Bull fighter Darryl Chong is sometime mistaken for a rodeo clown, but has one of the most serious jobs at this year's Mount Isa Mines rodeo.
More properly called a rodeo protection athlete, it's his job along with fellow bull fighters Brody Moss and Jayden Hakaraia to throw their bodies on the line to protect the cowboys at the end of every bull ride.
It's no wonder bull fighters are regarded by cowboys as the guardian angels of the sport.
"Our job is to look after the fallen bull riders, take control of the bull and try to lead him away from the rider so he gets out safely," says Darryl. "It's pretty serious and we have to be prepared to take a hit so the rider doesn't get tossed around.
"People look at us weirdly when I say I'm a bull fighter. They think I'm the funny guy in the arena but our job is pretty serious."
For Darryl, who was born in nearby Cloncurry (and his brother Tyler is also a bull rider), the Mount Isa rodeo is the biggest one the country has to offer.
"Everyone has heard of the Calgary Stampede, well the Mount Isa rodeo is the daddy of them all for Australia," says Darryl. "It makes it more exciting for me because I am back where I came from, and this rodeo has the best atmosphere and feeling you can get. We have to be really on our game."
Bull fighters wear shorts, jerseys, football boots and a Kevlar vest under their clothes, which offers limited protection. At 165cm and 72kg, Darryl says he expects to get hurt.
"I've been knocked out, had a horn through my hand, torn tendons and a few broken fingers and toes," he says. "We definitely put our body on the line. It's our job to protect and we have to give it our best shot."
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