MOUNT ISA, OUTBACK QUEENSLAND – The population of the Queensland mining city of Mount Isa has doubled this weekend for the southern hemisphere’s largest bull riding festival, the Mount Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo.
Riders from Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America have made the journey to Outback Queensland to try and get their hands on a record $230,000 prize money.
Joining them and competing for this title is Haider Alhasnawi, the Iraqi Cowboy who is no stranger to danger.
17 year old Haider knows all it, he moved to Australia from Iraq when he was 10 years old and lived through the war in Iraq as a small boy.
This weekend marked his first rodeo in Mt Isa, competing for a title in Australia’s richest rodeo event.
“Just the atmosphere and the adrenalin rush it’s a good feeling for me these days. For any bull rider it’s a good feeling to be on the back of a bull and just nod your head and go out that shoot, your whole life is in front of you,” says rider Haider Alhasnawi.
When he’s not on the bouncing on the backs of bulls, Haider works as a fencing contractor in the bush.
He can thank some mates who introduced him to rodeo only two years ago , hooking him on the sport.
“Well it’s a big rodeo and it would be good to get a win. Its good to come over here cause there’s a lot of good riders from different places and try to compete against then. If you come first you must be doing pretty well then,” says Haider.
While Haider is still learning the ropes, he’ll rub shoulders with some of the best riders in the world including American PBR member Steve Woolsey, who is making his comeback after an injury prone season after a bull fall on him during a ride.
“For me I’ve won quite a few belt buckles but to come to Australia and to get the chance to win a belt buckle it would be the most sacred I’ve ever won because it’s from Australia.”
Current PBR Australia champion Cody Heffernan made his debut over the weekend in Mount Isa and will be heading to the United States shortly to try his hand on their highly competitive PBR circuit.
“Mount Isa is one of the biggest rodeos in the world,it’s the biggest in the southern hemisphere and I’ve never been here I’ve heard lots about it I’ve always wanted to come here so its about time I got here and I really want to win this title,” says Cody.
The rodeo has been running since 1959, and according to organisers it’s one of the most prized titles to take out in the bull-riding calendar in Australia.
Steve Hilton Arena Director of the Mount Isa Rodeo says, “The buckle represents a lot, the cash it represents the title. If you’re doing something for money it wouldn’t be rodeo there’s good pay here but there’s not a lot of money in it like there is in other sports. It really is the prestige and challenge of being the champion.”
Visitors to the outback city travel as much as 30 hours return trip to watch the spectacle, with Mount Isa some 1800 kilometres from Queensland’s capital city of Brisbane.
The rodeo injects a massive boost into the local economy according to the Honorable Kate Jones MP, Minister for Tourism, Major Events, and has now been granted major event status by the government.
“The whole city comes to life. Everyone feels so welcomed here. This is the biggest event on the Mount Isa social calendar,” says the Minister.
Haider seconds that, his family has been readily accepted into the outback community of Australia, and with his thick Aussie accent, you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d never lived anywhere else.
But his war torn childhood hasn’t been forgotten, and Haider is forever grateful for the safe new life his family now live.
“Coming here and knowing you don’t have to worry about a thing go to work in the morning it’s a good feeling eh?”
Haider didn’t earn any points at the Rodeo this week but after two rides lasting for nearly four seconds feels he has learnt a lot, not just from the rides but from his fellow competitors.
From his life in Iraq to riding bulls at the Mount Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo he feels he can use the adversity of his former life to help him become a competitive bull rider in Australia.
0:00 Sunrise over Queensland outback.
0:16 Haider riding horse on property at sunrise.
Interview with HaiderAlhasnawi
1:28 You know I just I thought it was a big difference just a whole other level for us. It’s kind of like you are born again you’ve got to learn everything a different language everyone is different here and that. Compare it to back at home its pretty much like a whole new life kind of thing.
1:49 Just that atmosphere and the adrenalin rush and that it’s a good feeling for me these days for any bull rider it’s a good feeling to be on the back of a bull and just nod your head and go out that shoot your whole life is in front of you kind of thing.
2:11 Well it’s a big rodeo and I just wanted to it would be good to get a win at such a big rodeo well known and that then. Its good to come over here cause there’s a lot of good riders from different places and try to compete against then cause if you come first you must be doing pretty well then.
2:35 Coming here and everything’s right you don’t have to worry about a thing go to work in the morning it’s a good feeling eh?
2:46 Haider at the rodeo preparing to ride.
3:02 Haider getting ready to ride bull.
3:18 Haider putting on helmet and mouth guard.
3:27 Haider jumping on bull in shoot.
3:42 Haider leaving shoot on bull and falling off.
4:00 Haider after ride.
4:17 Cody and Haider shaking hands and meeting.
Interview Cody Heffernan Current PBR Australian bull riding champion
4:45 Mount Isa is one of the biggest rodeos in the world the biggest in the southern hemisphere and I’ve never been here I’ve heard lots about it I’ve always wanted to come here and its about time I got here and I really want to win this title.
5:00 Haider leaving the shoot on bull in second ride.
5:15 Aerial view of rodeo festival.
5:28 Horse leaving shoot with rider.
5:37 Crowds watching the rodeo.
5:52 Roping event.
6:16 Girl riding bull and getting stuck, needing the help of clowns.
6:33 Horse riding events at rodeo.
6:50 Rider on bucking horse.
7:00 Rider on horse coming out of the shoot, staying on full 8 seconds and celebrating afterwards.
7:23 Audience watching rodeo action.
7:36 Time lapse of night time falling on rodeo arena.
7:40 Rider leaving shoot on bull.
7:52 Rider leaving shoot on a horse, staying on for a full ride.
8:18 Rider leaving shoot on a horse, staying on for a full ride.
8:31 Rider leaving shoot on a horse and taking a tumble after 7 seconds.
8:44 Competitors calf roping.
8:51 Rider leaving shoot on a bull and falling off and the bull then attacking the clowns.
Interview Steve Hilton Arena Director Mount Isa Rodeo
9:08 Well the buckle represents a lot it represents the cash it represents the title if you’re doing something for money it wouldn’t be rodeo there’s good pay here but there’s not a lot of money in it like there is in other sports it really is the prestige and challenge of being the champion.
Interview Steve Woolsey PBR United States of America
9:24 For me I’ve won quite a few belt buckles but to be able to come to Australia and get the chance to win a belt buckle it would be the most sacred buckle I’ve ever won because its from Australia.
Interview Honorable Kate Jones MP Minister for Tourism, Major Events.
9:44 The whole city comes to life. Everyone feels so welcomed here this is the biggest event on the Mount Isa calendar.