10 May 2023

Huge crowds flock to Weipa Bullride

| Matt Nicholls
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Numbers soared in the arena, too, with massive entries across most of the events.

Organisers estimated around 2000 piled in on Friday night and close to 3000 attended on Saturday, which featured the open bull ride heats.

“It’s just amazing. We thought the crowd was unbelievable,” said Weipa Bullride president Russell Scikluna late on Saturday night.

“We saw the big crowd on the first night and we had to move the grandstands back a few metres on Saturday so we could fit more people in. It’s been a huge success.”

The quality of the riding backed up the enthusiasm from the crowd.

In the open bull ride, Tully product Luke Smith had the last ride of the night and pulled out all stops to produce a winning performance.

Needing a score better than 86 to pick up the winner’s cheque, the now Mareeba resident held his nerve aboard bucking beast “Poncho” to survive the eight seconds and score a massive 89.

Smith, enjoying his first Weipa Bullride, was thrilled with the win.

“This is my first time here and it was awesome,” the 22-year-old said with a huge grin.

“It was also my first ever open bull ride win, so I am stoked.”

Runner-up was Townsville star Braydon Wellby, who was actually the first rider on the card.

But Wellby was at somewhat of a disadvantage, having spent the whole weekend in the arena as a rodeo clown, or “protection athlete” as they are known in 2021.

It was also Wellby’s first trip to Weipa and he said he would be back again next year.

“If I knew it was like this I would have been here a few times before. The atmosphere was unreal,” the 24-year-old said.

The prizemoney for the Bushman’s Buckjump on broncs went unclaimed, with no rider able to last the eight seconds on horseback. It was the same story for the women’s bullock ride, which has gone unclaimed for many years.

“I’ve got the belt buckle from four years ago and we changed the time from eight seconds to six seconds to find a winner,” said long-serving committee member Tammy Tierney.

“We might have to change it to four seconds next year,” she said with a smile.

The future of the event appears to be in good hands with a number of up-and-comers showing their skill in the arena.

The aptly named Jackson Stockman took honours in the Novice Bull Ride, beating Patrick Hart and Alan Gilbo for the honour.

Stockman, an Atherton farmer, also finished third in the Open Bull Ride event.

One of the most popular riders on the weekend was Kowanyama young gun Tennison Paul, who won both the Open Bullock Ride and the Junior Bullock Ride.

His enthusiasm and style should make him a top bullrider on the circuit for years to come.

The Gordon legacy also lived on, with Sunny Gordon taking out the Junior Steer Ride.

In the steer wrestling, husband and wife duo Leighton and Cass Taske each won their respective men’s and women’s divisions.

The stockman’s challenge novelty event was also a highlight.

Although the date has yet to be officially announced, it is almost certain the 2022 event will be held on August 19 and 20 next year.

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