THIS weekend Road to Rodeo takes over Longreach in the heart of Outback Queensland, and some of the best riders in the business have signed up to contest for the titles.
Among them are local Longreach sisters, 13-year-old Jacy and 12-year-old Tyler Morton (pictured), both emerging rodeo stars who are just as comfortable on a horse as they are on the ground.
Also making the trip west are The Wolfe Brothers, who last week were named winners of the Golden Guitar for Contemporary Album of the Year and for Country Music Capital News Group or Duo of the Year at the Tamworth Country Music Festival.
The pair and their band will be performing live at Longreach at the Rodeo Rock concert on Saturday night.
Tyler Morton said she’d dreamt of competing in the American Rodeo circuit as a barrel racer and in two weeks at Longreach she will compete in the Junior and Open Ladies Barrel.
“I love the speed, the turns and the accuracy of the sport,” she said.
Tyler’s sister Jacy will also compete in the Junior Barrel and then swap saddles for the mini-bull ride.
The girls have been riding since they were babies. Their father, Scott Morton, is a former bull rider who competed in two professional rodeo tours in NZ and as well as around Australia. Mother Meg is also a country girl and horse lover.
In what will prove a moment in Australia rodeo history, Longreach will welcome one of the youngest competitors in eight-year-old Byron Kirk from Mount Isa, who in 2021 shared the poddy calf ride title at the Mount Isa Mines Rodeo.
Australian rodeo legend, 91-year-old Bob Holder, is believed to be the oldest rodeo rider in the world and will grace the saddle in roping events. There’s a staggering 83 years between Holder and young Byron Kirk.
Holder hails from Cootamundra in New South Wales. He’s competed for 76 years and is featured in the sport’s Hall of Fame.
He’s inspired generations of riders, including his daughter Kerrie Holder, who is well known in the APRA circuit and the current Mount Isa Mines Rodeo Open Barrel champion. All eyes will be on this father-daughter-duo at Longreach.
Byron Kirk (pictured) is making the 700km journey from Mount Isa. His mother Melissa said she remembered him seeing his first PBR belt when he was two years old, and saying, “I want to get that belt”.
Also confirmed to ride at Longreach is reigning Mount Isa Mines Rodeo open bareback bronc rider Fred Osman.
Osman stepped out of retirement to compete last year, having last won the title in 2013. The Cameron’s Corner rodeo star also took out the second division bareback bronc title.
Rounding out the trio of champions from the Mount Isa Mines Rodeo set to compete at Longreach is Sam Weston, who scored a remarkable 140 points in the second division saddle bronc competition last year to take the coveted Mount Isa buckle.
Proof that rodeo is a family affair, APRA chair and superstar Shane Iker will compete at Longreach. Iker said he couldn’t hang up his boots because he loved practicing and competing with his son, Jordan.
“If you’re going to be beaten, why not get beaten by your son?” Iker said.
Other famed rodeo names headed to Longreach include Clancy and Tenielle Middleton from Hughenden, the Ferguson family from Cloncurry and Leanne Caban from Emerald.
Road to Rodeo Longreach features a full rodeo program and a knockout country music line-up, starring national music makers and multi-award winners The Wolfe Brothers, Bella Mackenzie, Luke Geiger & Bareback and James Johnston as well as locals Corinne Ballard and John Hawkes.
Between the rodeo action, the country music lineup, the low & slow BBQ on offer and the iconic big outback skies under which it all will happen, Longreach Road to Rodeo is set to host a party for the ages.
The Road to Rodeo series aims to create four new annual rodeo events across Queensland by 2024, representing a long-term economic injection to the state of over $4 million.
The full program be found on the official Road to Rodeo website.