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Rodeo History

Deniliquin Rodeo History

Celebrating Australia’s outback heritage started here in Deniliquin in 1948, when the late Jack Maxwell allowed some local youngsters to ride his poddy calves, this quickly escalated to steers and rogue cows. As Jack was a teamster he also had a paddock full of horses and it wasn’t long before those horses with a bit of fire were also being ridden.

Bob Barlett, Drover and the late Alex McDonald, Saddler, noticed that these events were attracting a lot of spectators and in 1951 an official body calling itself the North Deniliquin Rodeo Committee was formed.

The rodeo venue was then moved to the Deniliquin showground which was situated at the time where the Harding Street football oval is now. The Committee began collecting its own string of bucking horses and purchased its own gear. Most of the horses rounded-up come of the stock reserves north of Deniliquin or were donated by local farmers who purchased or bred horses and then found that they could not be broken for riding steeds. When the Rams Football Club gained control of this venue the rodeo moved to Paringa Caravan Park in Ochtertyre Street and the Rodeo Committee kept their stock at Werri Station.

Our rodeo attracted Australia’s top cowboys names like Ray Crawford, Alan Woods and Bonny Young. So we affiliated with the Australian Rough Riders Association and as the rankest rough stock was required stock contractor and competitor Norm Cakebread loaded horses at Footscray on the rail destined for Deniliquin Rodeo. In the late 1950’s a huge crowd attended the rodeo travelling from Echuca as the Queen of England had been visiting there the day before. We became known as Australia’s Biggest Little Rodeo.

In 1968 the rodeo moved to Memorial Park with the ground fenced in half, but the local cricket club complained about bucking stock on the pitch and the council kept increasing the hire charges. The last rodeo at this venue was in 1979 and in 1980 construction of a purposely constructed arena at the Racecourse Reserve took place. The main instigators of this move were Gerald O’Loughlin and Steve Bradshaw. Unfortunately Gerald drowned on 14 September 1981 droving cattle across the flooded Yallakool Creek on “Benarca” Station whilst riding a young horse. In 1982 a memorial trophy for the Champion All Round Cowboy was instigated. The trophy was won by Scott Bloxsome then Kevin Bowtell in 1983 and 1984 followed by time event competitor Neville McCarthy in 1985, Wayne Slater in 1986 and Darryl Lamb in 1988 and 1989. The legendary Bull Rider Gary McPhee from New Zealand won it in 1990 and 1991 and was by now competing in the timed events.

In 1976 Steve Bradshaw first assisted as a “Pick-up” rider and the man described by Russell Crowe as an icon Gary McPhee, became stock contractor in 1978, neither has missed a rodeo since.

In the early 1980’s we promoted our rodeo as “In the Cool of the Evening” and latter as “Under the Stars”. Mid 1980’s saw the most spectacular bull with the attitude problem “Chainsaw” in attendance and twice over a 10 year period the bull was ridden here. First by a Canadian cowboy and then by world champion Troy Dunn. Given that this bull bucked thousands of times for only a handful of times ridden successfully we were indeed fortunate to witness two great rides.

In 1990 we made our biggest donation, $2250 to the Rescue Association for a remote pager system.

1996 saw us honouring the “Riverina Rodeo Legends” in Betty (Nee Urquhart) Good – best ever lady saddle bronc rider who gave an exhibition ride here in 1951. Bes Murray who travelled with Thorpe McConville’s Wild West Rodeo Tent Show. Maurice Height – Champion bull rider and winner in every rodeo event and Tom Loy, winner of 14 championship events including Moomba Festival International Rodeo and the Inter Pacific Challenge with New Zealand. Also in the mid 1990’s to increase the number of competitors we promoted the Bull Ride by offering extra prize money for this event. In the late 1990’s we conducted rounds of the National Finals in conjunction with other rodeos along the border.

In August 2001 Lionel Sweeney who lived at Jerilderie and was a renowned pick-up rider passed away. To see him pluck a rider from a bucking horse was a thrilling sight, he was a superb horseman and was always well mounted. Some of our sponsors then insisted that we make a feature event the Lionel Sweeney Memorial Saddle Bronc Ride.

2006 saw a hard working committee lead by Russell Offord reduce the width of our arena as the time for rough stock events had been reduced from ten to a eight second ride to be even more spectator friendly. The year also saw the introduction of the Frank Stockham Memorial First Year Saddle Bronc Rider Buckle. Frank who had lived locally for many years passed away and had been a previous Queensland Champion.

Life members of our organisation who have been there from the very beginning are Les “Punch” Daniels, Jeff “Jock” Gray, the late Hubert “Bert” Sutton. Mel Hutchins received life membership in 2006 for his contribution to our rodeo since joining in 1970.




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