Gympie bullfighters brave job protecting rodeo riders
RODEO: Everything comes down to a millisecond for Gympie's Clinton Clem.
He needs to be two steps ahead of everybody else around him in the arena, especially the giant bull charging towards him, in order to protect fallen riders from serious injury.
Clem has been involved in the rodeo scene his entire life and worked as a bullfighter for the past 17 years.
But it has not been smooth sailing though.
"My job is to protect all the cowboys that are riding the bulls and make sure they walk out as safe as they can,” he said.
"We take the hits so the bull riders don't have to take them. You only have a millisecond.”
Despite a family love for the sport, it was seeing his brother in the arena and that started his passion for bullfighting.
"I stepped into the practice pen one day and I thought it was something I wanted to have a go at it,” Clem said.
"My brother got in trouble pretty quick and I took a pretty good hit and that just stirred me into it.
"I really found the love for it from there.”
When asked if he was ever terrified in the ring, Clem said "I haven't got time to be scared. It's a split second decision.”
"If I don't go and put my body on the line every time to save everybody there is no point in me being there.”
But it has not all been smooth sailing though.
"In 2015 I snapped both bones in my leg, after the first bull fight of the night. I ended up with a fat embolism on my lung and I was very lucky the nurses picked up on it so quick,” he said.
"According to them (the nurses) about 2 per cent of people live through that. I was one of the lucky ones and I had a good 12 months off to recuperate and let everything heal up.
"The first few (rodeos) back I was a bit hit and miss and it definitely was playing on my mind. I nearly got to the stage where I called it quits and retired but I found consistency and started loving it again.”
Clem's passion to save the cowboys helped with his return to the arena.
"I love every minute of it in the arena and taking the hits and saving the cowboys, that's what we're there for. I love it,” he said.
"I love seeing all the boys make good rides on the bulls. The best night is obviously a clean night and we don't have to do any work.
"You have nights like that and then you have nights where everyone is copping a beating and you can hardly walk by the end of the night. But that's part of the game.”