A ROUSEABOUT from Victoria will be one of the riders to watch in the Bowen Rodeo to Reef on Saturday.
Joe Down works for a shearing team but always finds time to follow the sport he loves - bull riding.
The Warrnambool cowboy became interested in rodeo when he saw some old photos of his father Geoff Down doing a bit of rodeo on the farm.
"Victorian rider Gavin Woodall then introduced me to rodeo and I started to compete on junior bulls," Joe said.
"Bull riding is so much fun."
He admits to "getting scared sometimes in the chute".
Like many young men in Victoria, Joe tried his hand at Aussie rules and played up to under-18s for Port Fairy. He had a best of 10 goals in a game playing full forward.
At 19 years of age, Joe has already qualified for one national finals in the Australian Professional Rodeo Association.
He was in the top 15 in the bull ride last year and was unplaced when he competed in the finals at Warwick.
Late last year, he competed in the first rodeo on the Christmas Run in the APRA at Myrtleford in north-east Victoria before a short break due to a tendon injury in his right foot.
Joe and his father Geoff are set to drive from Victoria to North Queensland for a bull ride which has attracted 33 nominations on Saturday.
There are open, second division and junior bull rides on the program.
Travelling long distances paid off for Joe last year as he recorded his best APRA wins interstate. He won the bull rides at Wilmington and Peterborough in SA and the St Brendan's Rodeo at Yeppoon.
While cowboys only have to finish in the top 15 to make the APRA finals, riders want to finish in the top five in the standings to boost their finals chances as pro tour prize money and performances at the finals go towards determining title winners.
Joe is almost light enough to be a jockey and competes at 65 to 66kg. Many of the bulls on the circuit are 10 times that size.
In 2017, he competed in the United States with the Australian high school rodeo team.
"I rode my first bull and was bucked off my second bull and didn't make the final," he said.
He also competed in the Cody Nite Rodeo in the US and had two wins in the four rounds he contested. The rodeo at Cody goes for 90 successive nights.
There are also APRA rodeos at Tamworth, Peterborough and Yarra Valley this Saturday.
January 18: Xtreme Bulls Finals at AELEC Arena, Tamworth (NSW)
January 18: Peterborough Golden Spurs Rodeo (SA)
January 18: Yarra Valley Rodeo (Vic)
January 18: Bowen Rodeo to Reef (Qld)
January 25: Neerim Rodeo (Vic)
January 25: Wilmington Rodeo (SA)
January 25: Harveydale Rodeo (Tas)