Some label them rodeo clowns, but that’s not quite accurate.
A more fitting term would, perhaps, be rodeo warriors.
Professional Bull Riders Australia calls them protection athletes.
These protection-warrior athletes and the bull riders they protect will be in action on Saturday at Newcastle Entertainment Centre.
Professional Bull Riders Australia says the role of the protection athlete is “a unique and sometimes overlooked one”.
Their job begins as the bull rider’s job ends. When a rider is bucked off a bull, the protection athlete must defend the fallen rider “by any means necessary”.
“This might mean distracting the bull and making themselves a target, or laying across the rider to take the impact of the bull’s horns or hooves. They often tag-team with their fellow protection athletes to separate the bull and rider in a swift and safe way.”
Knowing this, it’s easier to understand why the word clown has become associated with the role.
No doubt there’s an element of foolishness to the role. But it takes great courage to get in the way of an angry bull.
Mitch Russell, 32, has been a protection athlete/rodeo warrior/rodeo clown for 15 years.
Mitch says he doesn’t mind the term rodeo clown.
“People look at us funny when we say we’re protection athletes, so I’m fine with rodeo clown as it’s a term a lot of people know,” said Mitch, of Melville near Maitland.
Mitch says being a protection athlete is like any extreme sport. He likes the sense of facing the unknown. He’s drawn to the excitement.
“Not everyone can do it and I’m always trying to better myself in the ways we do it.”
He’s had a few injuries in his time, including “broken legs, arms, fingers, ribs and face bones”.
He’s had teeth knocked out and three knee reconstructions. He once suffered a swollen throat.
“That scared me a bit as it obstructed my breathing,” he said.
He once got between a bull and cowboy who was right up against a fence.
“The bull’s horn went between my legs and caused a lot of swelling and a bit of a tear. As a result, I wasn’t able to move much for the following week,” he said. Ouch!
Get tickets for the Great Northern Newcastle Invitational at ticketek.com.au.
Strange things are happening on top of road signs along Stewart Avenue in Hamilton South.
About six mysterious devices have appeared.
“They look like some sort of amateur spy setup made from bits of PVC pipe,” a Topics spy said.
Does anyone have any idea or theories on what these bizarre thingamajigs are? Let us know at email@example.com.