Emerald barrel racer Aleisha O’Dell, pictured at the Emerald Rodeo, is vying for national selection.
Emerald barrel racer Aleisha O’Dell, pictured at the Emerald Rodeo, is vying for national selection.

Students training to take on Kiwis

AFTER 10 years in the business, Australian High School Rodeo team manger and Capella resident Ross Ford has nurtured his fair share of champions.

One of the latest to pass through the Ford training ring, Rockhampton’s Jesse Van Nek, was last week crowned the Rookie of the Year at the PBR Australian Cup Series Final in Sydney.

Ross is back on the training circuit mentoring his latest batch of would-be champions, soon to appear in the first round of the annual Trans-Tasman high school rodeo challenge.

Now in its 10th year, the competition pits an Australian junior rodeo team against a New Zealand team in a battle for supremacy, with results based on overall team performance rather than individual scores.

The stakes are high with the Kiwis taking much confidence from their win on home-soil earlier this year.

“New Zealand beat us on points before and I’m sure our kids will be keen to get one back,” he said.

Three riders across a number of events will compete including barrel racing, steer wrestling, bronc riding and bull riding.

A full team list is yet to be made but it was expected Alpha’s Callan Gleeson would again be among the Australian line-up, along with local bull rider Jesse Beak and Emerald barrel racer Aleisha O’Dell.

As the rodeo team is school-based, Ross said just as much emphasis was centred on schooling as riding skills.

“If the teachers say they are a handful, we don’t want them in the team,” he said.

Nurturing the talents of promising young riders such as Van Nek was a privilege for Ross, and something he never gave a second thought.

“I’m really proud to be able to give them the opportunity to do something like this,” he said. “It gives them a start and sometimes I think if I didn’t, they could have ended up on the streets.”

Competition starts with the first of three rounds at Bridgeman Park in Capella on August 27, before heading to the Great Western Arena in Rockhampton and wrapping up at the St Brendan’s College in Yeppoon.


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