, who now lives and works at Watson River Station, also praised the professional cowboys who came in to lead the Cape of Origin teams.
Donovan Rutherford, Anthony Ryan and Brayden Wellby might have been paid for their efforts, but they more than earned their fees.
“What I loved most is that they are so passionate about the sport,” Russell said.
“They don’t just come up here and ride their bull and go home, they get right into it.
“The crowd wouldn’t be able to see what they do behind the chutes but they are so encouraging of our young riders and always providing plenty of tips and feedback.
“For Weipa to get three cowboys who are at the top of their game is a big effort and we’d have them all back next year, for sure.”
Russell also said he was thrilled to see the support for the event’s charity partner, Talk About It Tuesday, formed by Cape York locals Jackie Perry and Debbie Jackson after they lost their sons to suicide.