Uralla born Duncan Elks has recently been crowned Australia’s current leading ABCRA champion bull rider …
How long have you lived in this region? Describe your childhood …
I have lived in this region all my life. I grew up in Uralla and went to school at Uralla Central.
My Dad has a trucking transport business, and I spent a lot time travelling with him all over the countryside, helping out.
When I wasn’t helping Dad out, Mum and Dad would be driving me to football and rodeo events all over the place.
I have played football in Uralla since I was 7 and always thought I would be a footballer … but then, I rode my first steer when I was about 10 at the local show. I got jammed, but I have loved it ever since.
I’ve always been a country kid and spent most of my childhood outdoors. I used to spend a lot of time with my mates and my brother running amok.
At what age and why did you first climb onto a bull?
I rode poddy calves and steers for about 5 years, and then got on my first bull at 15 as a junior bullrider – it was at Gloucester Junior Rodeo.
I then progressed from junior bull riding to the novice event. I earned enough prize money to break into the open ranks. I was 17 when I got on my first open bull at Wingham Rodeo. I placed third on a bull called Broadway. It was one of my most memorable bullrides.
How much time do you dedicate to bull riding?
I go to at least 2 rodeos a week, and I practice whenever I can. I also go to the gym as often as I can, to keep fit. I am a member of the Armidale Rodeo Committee, and I help organise and run Armidale Rodeo, which is in November every year.
I went over to America for 3 months back in 2009 to compete in as many rodeo events as I could and to see what kind of lifestyle they live. It was a lot of fun, and I am planning a trip back in the near future.
While I was over there, I learnt a lot about bull riding because the calibre of riders and bulls are of a high standard – which helped me win this title.
What did it take for you to win the national championship recently?
In 2011, I travelled every weekend chasing the rodeo circuit.But it wasn’t only the work I did in 2011 – all the work I have put in over my years in bull riding has got me to where I am today.
The support of family and friends has also assisted me greatly; if I didn’t have the support I had from home, I wouldn’t have come this far.
Advice from people who have already won this title and have been there and done that has been vital.
Ultimately, you have to believe in yourself and know that you have adequately prepared yourself physically and mentally to do the job that needs to be done.
Where do the bulls come from?
They come from all over the country, and each rodeo has certain stock contractors that provide the bulls. Bucking bulls are bred for the sport, and bulls that participate in the event are trained and familiar with the way the event runs. The bulls love the event as much as the bull riders.
Describe the feelings you experience during a bull ride ...
Definitely adrenaline! I get a little nervous about bucking off, but mainly just excited, because I get to do what I love. When I’m making a good bullride, everything feels slow motion.
Who has played a vital role in getting you to this standard of bull riding?
My family. They have supported me the whole way; they had to drive me to all the rodeos I wanted to do before I had my licence, and they come to every rodeo they can to cheer me on. My parents have done a lot of miles and have given up a lot of their time to let me chase my dream.
Adam Hone and his family have also had a big influence on my bull riding career and my life. Adam has been there from day dot, not only as a role model, but as a mate.
In rodeo you have to have good travelling buddies. I’ve been lucky enough to have plenty of good mates to travel with, who have been there for me. My girlfriend has been there for me – particularly in the months leading up to the finals.
Have you ever been injured?
Yeah, I’ve had my fair share of injuries. I had a major head injury back in 2007, where a bull stomped on my head and I was in hospital for a day or so. I’ve broken a few bones and a few other things that have sent me to hospital, but the small niggling injuries always seem to be there.
I have to get my knee operated on when I finish up with bulls, but until then I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing. I try and keep as fit as possible to prevent injury … but it comes with the sport, I guess.
I’m still chasing the rodeo circuit. I’ve done a few ABCRA rodeos this season already, and I plan to go to a few PBR bull rides in the coming months. I would also like to go back to the States and try my luck over there again.