Country's best rodeo no mean feat to put on

DEDICATED TO RODEO: Gerard O'Leary has volunteered at the Warwick Rodeo and Campdraft since 1980.
DEDICATED TO RODEO: Gerard O'Leary has volunteered at the Warwick Rodeo and Campdraft since 1980. Toni Somes

BACK in 1980, a much younger Gerard O'Leary volunteered at his first Warwick Rodeo and Campdraft.

Nearly four decades later, he is president of the organising committee and still going strong.

As incredible a feat as that sounds, and it is, he said it wasn't unusual for volunteers to keep coming back for more fun and mateship while staging the country's most important rodeo.

He also said it was probably the only one in the country that had a campdraft in the same week.

It was the kind of insanity that took some 300 volunteers to pull off by the time rodeo week arrived in October.

"It's going very well at the moment and we're expecting big entries,” he said.

"I think at this stage we've decided to reduce the number of nominations because there is a lot of work in it for volunteers on the ground.

"It's a long week.

"Last year we did nearly 900 entries in each draft and that's a lot of work and time restraints.

"We're probably the only association in Australia that runs a rodeo and campdraft in the same week.”

He said the event was high on the wish list of any cowboy or campdrafter thanks to its long-term reputation as the country's premier event and its culmination in the Australian Professional Rodeo Association final and the all-important Warwick Gold Cup.

And if the committee followed through with a reduction in entry numbers, he said it wouldn't be a bad thing for the event.

"It'll probably be the cream of the campdrafters and will improve the competition,” he said.

People come from all over the country to see the country fanfare, but surprisingly, so do the volunteers.

"Some people take a week off work every year for it and come to volunteer,” Mr O'Leary said.

Many of the volunteers threw themselves into the rodeo lifestyle for the week, camping out and building their own little community.

Mr O'Leary said he was currently on the hunt for cattle and volunteers for this year's event.

"We usually hire cattle but if people want to give them to us, we'll take them,” he said.

"They come from everywhere between St George and Warwick - we've got some big supporters out there.

"We get what we can and it's usually about 4500 head, which we have to freight in and out.”

The event was a true community affair, with all supporters working for nothing more than food and water and not even the president was paid a wage.

But he said if that was what it took to put on the country's finest rodeo and campdrafting event, people seemed happy to help.

He said there was no shortage of jobs to carry out, from drafting cattle to working the bar.

To volunteer cattle or time, contact Mr O'Leary on 0429959164.

Topics:  campdrafting rodeo warwick gold cup warwick rodeo warwick rodeo and campdraft