By HARRY CLARKE

THE Mount Isa Mines Rodeo – the biggest and richest rodeo in the South Hemisphere – will either crown a longtime champion of the sport or platform one of its rising stars.

In 2021 veteran bull rider Troy Wilkinson added the coveted Mount Isa buckle to an already long list of prizes, while last year quiet achieving Barcaldine cowboy Jackson Gray catapulted to rodeo’s upper echelon by winning both the Road to Rodeo lead-up in Longreach and the open bull ride at Isa.

In 2023 Nash Jones, the young cowboy from Glamorgan Vale in Queensland’s Sommerset region, hopes to replicate Gray’s sudden surge in success.

The 17-year-old will this year enter the big league by competing in the Mount Isa Mines Rodeo open bull ride for the first time, having tied for first place in the 2nd Division Bull Ride in 2022 which he said was “probably the highlight of my career”.

Glemorgan Vale cowboy Nash Jones. IMAGE: Pete Wallace

As a youngster Jones made a mark international by finishing 7th in the world in the Youth Bull Riding Finals at Texas and 8th in the world in the International Mini Bull Ride finals at Las Vegas.

Now he has his sights set on Mount Isa open bull ride glory.

“Isa is the biggest and best rodeo in Australia, the stock are top quality and the atmosphere is unreal,” Jones said.

“It would mean the world to win it but obviously the competition is tough. I’m just pumped to be riding in the opens.

“I had my first open bull ride win earlier this year at the Evans Head rodeo and I’m pumped for Mount Isa. I’m getting ready for it. On a good week I probably get on six bulls – practice bulls at home and also in rodeos. I can’t wait.”

This weekend Mount Isa’s famous arena Buchanan Park will host the Road to Rodeo, an exhibition event launched last year to create hype in the lead-up to the main event in August.

As well as a full rodeo program including racing, roping and wrestling events as well as bull riding, dignitaries will gather for a gala dinner at Buchanan Park as Mount Isa celebrates 100 years since the renowned Outback city was established.

Cult music hero Shannon Noll, Cold Chisel’s Ian Moss and country music icon Luke Geiger will headline the entertainment bill for the May 7 event.

Shannon Noll will headline the entertainment bill at this weekend’s Road to Rodeo in Mount Isa

Tickets are still available at $25 per adult and free for those aged under 17. Tickets can be purchased here via the official Mount Isa Mines Rodeo website.

Isa Rodeo Limited CEO Natalie Flecker said it was an important year for the city of Mount Isa.

“This Road to Rodeo event is being staged especially in Mount Isa in 2023 by Isa Rodeo Limited in partnership with the Mount Isa City Council to celebrate the city’s centennial,” Flecker said.

“For 64 of these years the Mount Isa Mines Rodeo has been an integral part of the city’s growth and identity and we can’t wait to celebrate this special event with the Mount Isa community.”

WATCH: Country Caller’s coverage of the 2022 Mount Isa Mines Rodeo

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