By HARRY CLARKE
TURNING the tables on what’s been a woefully one-sided State of Origin contest on the rugby league field, Queensland’s top bull riders have beaten their New South Wales counterparts to take an early lead in the three-part PBR Origin series.
It was a back and forth battle between the Blues and the Maroons before a packed house of more than 5,500 spectators at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.
Ariat cowboy Lachlan Slade was the top performer on the night, riding time on two out of three bulls for a combined total of 172 points.
The win moves him to up to fifth place on the 2021 Australian PBR Championship, which is currently led by Queensland captain Aaron Kleier.
Unfortunately for Slade, he missed the chance to steal victory for NSW on the final ride of the night by failing to overcome the fearsome, top-ranked bull Cattle King Boogers Beach, which remains unridden after 13 bucks.
“I was disappointed I couldn’t ride my last bull to win it for NSW but when you get on the best bulls, a little mistake like that – you can be done,” Slade said.
“When you know what a big bull like that is capable of, you have butterflies. You’re ticking in the chest. He yanks you. He’s a good bull.”
A clutch moment 8-second ride by Mundubbera cowboy Lane Mellors put Queensland in front by one ride in the bonus round. The 2017 PBR rookie of the year now sits at 7th on the national rankings and 99th in the world.
As well as Kleier with his 169-point double, standout performers included Cody Heffernan and Ariat’s Lachlan Richardson, both from NSW, who scored 87-point rides.
PBR Australia general manager Glen Young said the Origin concept, now in its third year, was proving to be a success.
“In the US they’re moving towards teamed events, so it sort of made sense for us that if we’re going to do a teamed event, we’ll do an Origin event,” Young said.
“It’s all new to the rider. It’s something that they rise for. Everyone wants to ride for their state and it’s a legitimate competition for them. It’s not just an exhibition event.
“You know what Queensland and New South Wales teams are like – they want the bragging rights.”
The PBR Origin will move on to the Cairns Convention Centre on July 17 before finishing at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre on October 23.
For the full schedule visit the official PBR Australia website.
INTERVIEW WITH LACHLAN SLADE