Don't call them clowns: Bullriders' heroes are crazy brave
Some people call them clowns. But it doesn't seem right.
These are blokes who get between a ton 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 positionin' 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 watchin' 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 watchin' 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. They 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 this paper, has teamed up with PBR Australia to deliver an adrenalin-filled series of bull riding events around the regions.
Top bull riders will be chasing valuable competition points plus an ARM prize bonus of $20,000.
Tickets for the Ipswich event on October 25 are available now.