The Morning Line – 2021 Rockhampton Invitational
By: Josh Hanson Saturday, October 2, 2021 @ 3:35 PM
The run towards the 2021 PBR Grand Finals continues at Rockhampton's Great Western Hotel this evening, and the race for the gold buckle hots up with most title contenders drawing well in at least one of the rounds.
At last month's event inside 'The Arena', the cowboys posted one of the lowest riding percentages of the season, but tonight I expect will see them bounce back towards the season average of 29.51%.
Here are my must-see matchups for the long rounds:
Kurt Shephard on Iron Jacket (Wallace Bucking Bulls)
The Mareeba cowboy has drawn very well here in Round 1. From his 30 trips in PBR Australia competition, 17 scores have been recorded aboard Iron Jacket. All but one of those has been good enough to place in the Top-3 of the round. He can mix up his trips, but generally from the right delivery, we see him turn back to the left. That will put him into Shephard's hand, with the rider starting a short-priced favourite to make the whistle. In 2018, these two combined for 85-points here in Rockhampton at Browne Park.
Aaron Kleier on Little Thunder (ST Bucking Bulls)
Little Thunder is yet to be ridden in PBR Australia competition, dumping all 11 riders he has faced with an average buck off time of 4.16 seconds. Kleier has made a habit of conquering the unridden, especially in long rounds throughout his career. The bull should turn back to the left, which puts him perfectly into the Clermont talent's wheelhouse. We should see this matchup go down to the wire, but I would expect Kleier to enter the chutes quite confident of reaching the whistle.
Sam Woodall on Random Assault (Dunne Bulls)
Woodall returns from injury tonight, and he looks to have drawn well for the opening round of the event. Random Assault has been ridden twice in his seven trips under the PBR Australia banner so far. During the 2021 PBR Origin series, Lachlan Slade was 85.5 points, and Troy Wilkinson scored 82.5 points. Previously, the bull has turned back to the right, which will suit the Heywood bull rider and give him a chance to improve on his 50% season riding percentage.
Brady Fielder on Bad Moon (Dunne Bulls)
Fielder is another rider who has drawn well in the first long round. The Clermont cowboy may have bucked off his last three bulls in PBR Australia competition, but he has been on fire in the past few weeks on the rodeo circuit. Three riders have ridden time on Bad Moon so far in his 10-out career. He likes to fake to the left as he leaves the chutes but then turns back to the right, which should tip the odds in Fielders favour. Lachlan Richardson was 83.5 points on this bull just a few weeks ago at Burnett Heads.
Macaulie Leather on Ariat's Flaunt It (Dunne Bulls)
Leather continues to track along nicely in his rookie season, and this looks like a challenging but obtainable task for him. Ariat's Flaunt It had been ridden in four straight trips for an average score of 84.62 points before he stopped the run at the September event here inside The Arena. Three of those scores went to right-handers, with the bull preferring a clockwise spin. But the bull did mix it up and turned back to the left, with leftie Aaron Kleier here in June. So, this matchup could go either way, but I think the Calliope young-gun is going well enough to ride him in either direction.
Lachlan Richardson on Breaking Bad (MJ Bucking Bulls and Keliher Bucking Bulls)
The Gresford talent has ridden two of his last three bulls on tour, and he looks to be building for a big finish to the season. He has drawn a formidable opponent in Round 1, but if he can get past that bull, Breaking Bad looks to be an excellent chance for Richardson to make it two for two. We have only seen this bull three times in the PBR, and he has produced a different trip on each occasion. Kurt Shephard has ridden this bull twice, with scores of 78 and 83-points recorded during the current season.
Taran Chirgwin on The Pet (ST Bucking Bulls)
Chirgwin has drawn some tough bulls at the past few events, so I think he will be looking to take advantage in this matchup. The Pet has been out three times in PBR Australia competition, and he has given up a score in each performance. Two left-handers feature in the scores column, with Bailey Woodard marked 82-points and Kurt Shephard awarded 85 points. Both times, the bull turned back to the left, but he did turn to the right in his other trip. The Calliope bull rider has made a couple of good bull rides since returning to PBR competition earlier this year, and I don't see any reason why he can't move the cowboys to a 4-0 record here.
Dan Ruhland on A Force (ST Bucking Bulls)
A Force has been ridden twice so far in his seven trip PBR Australia career, but most riders have made it deep into the 8-seconds. This bull appears to favour a left-handed spin, but he has mixed things up with a turn to the right or a mid-ride reversal on the odd occasion. Righties Lane Mellers and Mitch Paton have posted qualified rides in the past 12 months - worth 85.5 and 81-points. Ruhland is another cowboy who has worked his way through some tough September draws. I think the Mount Walker young-gun has a great chance at posting a score no matter which trip the bull chooses.
Troy Wilkinson on M60 (Dunne Bulls)
Wilkinson is another rider that has been riding well on the rodeo circuit, and he returns for his first PBR Australia event since the 2021 Origin Series wrapped up in Cairns. We haven't seen the best of the 2017 National Champion this season, and he currently sits outside of the automatic Grand Finals qualification spots. M60 has been ridden once in his career, and that 80.50-point score went to Joe Down in 2020. He will turn back to the right, putting him away from the Upper Horton cowboy's hand. There looks to be a lot on the line in this matchup, and I think Wilkinson will get the job done.
Lawson Nobbs on Makin' 8 Bucksnort (Wallace Bucking Bulls)
This matchup looks like an excellent opportunity for Nobbs to contend for the round win. Makin' 8 Bucksnort has been ridden in his last two trips for scores of 83.5 and 85.5 points, with left-handed riders Cody Fraser and Bailey Woodard both successful. Four of the five qualified rides recorded on this bull in his PBR career belong to left-handed riders. That bodes well for the Moura bull rider. Nobbs has been covering bulls at over 50% so far this year and he has been outstanding riding bulls that turn back into his hand. Bucksnort has been around for quite a while now, so I'd expect Nobbs to know the intense trip that this bull will deliver.