TIGHT TURN: Emerald barrel racer Aleisha O’Dell on the fly for the Australian High School Rodeo team in New Zealand at the weekend. cont
TIGHT TURN: Emerald barrel racer Aleisha O’Dell on the fly for the Australian High School Rodeo team in New Zealand at the weekend. cont

Young rodeo stars pipped at the post

TOUR TEAM: The Australian High School Rodeo team led by 10-year tour veteran and team manager Ross Ford (front right). cont

THE Australian High School Rodeo team may be beaten but are certainly not out. That’s the message from team manager Ross Ford, who accompanied the small contingent of seven competitors on the annual Trans Tasman challenge in New Zealand last week.

The team included Emerald barrel racer Aleisha O’Dell, Alpha’s Callan Gleeson and Bluff’s Jessie Beak who now boards at St Brendan’s in Yeppoon.

By round two of competition, the team scores were reasonably close at 150-220 to New Zealand. However, after a full weekend of riding including two rodeos on the south island, Matarua, on the Saturday and Invercargill on the Sunday, the young team couldn’t quite match the points deficit.

“New Zealand got the better of us on the day but not by much,” Ford said.

“The bull riding went good, but the stock wasn’t as good as ours.

“There was a lot of luck in which stock they got, so we didn’t have much of a chance to show them up.”

For Emerald cowgirl Aleisha, this was her first visit overseas and she ended up seeing the New Zealand soil a little closer than first imagined.

“I came off in one of the junior barrel events and Ross said to me ‘It looked like you were out there riding like your Dad,’” Aleisha said in reference to her Bronc-riding father.

The 13-year-old was well-versed in her riding abilities, having been barrel racing since she was six and winning her first Rodeo Princess title at just two-years-old.

But even the experienced Aleisha found saddling the New Zealand horses a difficult art to master.

“We ride different to them, you have got to really check them before they go around the drum – it was tough,” she said.

Mum Melinda, who also travelled over for the event, said the tour provided an invaluable training opportunity.

“This is the best experience the kids can get,” she said.

“We would never have had the chance to do anything like this unless we did it off our own back.”

The Australian competitors, ranging from 13 to 17-years-old, were competing for overall team points as well as individual wins.

Ross said he couldn’t single out any one rider for plaudits, as they all contributed with their own efforts.

“It’s just like a footy game when one bloke scores and he gets all the credit, (but) there are a lot of others in the team who helped them get there,” he said.

“They all stuck together and cheered each other on.”

Ross said first time captain but long time competitor Jessie Beak, formerly of Bluff, performed admirably as the team leader.

“He first came over four years ago as a junior steer rider and did a tremendous job this year as captain,” he said.

“He gained a lot of respect from team members and held himself very well with the microphone during speeches.”

He said vice captain Gleeson also showed maturity beyond his age as deputy.

Some consolation for the junior riders would be that Australia remained ahead 6-4 in the series standings, which was cause for some celebration.

The team squeezed in a visit to adventure capital Queenstown before returning home.

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