Fifty years on, champion bronc rider returns to Mount Isa Rodeo

Polishing a Mount Isa Rodeo buckle won by New Zealander Ian “Wrighty” Wright has led the former bronc rider to come back to the event he competed in 50 years ago.

“My neighbour was polishing the old buckle for me and asked where I won it,” said Wrighty, who now lives in Wanganui, about two hours from Wellington.

“When I told her it was from Mount Isa, we realised it was 50 years old and she has encouraged me to book a trip to this year’s rodeo.”

Wrighty, 71, won his buckle in the second division saddle bronc at the 1961 Mount Isa Rodeo, just three years after the event began.

“Back then, it was just amazing – the organisation of it,” he said. “To me it was like Calgary – the highlight of my life. We were so well treated, we camped at the swimming pool and it was the biggest crowd I had ever seen.

“That year (1961), I also remember it hadn’t rained for six years, which was just unbelievable to me.”

The then 21-year-old was dong a bit of work on local properties and competing in all the riding events on the Queensland circuit – from Mareeba to Mount Isa, Cloncurry, Hughenden, Longreach and Winton.

“My visit to Mount Isa had a huge impact,” he said. It was there Wrighty met his life-long friend Wally Mailman, the renowned rough stock rider who also competed at Isa Rodeo and after whom the Mailman Express Sprint Horse Race is named.

Wrighty was later groomsman at Wally’s wedding in New Zealand, and met Wally’s daughter, actress  Deborah Mailman at the first Mailman Express race a decade ago.

It was also in the Isa that Wrighty saw his first road train. “I fell In love with trucks and kept competing until I got married and then I became a truck driver,” he said.

Wrighty says he is very much looking forward to visiting the Xstrata Mount Isa Rotary Rodeo being held from August 12 to 14.

“It will be really interesting to see how it has changed,” he said. “But I remember it had a fantastic atmosphere 50 years ago, and I don’t think that will have changed.”

Wrighty is hoping to make the trip with a small group of family and friends, including the neighbour whose actions polishing the buckle have led to a trip down memory lane. “I have been telling people here how good the rodeo is,” he said.

The Xstrata Mount Isa Rotary Rodeo is renowned as the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere. This year’s rodeo will attract around 600 nominations vying for up to $200,000 in prizes (cash and buckles).

The action kicks off on Friday, August 12 with the rodeo getting underway at midday, leading into the opening Mardi Gras Parade from 5pm, with plenty of free family entertainment.

The weekend focus is on rodeo competition, leading up to the Sunday finals. Other rodeo week events include the Zonta Bush Poets Breakfast and Mailman Express Sprint Horse Race, a 200 metre sprint from a running start open to non-thoroughbred horses.

Mount Isa is located in north-west Queensland, 900km inland from Townsville along the Overlander’s Way and is easily accessed by direct flights from Brisbane, Townsville and Cairns, as well as by road and bus.

Visitors coming earlier or staying on after the rodeo can explore local attractions including Outback at Isa where you can take a “Hard Times Mine Tour” or visit the Riversleigh Fossil Centre, Lake Moondarra, and the region’s twin jewels, Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park and the fascinating Riversleigh Fossil Fields.

For more information visit www.isarodeo.com.au or phone (07) 4743 2706.

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To arrange an interview or high-res images, please contact:
Susan Fuller, Synergy Marketing & Public Relations
Ph (07) 3303 9966 or Mob: 0411 463 693
Email: susan.fuller@synergypr.net.au