Pub of the Week: Great Western Hotel, Rockhampton

A normal Friday night for me usually consists of Pad See Ew on the couch with the boy or a few too many glasses of pinot with the girls. So walking into the Great Western Hotel in Rockhampton last Friday night was a slight shock to the system.

The beautiful exposed brick walls, old timber bar and country music blaring over the stereo wasn’t too different from usual.

It was more the wall-to-wall cowboys, with their Akubra’s and belt buckles the size of dinner plates, ordering rum and Cokes before heading out the back to jump on a bucking bull.

The Great Western boasts Australia’s only indoor rodeo arena and hosts some of the biggest regional rodeo shows across the country. Every Wednesday and Friday night Gary Leffew, a world champion bull rider, runs his Bull Riding School that gives all the local cowboys a chance to practise the slightly weird sport of getting bucked off a bull. All in the local pub.

Before heading out to the arena to watch the action it’s time for a drink and it’s quite obvious that the Bundy & Coke on tap (yes, you heard me, on tap) is the second most popular attraction in the pub. Behind the cowboys.

Everyone here wants to be a cowboy, and if they don’t want to be a cowboy, they sure want to be with one. There are groups of girls starting to gather, and my friends are all pointing out the ones that go the longest… on the bull they mean. Of course.

We’re not sure who are cuter, the cowboys or the tiny little kids running around in their best ‘town’ outfits – Akubras slightly too big for their tiny heads, their best check shirt and huge belts that pull down their mini Wranglers.

The dinner menu is extensive but since we’re in the beef capital of Australia we can’t go past the steaks. Seriously, don’t. They are fantastic. Yes, there’s something slightly odd about tucking in to a big juicy steak while watching its less chargrilled counterpart buck its way around the arena but hey, when in Rocky…

Cowboy chat The cowboys do their thing for most of the night, providing endless entertainment with big spills, heart pumping adrenalin and a whole lot of testosterone. The rodeo clowns are there to distract the fired up bulls and can be more entertaining to watch than the rides. I’m pretty sure we saw one cover the distance of the arena quicker than Usain Bolt. You move pretty quickly with a bull charging you down.

Even the mini-cowboys get a go with kids as young as six trying for their eight seconds on poddy calves with the assistance of Gary and his team.

We have such a good time we’re wondering how we can bring the rodeo to the ‘big smoke’.

It sure beats dancing around your handbag.