Against his better judgement, Mick Berg will climb onto a heavy, angry bull on Saturday in Goulburn. The 47-year-old, who has twice punctured his lungs, broken his ribs, had a shoulder reconstruction and lots of bruising busters, will be frightened.
Mick’s mind will be keenly focussed.
“It’s getting over that fear factor, because anyone who says they’re not scared is a liar,” he said.
That gut-wrenching dread overwhelmed him at the Bathurst Show in the late 1990s when he told the chute controller he just couldn’t do it.
“Nuh, you’re here to bull ride,” the chute man said. Mick remembers: “He put his hand on my shoulder, pushed me down on the bull and said, ‘now you go out and ride this thing’.”
Mick knew the bull, a black brahman cross. He had a nasty habit of pulling people down on their head and knocking them out. The bull hadn’t been ridden for a good while.
“I was getting on him in the chute and he just swung his head around,” Mick said. “He was a lot older but had the same temperament, and when he threw his head around in the chute, something changed inside me: no, I can’t do this.”
But the gate sprung open. Mick rode it with every ounce of concentration and anticipation and won the bull ride. It was one of his best ever rides. The adrenaline kicked in and reminded him why he and all the other riders become so addicted to this challenge.
On Saturday he will contest the Over-40s bull ride in Goulburn, which offers $2000 in prize money.
Mick is not from a farm, has never ridden a poddy calf or steer, as so many bull riders have as youngsters. He started hanging around rodeos with his cousins, then lending a hand around the chutes until he decided to have a crack himself at bull riding.
He learned from Goulburn rodeo stalwart Wayne Robson who had his own bulls and helped younger up-and-coming competitors.
“We would practise at least twice a week before you would go to rodeo of a weekend,” Mick said.
“You were getting the knowledge from the older fellas or go to schools and learn a bit more if you wanted to.”
A self-employed welder for the farm sector, Mick’s love of the rodeo comes from camaraderie with fellow competitors. Most of the riders will say the same thing. This includes Anna Crisp, a national all-round showgirl winner and breakaway roping champion, who says fellow competitors are her ‘rodeo family’.
The rising star is travelling from Tamworth to Goulburn for the breakaway roping, which she leads on the Australian Bushmen’s Campdraft and Rodeo Association’s (ABCRA) circuit.
Anna’s strength aboard her 11-year-old quarter horse ‘Chex R All I know’ is her consistency.
“I try to get all my cattle roped. That’s the main thing. My goal at every rodeo is to catch my calf,” she said. “It is quite a trek to Goulburn for me, so it has to be worth my while to go. I have been to a roping event in Goulburn, but I haven’t been to a rodeo event, so it will be exciting.”
Saturday is a culmination of a mountain of paperwork for Mick, who is also secretary of the Goulburn Rodeo Club. Volunteers from the Rural Fire Brigade, Pony Club and local public school will help run the event. Mick said over the 20 years the rodeo has run more than $160,000 has been raised for local charities.
Goulburn Rodeo begins at 10 am on Saturday, February 5, at Goulburn Recreation Ground.