Lunchtime muster for rodeo queens and old timers

By John Lewis

Rodeo royalty was in Shepparton last week.

Caniambo's Holly Madden, an entrant in this year's Rodeo Queen of Australia competition; reigning queen Bonnie McLean, 23, from Bendigo; and 2019 Rodeo Queen of Fundraising Georgia Bradford, 19, from Darwin got together on Monday, February 10.

Also at the lunchtime gathering were Australian Rodeo Queen 2013-14 Dani Quinsee of Kyabram and partner Dean Oliver of Echuca.

Ms Madden, 24, said she had been riding at western-style events since she was 16 years old.

She now faces a busy year raising the required $5000 to enter the national rodeo queen pageant in Surfers Paradise in September.

“It's in the planning stages at the moment, but I hope to get to know new people, expand my knowledge and encourage others to get involved,” she said.

Mr Oliver had just returned from Dartmoor Rodeo near Mt Gambier in South Australia, where he scooped the 2019 Pick-Up Man of the Year Award on February 8.

Son of Echuca horse trainer Dennis Oliver, Mr Oliver has been competing in rodeos for 10 years, and regularly drives up to 15 hours to attend events across Australia.

“Each to their own. Some people like football or fishing — this is what we do,” he said.

Rodeo barrel racer Ms Quinsee said her rodeo queen title win six years ago saw her spend three weeks in the United States and Canada, where she visited Ladonia in Texas, Cheyenne in Wyoming and Calgary in Alberta.

“It was awesome. The highlight for me was wearing a sequinned Australian flag outfit while carrying the US flag in front of thousands of people at a rodeo in Texas,” she said.

“Everywhere we went, people just loved Aussies.”

The younger rodeo competitors sat down to lunch with legends of the sport, including four-time national rodeo champion Wally Woods of Grahamvale.

Wally, 87, and his mate — fellow Australian champion rodeo rider Colin McTaggart from Goondiwindi — were joined by other veteran rodeo cowboy champions at the lunch.

Mr Woods said he had been riding for as long as he could remember.

Born at Camperdown on Australia Day 1932, he was about six years old when he accompanied his older brothers droving sheep on the ‘long paddock’ after the 1939 Black Friday fires.

“We had a post office and when I was about five or six I was paid £5 a year to ride about three miles up the road and deliver mail to the local politician every day, five days a week,” Mr Woods said.

Mr Woods left school at 11 years old, and by 14 he was travelling the country in a wild west show. He won his first rodeo competition at the same age — riding a bullock.

“In those days, you rode because you had to, there were no cars,” he said.

Rodeo Services Australia president Mr McTaggart said the Old Timers reunion was an annual event.