Junior bull riders get a leg-up with NIAS along for the ride

THE Northern Inland Academy of Sport is getting behind the chutes to help out the region’s talented young bull riders.

The academy has added bull riding to its roster.

The junior bull riding program – as it will be known – is a partnership between the academy and the Professional Bull Riders (PBR). 

“It’s very exciting,” NIAS executive officer Di Hallam said.

The program will be the first of its kind and has even caught the attention of the PBR in the states.

“They’ve made the comment it’s something they should be looking at,” Hallam said.

The inclusion of bull riding into the NIAS might come as a surprise to some, but Hallam said the sport “fits with this region”.

“A lot of people in the Northern Inland area support and go to rodeos,” Hallam said. 

“It’s a sport that fits this area.

“It’d be no use us having surfing.”

Same as bull riding probably wouldn’t work for western Sydney.

The finer details of the program are still being nutted out, but they’ve got the basic structure worked out.

“We’re looking at the 14-18 age group,” Hallam said.

And a squad of six.

“It is fairly exclusive,” she said.

The nature of the sport means the program will operate a bit differently to many of the academy’s other programs. 

It will probably run more like the Lonestar program.

The squad members will have to report in every month to their coach/mentor, letting them know their results and what they’ve been doing.

“We’ve got a training session planned here at AELEC in May,” Hallam said.

Then in July they’ll meet for a training session in conjunction with the PBR’S Newcastle Cup event.

At both that and the Tamworth event in November, the squad will actually compete.

“They’ll be a part of the main program competing in an international competition,” Hallam said.

That will be a great experience for them.

It won’t be just about getting on bulls though.

“It’s that holistic NIAS approach,” Hallam said.

The athletes will need to attend the various workshops the academy runs like the RACE workshops as well as fulfilling their program requirements.

The mental side will be a big focus of the program.

“Bull riding is so much about mental attitude and mental application,” Hallam said.

She said they were very fortunate to have guys like Australian champion Dave Mason to mentor the kids.

Mason said it was a positive step for the sport.

“It’s a big step in the sport,” he said.

“The bulls are only getting better and better each year.”

“So any help you can get...”

Mason has been involved in bull riding in some form or other for about 20 years.

“I started riding calves when I was six or seven years old and kept going,” Mason said.

He is one of the top bullriders in the country. He’s currently leading the PBR standings and has won national title buckles with the Australian Bushmen’s Campdraft and Rodeo Association (ABCRA) and National Rodeo Council.

The news of bull riding being included in NIAS comes as the The Australian Bushmen’s Campdraft and Rodeo Association National Finals are about to buck into action.

They begin at AELEC tonight with the first round of the junior finals.

The National Finals will then follow from Wednesday.

Mason will be involved in those.

He’s qualified for the bull ride. He heads in in fourthplace  and is looking forward to it.

“It’s always a good week,” he said. “They pick a good pen of bulls.” 

That said, he’s hoping to get the better of them all four rounds.

Applications to join the junior bull riding squad open on Monday, February 3.

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