TONIGHT’S Professional Bull Riders Tamworth Invitational will introduce a new crop of international cowboys.
Only two of the international contingent have previously competed in the Tamworth event.
But that’s no reason to discount them. They are, after all, among the best in the brutal sport of bullriding in the world.
Heading the international charge is Arkansas-based bull rider Chase Outlaw.
Outlaw has quickly made a name for himself on the PBR circuit, finishing 17th in the world standings in his debut year.
He is keen to taste more success on Australian soil after winning the Brisbane and Sydney events back in July.
Last week in Townsville he made it to the championship round but was bucked off.
He’s been riding bulls (or calves) since he was four and couldn’t have asked for a much better start to his professional career.
“It was a great learning experience and great year on tour.
“I enjoyed every minute,” he said.
“We went to 28 different cities, 28 different states.
“I got to even go overseas.”
And all to ride bulls.
At the other end of the scale is Georgia’s Sean Willingham.
Willingham is one of the select few to break the million dollar mark in career earnings.
He is a nine-times world finalist and has come within two seconds of winning the world title buckle.
“I went in second two years in a row back to back,” he said.
One of those times he was only the short round away from winning the world title, but he could only last six seconds.
But such is the nature of bullriding.
He couldn’t imagine doing anything else though after discovering bullriding as a freshman in high school.
The fire was lit watching a rodeo in his home town.
“No-one stayed on for eight seconds,” he said.
As kids do, he and his friends thought they could do better, so they had a go.
“It took me about two or three months to convince my parents to let me do it,” Willingham said.
Fortunately he did, with the sport taking him all over the world, although never to Australia until now.
“They’ve tried to get me to come over for 10 years,” he said.
“I didn’t realise what I was missing out on until I was here.
“Now I wish I’d been coming for 10 years.”
At Townsville last weekend, he scored a second-top 87 in the first round, but bucked out the next two.
He is only a few months back from injury.
Last season was his worst on the circuit.
“I was injured quite a lot of the year,” he said.
“I got hurt three different times.”
It saw him miss out on the finals for the first time.
“It’s the first year I’d missed an event. I went 230 consecutive events the second highest overall,” he said.
That’s quite remarkable given the sport he competes in.
Another of the young breed coming through is Colorado cowboy Jory Markiss.
He also came out in July and performed well.
“I won the first round at the finals and did pretty good in Brisbane. I rode all three bulls and finished third,” he said.
Last weekend he made the eight seconds in his two round rides but was disqualified for slapping his bull in the final, something he’s keen to make amends for tonight.
“My aim is to ride all three,” he said.
And to get to the World Finals.
He was the second alternate last year.
“It’s guaranteed to happen.
“There ain’t not way I’m not going to be there,” he said.
The invitational bullride will be the feature of a day-long program that kicks off at 9am with the bull futurity.
The main performance will then get underway at 8pm at the Australian Equine Livestock and Events Centre.
Each of the top 22 riders will compete twice and the eight highest cumulative scores will each compete with one more bull.