Some of the Hunter’s bravest athletes will be in action when the Professional Bull Riders tour arrives for the Great Northern Newcastle Invitational on Saturday.
The Newcastle Entertainment Centre round of the PBR tour will be a rare chance for local riders to claim a hometown win, and having family and friends in the stands may mean more to Kurri’s Justin Robards than any other rider.
The 26-year-old, originally from Bulahdelah, has been granted a wildcard entry to the event after a two-year lay off from the sport.
“I had two knee reconstructions,” Robards said.
“I had my ACL, PCL and LCL replaced. I rode with that for six years before I decided to get it fixed.”
A professional since 18, Robards first plied his skills in Australian rodeos before moving abroad to compete on the American circuit.
He was making a decent living out of the sport, travelling the States and doing something he loves, but eventually the injuries became too much and he returned home to “heal up”.
Saturday’s event will be his first competitive ride since the knee surgeries.
“It’s been hard sitting at home while all my mates have been out riding and having fun,” Robards said.
“I recovered reasonably quick from it all. I just took my time and made sure I was right to come back and compete at 100 per cent.”
An auto-electrician during the week, Robards has been practising on weekends in the Hunter Valley. He isn’t nervous about Saturday, but is happy to admit every rider has fears.
“You do get scared. If anyone tells you they don’t get scared, they’re lying to you,” he said. “It’s an adrenaline rush, but I do it because I just love to ride.”
Robards added: “There is a lot of danger involved. A lot of people don’t want to see people get hurt, but they don’t want to miss it [either].”
The Newcastle Invitational, part of the 2018 Monster Energy PBR Tour, will feature 22 of the country’s best cowboys, including Gresford’s Cliff Richardson and Singleton’s Cody Heffernan.
Rirchardson and Heffernan sit third and fourth respectively in the 2018 Australian PBR standings heading into Saturday.
The tour stop has been labelled by organisers as the 10th anniversary edition of the Newcastle Invitational and comeback cowboy Justin Robards says it “will be an action-packed night with the best riders in Australia going up against the best bulls in Australia”.
“You can expect lots of fireworks, pyro and excitement,” he said.
- Gates open at 6.30pm on Saturday. Tickets from Ticketek.