Stylish little cowboy
By TONY WHITE
DIMINUTIVE Ulmarra schoolboy Robert Hicks has returned from Caboolture, Queensland, with a national rodeo title.
The 12-year-old won the junior riding poddy title at the National Rodeo Championships finals.
Hicks qualified for the finals after a tremendous run through qualifying rounds between January and November.
Weighing just 40kg, Hicks, who attends Grafton High School, scored top points over two rounds in the final to cap off a fabulous season.
"He eats, thinks, dreams everything bull riding," his mother Sherry said.
"He has worked really hard and just loves the sport."
Robert's stature belies his competitive nature. He loves competing and loves winning.
Like their senior counterparts, riders must complete an eight-second ride.
"It was real good winning," Robert said. "I really enjoy it.
"One day I really want to ride the big bulls.
"I always think of winning. If you win you get lots of points and if you get bucked off you get none."
Robert started his new sport around three years back and has made an enormous impact in a short space of time.
Robert's mother actually rode trackwork until she was four months pregnant with her son.
She was an apprentice trainer-driver of trotters, worked extensively with thoroughbreds and competed in western performance events for 20 years.
Robert's uncle was a professional horseman, farrier and bull and bronc rider.
The family has a small cattle property at the back of Ulmarra.
"Robert was on horses from a very young age," Sherry said. "But he's just taken to bull riding.
"It's been a full-on year and we're (husband Kevin) very proud of what he's done.
"Ben and Jason Ross helped get Robert started and Nathan Beal has been terrific with his support and travelling with Robert to rodeos all around NSW and Queensland. All the boys have done a great job helping him, particularly Nathan who reassures him and gives him plenty of encouragement."
Two other notable heroes in Robert's corner are five-time Australian champion Brad Scott and multiple rodeo champion Sarus Ramsey, formerly of Alstonville.
Ramsey is Robert's idol.
Scott runs a bull riding school at Kundabung near Kempsey which Robert attended.
"They teach the kids protection and how to escape hang ups, the safety aspect is paramount," Sherry Hicks said.
"Brad calls Robert a stylish little cowboy ? he's got a great forearm and frown.
"Robert is just a natural."
To qualify for the finals Robert competed at rodeos in Bangalow, Alstonville, Casino, Kyogle and Lismore in NSW and Laidley, Kenilworth, Canungra, Nudgee and Goombungee in south-east Queensland.
"He also competed in other rodeos, campdrafting and show events around NSW and Queensland," Sherry said.
"It's been a busy schedule."
Falls are part and parcel of the demanding sport but Robert is already as tough as old boot nails.
"I've had a few falls but no real bad ones, just a few bumps and bruises," Robert said.