Cowboys down in Clermont

Government support for bull riding hot topic at Clermont gathering

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PBR Rookie of the Year Brady Fielder and champion rider Aaron Kleier, pictured with fellow Clermont sports star, Queensland country apprentice jockey of the year, Emma Bell, at a function in Clermont to celebrate their achievements.

PBR Rookie of the Year Brady Fielder and champion rider Aaron Kleier, pictured with fellow Clermont sports star, Queensland country apprentice jockey of the year, Emma Bell, at a function in Clermont to celebrate their achievements.

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Being a champion Australian sports star doesn't always guarantee the money will be rolling in, and choosing to live in a remote area to practise your sport squeezes the finances even more.

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Being a champion Australian sports star doesn't always guarantee the money will be rolling in, and choosing to live in a remote area to practise your sport squeezes the finances even more.

Speaking after a function in Clermont that celebrated the recent success of three local heroes, PBR Australia 2019 champion Aaron Kleier and Rookie of the Year Brady Fielder, as well as Queensland country racing Apprentice of the Year, Emma Bell, publican Kelvin Appleton called for more government recognition and funding for the young bull riders.

"Travel is the big thing for them out here," he said.

"To stay in the competition and accumulate points, they might have to do one ride in one place one day and another somewhere else the next day.

"You've got to have the sponsorship behind you so you can get off this bull, pick yourself up, get in a car or on a plane and get to your next rodeo and score the points."

Compounding that was the cost of flying out from regional airports to Brisbane and then on the next destination, rather than being able to make direct flights.

As Aaron's mother Julie Kleier said, distance was the greatest obstacle for bull riders in Australia to surmount, especially when the amount of travel involved meant it was difficult to hold down a full-time job.

"It's different in Australia than overseas - we have the distance here, and flying out from rural airports costs a lot more.

"They fly from Emerald or Mackay to get to Brisbane and then fly again, so sometimes they go to Brisbane and then to the opposite end of the state, but they've got to get to that main centre first."

While there is good money on offer on the PBR Australia circuit - Kleier won over $55,000 with a 65 per cent strike rate from the 60 bulls he took on in 2019 - as his mother said, he's got to be winning to make those dollars.

Since going professional in 2017, successful rides have earned him anywhere between $64 and nearly $7000 in a weekend. Then there are the rides where he's bucked off and there's no take-home winnings.

PBR Australia general manager Glen Young said all governing bodies in the sport of rodeo and bull riding would like to see more sponsorship and government support, PBR included.

"We are doing all we can to increase the value of our sport to sponsors, but to do this it also takes investment in the product to ensure it stacks up against other sports in order to be competitive for the sponsorship dollar," he said. "Riders are free to get their own sponsors and many have these days; it's really no different to other sports."

The world of individual athlete sponsorship was not only about how good an athlete one was but also about how many social media followers they had and their compatibility to the brand as an ambassador.

Related: Kleier defends Australian PBR crown

As far as other work, Mr Young said there were a number of cowboys that held down full time jobs in Australia, that regarded what they won as a very good second income.

"They will also locate themselves to where they can hold down a job as well as compete," he said.

Julie Kleier said her 21-year-old son had begun working for someone near Dysart when he left school but as his commitments with rodeo mounted, it got to the stage where they were unable to negotiate their work schedule around Aaron's rides.

"He's currently working at home," she said. "We're probably the only people that will employ him - some weeks he does two days a week, some weeks he does three days a week."

Mr Appleton said the community had chipped in to support their local heroes but with tough seasonal times over a number of years, it was getting harder to ask people to put their hand in their pocket.

"I don't think it's much to ask the state government just to put a bit of money behind them," he said.

"They're up with the best in the world if they've got the opportunities to compete.

"They can't go to the Australian Institute of Sport and be funded and trained."

Read more: Clermont young gun in PBR world finals

According to a spokesman for Queensland's sports department, initiatives such as campdrafting could receive state government funding but bull riders were currently not eligible.

Ms Kleier said that lack of recognition had been apparent when Aaron was pursuing the sport at school.

Because it wasn't listed as a sport, they were never eligible for the funding assistance other junior sportspeople received.

"I think because it's a really individual sport, there's not the team aspect," she said. "And I think the animal welfare has a lot to do with it."

According to the departmental spokesman, the Department of Agriculture was reviewing Queensland animal welfare standards for animals at rodeos and any recommendations from that review would be considered by the sports department.

PBR's Glen Young said animal activists were forever targeting sponsors and venues for supporting bull riding.

"There are certain guidelines and regulations to obtain government funding; it's not easy but we continue to develop our sport so one day it will meet all the requirements," he said.

"In saying that we do have a couple of events that meet certain requirements that make them eligible for tourism funding which in turn helps market events and the sport.

"Others use the pathway we have so they can qualify for the majors in the USA where the big prizemoney is on offer.

PBR Australia is a pathway for Australian cowboys to qualify into the major league level in the USA. If a rider is in the top 20 rankings in Australia they don't pay an entry fee to compete.

Mr Young said in 2019 PBR Australia paid out in excess of $500,000 and was on track to pay out in excess of $1m in 2020.

"They choose when and where and how often they compete," he said. "There is no other organisation in Australia that pays as much prizemoney as the PBR nor globally. The money is there to be won if they are good enough and have the desire to use the pathways on offer."

The story Cowboys down in Clermont first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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