TATE Van Wel went into the 2019 season in the Australian Professional Rodeo Association aiming to make the top 15 in steer wrestling to qualify for the national finals for the first time.
The Charters Towers cowboy beat his own goal when he finished the season at the top of the standings.
"It is pretty cool to finish on top against so many good riders," he said.
His best performance was at the Nebo Rodeo where he had a personal best time of 3.55 seconds to split first with close friend Luke Holmes.
The Warwick Rodeo APRA National Finals are on October 24-27 with three night rounds and then the final round on the Sunday.
After growing up in Townsville, Van Wel moved to Charters Towers where he started competing in rodeo.
"I started as a bull rider and then had a go on a few saddle bronc horses before deciding to concentrate on steer wrestling," he said.
"We train three to four times a week at two properties. If I am in only one event, all the training will be in that event."
"I enjoy the rural lifestyle at Charters Towers and went in the rodeo for a bit of fun," he said. "I needed a hobby."
At the national finals, van Wel plans to be as prepared as he can be.
"We are going down to Warwick a couple of days early," he said. "I am hoping to win, you bet. Being on top of the standings is an advantage but anything can happen on the day."
The Charters Towers rider has only missed a couple of his steers this season.
If he can record four times at the finals, he will give himself the best possible chance of victory.
He is set to ride the horse, Kruze, from the Gibb family at the finals. "Five of the 15 are likely to ride Kruze in the steer wrestling in Warwick," he said.
During the season, he won both rodeos at Bowen River and was second at Cloncurry and third in the average at Mt Isa.
One of his best weekends of the season was on the Victorian long weekend in March when he had a first, third and fourth in Tri-State rodeos at Merrijig, Chiltern and Kyabram.
He travelled to the tri-state rodeos with fellow North Queensland cowboys Brad Alloway (steer wrestling) and Brad Rolley (saddle bronc).
"We travelled 6500 kilometres in six days," he said.
As well as the four-round national finals, there will be a second-division and junior rodeo at the Warwick Showgrounds on October 26-27.