The Morning Line – 2021 Rockhampton Invitational
By: Josh Hanson Saturday, November 13, 2021 @ 7:00 PM
We have made it to the final event of the 2021 PBR Australia regular season, and the race for the national title is down to six cowboys. The riders have plenty to gain tonight and not much to lose, so look for them to throw caution to the wind as they did last weekend in Caboolture.
I think tonight will play out much the same as what we saw last Saturday night. There are tricky matchups littered throughout the draw, so the riders could finish just below the season average riding percentage of 29.34% again, or well above it.
Let's breakdown some of the highlight matchups from the long rounds:
Macaulie Leather on I'm a Thug (Wallace Bucking Bulls)
We kick things off with a great matchup that could set the tone for the night. Leather has been riding quite well here in the business end of the season, covering three of his last six bulls across the last two tour stops and taking the event win in Emerald. He has been handling bulls that have thrown plenty at him all year, and he will need to be at the top of his game here. I'm a Thug has shown plenty of improvement in his rookie season. In his last three trips, he has averaged a bull score of 42.83 points. We are expecting the bull to turn back away from his hand with plenty of pace. This will be a challenge, but it’s an outstanding opportunity for the Calliope young gun to get out in front on the leaderboard and let the field chase him down.
Caiden Sandilands on The Pet (ST Bucking Bulls)
Qualified rides have been hard to come by for Sandilands so far this season, but as we saw at Caboolture last weekend with Beau Willis taking the event win, it only takes one qualified ride to get the train back on the tracks. The Pet has now been covered four times from his five trips in PBR Australia competition for an average score of 83.13 points. He produces a consistent trip, entering an anti-clockwise spin after taking a jump or two out into the arena, and he can reverse to the right late. That should suit the left-handed bull rider from Rockhampton, and he should be able to make the bell and get his night off to an excellent start.
Kelsey Pavlou on M60 (Dunne Bulls)
M60 has split his four outs with the cowboys, with ride scores in the low 80-point range recorded. Troy Wilkinson was the last rider to pick up a score, which was worth 83-points here at the Great Western Hotel last month. This bull likes to turn back to the right, and he looks to buck at quite a nice tempo. That should give Pavlou a great chance to pick up a score riding into his hand. The Toora cowboy has been going well, covering a bull at each of his last six tour stops. If he can stay in good shape in the opening moments of the trip as the bull turns back to the right, he should be able to sit up and finish strong.
Lawson Nobbs on Top Deck (Kleier Bucking Bulls)
Nobbs has been riding very well, covering six of his last ten bulls across the last four tour stops. In all six of those qualified rides, the bull has turned back into his left riding hand. Here, we are expecting the bull to turn back away in the opposite direction. Top Deck has given up four scores from his seven trips in PBR Australia competition, all of which belong to right-handed riders. We have only seen one leftie draw this bull in his career, and he did stumble on that occasion upsetting his rhythm. With a cleaner out, I see no reason why the Moura cowboy can’t add his name to the list of successful riders.
Sam Woodall on Code Blue (Kleier Bucking Bulls)
It has been a difficult run of bulls and a tough couple of months on tour for Woodall. He has covered just three of his last ten draws, with the average buck off time for the seven buck offs well past the mid-point of the ride. On paper this looks to be an excellent opportunity to post a qualified ride and finish well in the round. Code Blue has been ridden five times from twelve trips, with cowboys averaging 83.60 points, with righties owning four of those scores. This bull likes to take a leap or two to clear the chute and turn back to the right. He can be a bit flat on occasions, but he can be fast as well. The Heywood talent should enjoy this draw.
Mitchel Paton on Damage Control (Kleier Bucking Bulls)
The Nebo veteran has had a rough stretch on tour, bucking off seven of his last eight bulls but his ride in the first long round at Emerald a fortnight ago was a confidence builder. Here he goes up against Damage Control, who has allowed just one score from his five career outs in the PBR. The only score went to Kurt Shephard in September for 82-points. The bull likes to mix up his efforts. His first few outs were to the right, and his latest two were to the left. I think the right-handed Paton's experience will get him a long way in his matchup with his ninth PBR Australia Grand Finals in view, no matter which way the bull turns back.
Brady Fielder on Arm Chair (ST Bucking Bulls)
Fielder was a tad disappointing in his first event back from injury at Caboolture. He went 0-for-2 with double points on the line, but I think he will bounce back quickly. He gets a couple of rematch opportunities tonight against bulls that he went up against at Toowoomba last season. Here in the second round, his opponent is Arm Chair, who is unridden through eight trips. Their previous matchup lasted just 2.26 seconds. On that occasion, the bull turned back to the left, but we have seen him spin in either direction. There wouldn't be too many bulls that have gotten past the Clermont talent twice. So no matter which way the bull turns, as long as Fielder starts well, he should stay in the fight for the 8-seconds.
Kurt Shephard on Bang Ya Drum (Dunne Bulls)"Shephard let a couple of good ones get away from him last weekend at Caboolture, so I expect he will be fired up and looking to make amends tonight. Before that performance, he had ridden five of his last nine bulls and closed the gap in the gold buckle race down to a single event. That gap is now out to 141 points, and his chances are slipping away. Here he faces Bang Ya Drum, who he went up against last month in this very arena. The bull turned back to the left and produced an effort jump mid-ride to win the matchup in 4.98 seconds. In the bulls previous two outs, he was covered by a couple of left-handers for 84 and 83.75-points. He can mix up his trips, but either way, I don’t think the Mareeba cowboy will let him slip by again.
Aaron Kleier on Ariat’s Flaunt It (Dunne Bulls)
These two combined for 84.5-points back in June here in Rockhampton, and I see no reason why they can't do it again. I thought Kleier rode well last weekend in his return from a shoulder injury. He showed his frustration after bucking off in Round 1, but he made amends later in the night with a solid ride to win the second round and ultimately finish fourth in the event. Flaunt It turned back to the left and into the cowboy's hand the last time these two met, but his regular trip is around to the right. In his seven trips this year, he has been ridden four times for an average score of 84.63 points, with the Clermont bull rider the only successful left-hander. This bull can try and go a bit too quick and stumble on his rotations which brings a few riders unstuck, but I think Kleier should start the favourite here.
Lachlan Richardson on Freckles Brown (Wallace Bucking Bulls)
This will be the fourth time these two veterans have matched up in a PBR Australia arena, and it has all gone the way of the Gresford cowboy. Richardson owns three of the eight scores recorded in Freckles Brown's 43 trip career. They combined for 83 points at Mackay last season, 84 points for a round win here at Rockhampton in May, and they backed that up with another round win with 87-points at the PBR Origin in Brisbane in July. Freckles Brown has been turning the clock back lately, posting some excellent bull scores. In his first two matchups with Richardson, he turned back to the right, but lately, he has been spinning to the left. With this matchup likely to have a massive bearing on his gold buckle chances, I think Richardson can do it again and extend his record to 4-0.