Royalty of rodeo back in Warwick to watch niece compete

Princess Tracey Madsen, Miss Personality Shania Pitt, Queen runner-up Sophie Amos, Merilyn Roberton, Queen Appearance Tamara Evans, Queen Fundraiser and Horsemanship Tori Rafton and Queen Congeniality Taylah Gibson.
Princess Tracey Madsen, Miss Personality Shania Pitt, Queen runner-up Sophie Amos, Merilyn Roberton, Queen Appearance Tamara Evans, Queen Fundraiser and Horsemanship Tori Rafton and Queen Congeniality Taylah Gibson. Contributed

THIS year the Warwick Showgrounds will host a third generation of female rodeo competitors, a generation of trailblazers.

Former Miss Rodeo Knowledge of 1979 Merilyn Roberton , who was born in Ballandean, is back in town to watch her niece Creedence Donoghue compete in the Warwick Rodeo and Campdraft.

"I just absolutely love it," Ms Roberton said.

Ms Roberton's mother Hazel Curr was a member of the well known Bush Fillies with her sister Berryl Curr and friend Unice Lahey, back in the 1940s.

The group of three women have been said to revolutionise women's roles in rodeo.

"When the war was on they were short on male competitors and that's when it became the ladies' time to shine."

Bush Fillies competed in many events across the country and were the first female competitors to ride out in a rodeo event in Sydney.

They performed at the Ekka in 1941, bucking out every night for eight nights as part of the Royal Show's entertainment.

With ongoing inspiration from her mother, Ms Roberton competed against 20 other potential Queens from across Australia and was crowned Miss Rodeo Knowledge in 1979.

In the same year she competed in her first Buckjump in The Rhinstone Rodeo and won the ladies' events.

She competed in campdrafting and barrel racing in the same year.

After an eventful year in 1979, Merilyn started sprint racing quarter horses.

"I was very successful in doing that," she said.

Ms Roberton's love for horses grew at a very young age when she first started pony club and participated in poddy rides in the Stanthorpe show.

As soon as she was old enough, Merilyn competed in rodeo for almost 12 years.

The former Miss Rodeo Knowledge now runs a business in Brisbane.

Donny's Horse Products sells horse accessories made with natural fibres and cotton.

"I make saddle cloths, horse rugs and canvas swags," she said.

For all the time she spends in the state's capital, Merilyn said there was nothing better than coming to Warwick on rodeo weekend.

"I just love this region and I really love the people," she said

"I just love how it has that Australian spirit.

"It's still the same demographic of people, after all these years.

So far, Ms Roberton has spent her few days in Warwick connecting with old acquaintances. "The Rose and Rodeo festival gives us old-timers the opportunity to catch up with our like-minded horsey friends and share in the wonderful world of our unique Australian sport of campdrafting," she said.

On Friday she caught up with the international rodeo queens and shared memories of her days as Miss Rodeo Knowledge.

"It was a real buzz for me to see the queens here today," she said.

Ms Roberton said it was amazing to see the next generation of both competitors and horses now in action.

This year the campdrafting events have more than 120 female competitors.

"It makes me feel really proud to see so many women in the rodeo," she said.



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