Putting his body on the line to save the best in bull riding
YOU'RE GUARANTEED the best seat in the house, smack bang in the middle of the arena and within an inch of the action.
The catch is, you're on the warpath of a one-tonne beast hell bent on wreaking havoc.
A protection athlete in the PBR is dangerous business, but someone has to do it, and Dimbulah local Kerry Whitehouse has proved he's up for the challenge.
The very first far north Queenslander to be offered the hazardous job, Kerry says he's overwhelmed and humbled.
"It's a massive achievement to be noticed by the PBR and it makes you really see you must be doing your job right,” he said.
"I feel accomplished and honoured to be a part of it.”
For five years Kerry has been protecting bull riders from serious injury or death by putting his own life on the line - the past 18 months of this spent with Professional Bull Riders Australia.
"I can't wait to perform in front of my home crowd when PBR hits Cairns July 8. It's going to be a rush and a very proud moment for me. The pinnacle of my career so far,” he said.
A happy, easygoing kind of bloke, between trying to stay alive and keeping the riders safe, Kerry likes to have fun in the arena.
"I used to get a massive adrenaline rush when I first started at the smaller bush rodeos, and I still do, but not in the same way.
"I don't think about what can happen if a bull gets me. I'm totally focussed on making sure the riders get home safe to their families.
"My job is to put my body between them and the bull, and I do that with pride.”
An ex-bull rider, Kerry knows just what it's like to get up on the belligerent beasts, but as much as he misses climbing on-board and buckling in for the ride, he wouldn't trade his job as a protection athlete for the world.
"I love it. It's an honour to work alongside the other protection athletes in the arena,” he said.
"We all have each other's backs. We work in a tripod, and try not to get in each other's way.
"We work like magnets, pulling together when needed.”
When asked how he coped with the fear of grabbing a bull by the horns, he replied, "it's the most fun you can have with your clothes on”.
"It's as if time slows down when that chute opens. Your senses sharpen ten-fold.
A man who's totally committed to the sport, there's plenty of behind the scenes work Kerry has to commit to as well.
He has a gym at home, which he trains in every day, as well as going for a six-kilometre run on a daily basis.
He also works at cattle stations, including mustering and bull catching in his spare time. He's suffered broken ribs, broken collarbones, a shattered cheek and eye socket and broken wrists and hands, as well as being bulldozed and run over by the bulls on a regular basis, but he takes it all in his stride.
"You have to learn how to take a hit from the bulls. Leaning into them and showing no fear is the secret. And being agile can save your life.”
Kerry dreams of making it over to the National Finals in Las Vegas someday, and from the way he's proving himself, it's safe to say that day might come sooner rather than later.
Watch Kerry in action at the Cairns PBR on July 8. Tickets on sale now at www.pbr australia.com.au.