12 April, 2023
Mareeba-born bullriding series set to become largest in FNQ
BORN on the sands of the Mareeba Rodeo Grounds, the Great Northern Bullriding Series has grown to unimaginable heights in a few short years and has become Far North Queensland’s largest and most popular amateur bull riding series with potential to even break onto the national stage.
The series’ exponential growth over the past few years can be attributed to its close-up, fast paced action which puts spectators within arm’s reach of the riders as they battle some of Australia’s toughest bulls.
Directed by Mareeba local Peter Brown, alongside an extensive volunteer committee, the series has grown to be the largest amateur event of its kind in the Far North, eclipsing the ABCRA North Queensland Zone, the official bull riding competition of the region.
The series’ growth is evident through the number of rounds being held this year – last year there were only four rounds including the finals, and this year, that number has nearly doubled with seven already scheduled and two more waiting confirmation.
The Great Northern Bullriding Series has even joined forces with the national body, ABCRA, meaning riders competing in the series throughout the year also earn points for the North Queensland Zone title.
ABCRA North Queensland Zone has been struggling for the past couple of years and was close to folding so to help strengthen both it and bull riding in the north as a whole, Mr Brown made the decision to fall under the national body.
“What that means for our zone, ABCRA North Queensland, is whoever wins our title is probably going to win the national title – we have more rounds than they have rodeos,” Mr Brown said.
“The ABCRA North Queensland zone was pretty close to folding – they only had two or three rodeos so we want to add strength to their series.
“All the people who are in the Great Northern Bullriding Series are ABCRA members anyway, so after a chat with the zone president Kyle Milgate, it was decided that we would fall under and support them.”
Mr Brown has even received offers to expand the series further south as far as Bundaberg and even the Sunshine Coast, however as the series is driven by volunteers, that level of expansion is not feasible yet.
“We have had a lot of interest from southern organisation wanting us to go south with our product but we are just not there yet because we have jobs,” he said.
“It is a hobby at the moment, a great hobby and it is doing very well where it is now and the next step is it put it on the national stage.
“That is probably what we should be doing but with that comes new problems – people have to travel, take time off work or even work for the series.”
Spectators and riders alike are consistently drawn to the series as the crowd gets an electric show and competitors have a shot at winning big money. This year’s total prize money exceeds $45,000, with the title winner set to pocket $10,000.
However, the riders are not the only ones who financially benefit from the series as each round a local community group or charity is chosen to fundraise for – past recipients include the Mareeba RSL-Sub Branch, Make-A-Wish Foundation and more.
The series made its way to Innisfail for the first-time last year and a small pony club was approached to help run the series. They ended up making close to $50,000 just from one round of the bull ride.
“Every year, that club would raise money through goose raffles and what not and they would make about $2,500 a year and it was a hard slog selling tickets,” Mr Brown said.
“From the bull ride, they made $45,000 and that is because they worked hard and they deserved every cent they got.”
This year, the final round returns to Atherton for a third time running due to the great support council and the local community has shown every year as they raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“Over the last two years, we have partnered with Make-A-Wish Foundation at our finals to raise money for this worthy organisation,” he said.
“Dallas Roesler and her team do a fabulous job at Make-a-Wish for our community in particular so we feel it is only right we continue that support.
“The crowds in Atherton are also among the best crowds so it makes for a great night.”
The series’ growth is being recognised across the country and “the proof is in the pudding” as Mr Brown just signed a three-year deal with the Great Northern Brewing Company.
The first round of the Great Northern Bullriding Series is being held in Mareeba this weekend in a special Anzac Day round before travelling around the region and finishing with the finals on 11 November.