NEW Year's Eve couldn't have been much sweeter for Blackwater cowgirl PJ Hanrahan, who snared first place in the average of the ladies' barrel race at Rockhampton on Saturday night.
It wasn't a win the newlywed Hanrahan, née Symes, had anticipated, with family commitments taking priority over her training in recent months.
"I got married in May and had a baby, so the win felt pretty good considering," she said.
Consistency paid dividends for Hanrahan and her eight-year-old mount Rocket, with a solid first-round win backed by a close second on Saturday.
But despite Rocket's strong claims at the Great Western Arena, Hanrahan said there was always room for improvement.
"He was a bit ignorant. He should have known better," she said. "The first (round) was really good but in the second he could have done better than what he did. You get that from time to time - it's just something you have got to get over."
Rocket was spelled for the majority of last year, with just the occasional ride by the 2011 APRA Junior Barrel Racing Champion Makayla Saunders.
However, Rocket's well-earned rest has evidently done little to hinder his winning edge.
"He's getting fitter and fitter," Hanrahan said.
For her efforts, Hanrahan picked up a smidgen over $2600 in combined prizemoney from the weekend's racing and already she has her eye on a much bigger prize.
"My main goal would be to make it to the NFR (National Finals Rodeo) on the Gold Coast," she said.
The first round starts in March and competition will continue through to the finals in June next year.
To prepare, Hanrahan is throwing herself head-first into training - sharpening and refining her drills hopefully to get the wood over her riding rivals again.
Bull rider Ben Seeds, formerly of Dingo, came close to holding on for the full eight seconds aboard Western Star.
After two rides in the mid-80s earlier in the weekend, the stage was set for another courageous final stand by Seeds.
However, the cowboy was unable to find the form of earlier rides and Western Star sent Seeds flying before time had elapsed.
Injuries abounded throughout the contest, some more serious than others.
The worst of these left cowboy Matt Postle nursing a fractured arm, requiring surgery.
Jake Wilson also exited the competition prematurely after he was stomped in the open bull ride at the Great Western.
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