SOME people call them clowns. But it doesn't seem right.
These are blokes who get between a tonne of angry bull and the bloke it would really like to stomp on, the bloke who had been annoyingly clinging to its back a few seconds before.
They're the bullfighters - the protection athletes - in professional bull riding, and they're as mad as cut snakes.
"They are nuts," says Glen Young, boss at Professional Bull Riding Australia.
"It's a job that I don't get too many resumés for, let's put it that way."
But you can hear the respect in his voice. Glen has been on (and off) the backs of bulls himself and he knows how good these guys are.
"They're very good cattle people. They understand the movements and the psychology of these bulls," he says.
"They're positioning themselves all the time. They see them quite a lot, they know what bulls they need to get close to, what bulls they need to stay away from. They're always watching the feet movement to work out which way to lead the bull away from the rider.
"And they work as a team. When a bull rider comes down, one bull fighter will get in and take the bull's attention away and the other will go into position to protect the rider on the ground and get him to safety.
"When you get two guys that work great together it's bloody poetry in motion, like watching a good dancer.
"I've seen guys carry on with broken bones and fulfil their position until the last bull has bucked. It's not like a referee blows a whistle and calls time out and you get carried off."
Among Aussie bullfighter stars are Shane 'Mad Dog' Simpson, who retired last year, and Darrell Diefenbach. Both stepped up into the leading ranks of protection athletes in the US.
"Our three key guys (in PBR Australia) are Mitch Russell from down near Maitland, NSW, Clint Kelly from around Rockhampton way, and Lincoln Brown from NSW," says Glen.
"For some reason the kids just love 'em."
Australian Regional Media, publisher of Rural Weekly and The Daily Examiner, has teamed up with PBR Australia to deliver an adrenaline-filled series of bull riding events around the regions, including Grafton on March 28.
Top bull riders will be chasing valuable competition points plus an ARM prize bonus of $20,000.
Adult Premium Ringside $40
Children 4-16 Premium Ringside $20
Family Premium Ringside (2 adults 2 children 4-16) $100
General Admission adult $30
General admission children $15
General admission family $75
Drop in to The DEX office, 55 Fitzroy St Grafton, or head online to www.eventopia.co to buy your tickets.
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