Broken, sprained, twisted and torn, the Isa bull riders coming back for more
It is not a sport for the faint-hearted and some of Australia's top rodeo contestants have horrific tales of broken bones and crushed limbs, but they keep coming back for more.
Within moments they will be astride a bucking steer or bull, trying to stay on for at least eight seconds at the 60th Mount Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo.
Bull riding is one of the most dangerous sports in the world and most riders have suffered multiple injuries, so what drives the men who do it to keep getting back on?
"There's really nothing else you can compare it to — man versus beast," said professional bull rider Roy Dunn of Proserpine.
"I definitely like the adrenaline rush and I love getting paid for it too.
"It's got a fair old discipline to it too, and at the end of the day it's what you prepare yourself for, what you hunger for. It's an unbelievable experience."
Dunn, 29, has been professional for nine years and will be one of 49 bull riders vying for $24,000 in prize money in the north-west Queensland city's annual rodeo, the biggest in the southern hemisphere.
Looking after your head
In a career that has also seen him riding in the US, Dunn admits he has been through the ringer more than once.
"I've been injured plenty of times, yeah, I've had a fair few injuries," he said.
"Everything from the little things like a broken thumb and sprains and bruises, all the way to a full shoulder reconstruction, dislocated elbow, concussions — pretty bad ones too. Like out for a couple of seconds at a time.
"They don't get much worse than that apart from, you know, breaking your neck or your back. That's something that you don't really want to do."
Dunn elects to wear a hockey helmet even though head protection is only mandatory for riders born after October 1994, but said there was a wide discrepancy in the quality of helmets available.
"If you really want to look after your head and don't want to be gibbering too much by the time you're 40, you want to fork-out and get a really good helmet that's going to last your career," he said.
Rotary Rodeo chute boss Eddie Fisher was twice Australian champion bull rider and twice Australian champion bareback rider in a career that lasted 22 years.
He now makes most of the shiny, showy championship belt buckles worn by riders and said his past glory did not come without injuries, most sustained early in his career when he was less experienced.
"I come off the back of a bareback horse and it kicked me in the head, fractured my skull in about five places [and] I think I had swelling around the brain for quite a while," he said.
"Another horse kicked my nose off.
"Out of all the years of bull riding, my worst injury was when a bull jumped over me to get out of the arena. He sat on my arm and broke it."
Confidence a must
Fisher said bull riders know too well there is danger and the chance of injury with their chosen sport and said mental strength and attitude was 99 per cent of bull riding.
He said thinking about getting injured should be the furthest thing from a bull rider's mind when he is about to compete.
"You have to be confident, you have to deal with fear of failure and not worry about failure," he said.
"You see the animal and you want to be greater than it, it's an achievement that you do by yourself, not with a team.
"That desire to be able to ride him and ride him well and not fear him … it's hard to explain, but it's part of you."