SYDNEY, Australia – 1998 World Champion Troy Dunn wanted his team to use its best jab on Saturday night inside Qudos Bank Arena, but instead Team Australia wound up taking a couple of body blows despite their best attempts to connect on some haymakers during the Sydney Global Cup event.
Team Australia is 5.75 points behind Team Brazil in the event standings and their 8-for-16 performance on night one of the Global Cup has them very much alive in the race for global bull riding dominance.
However, the task got that much harder for Championship Sunday as they failed to truly capitalize on their home field advantage.
The Australians (657 points) are essentially in a dead-heat with Team Brazil (8-for-9, 662.75 points), Team USA (7-for-9, 585.5 points) and Team Canada (7-for-9, 555.5 points) and will only have three extra ride attempts as their home field advantage shrinks to 10 riders in the long round.
Fans can watch the conclusion of the Global Cup exclusively on RidePass beginning at 5:30 a.m. ET on Sunday, June 10.
“I was pretty proud of the boys,” Dunn said. “They really stood up, and even the fellas that didn’t. Even though they got thrown off, they really contributed to the other fellas riding good. They rode to the best of their ability.”
Dunn couldn’t mask the disappointment after the event though.
The reality of missed opportunities were fresh on his mind.
PBR Australia No. 1 rider Aaron Kleier and six-time PBR World Finals qualifier Lachlan Richardson – two of the best riders in Australia – both bucked off each of their bulls on Saturday night.
Kleier had requested to take on Juiced Wiggles (4.8 seconds) in Round 1 on Friday evening, and he then was bucked off by SweetPro’s Palooka in 4.75 seconds in the Bonus Round.
Richardson was bucked off at just before 8 seconds (7.72 seconds on Rodeo Blues) in Round 1 and then was sent packing by SweetPro’s Fully Locked & Loaded in 4.03 seconds.
Meanwhile, PBR Australia champs Cody Heffernan and Fraser Babbington were also both bucked off in Round 1.
No one could have expected four of Australia’s best to go a combined 0-for-6.
“Some of the older fellas, some of the more experienced guys, Aaron just flat-out got bucked off his first bull,” Dunn said. “And then I’m thinking Fraser might’ve been too excited. He’s just that kind of a fella and got fully blown. Too riled up, too worked up. I talked about all that. I carried on about it, but you see it all the time. I watch a lot of boxing. I watch hours and hours of boxing and the coaches and commentators keep saying, ‘Use your jab. The guy’s gotta use your jab.’ And they don’t use their jab, and they get beat.
“Sometimes if you forget the basics, it’ll bring you unstuck.”
Cliff Richardson won Round 1 for Australia by making an impressive 87.25-point ride on Blossom.
Richardson is a perfect 3-for-3 aboard Blossom.
“He’s a really nice bull,” Richardson said. “I’ve seen guys get thrown off him, but I’ve had a pretty good record with that bull and that’s why the boys put me on it. I didn’t really push the point of getting on him because everyone loves him and that bull suits everyone. But I’ve rode him twice before and the boys put me straight on him.
“It was good to get him done, that’s for sure.”
The Australian bench came through big time to keep the Global Cup hosts alive in the contest.
Justin Paton kicked things off with an 83.75-point ride on Notorious, while teenagers Ky Hamilton, 18, and Bailey Woodard, 19, picked up qualified rides aboard Dark Destroyer (81.25 points) and Windy Gate (79.5 points).
“The energy’s great,” Paton said. “I love coming down here to these events. The crowd really gets behind you. But I think given the format, where it’s Australia against the world, the crowd here is just that much more into it and that much more passionate to get behind us.”
Hamilton added, “Sitting on the back of the bucking chutes there, I was feeling the pressure a little bit when the rest were going. But you just got to bear down and do your job, and it was good to get it done.
“It’s always good to have a bit of youth on the team, so yeah, we’re keen as mustard and ready to go at ‘em.”
No. 25 Nathan Burtenshaw fought through a torn left ACL to reach the 8-second mark on Freight Train for 78.25 points.
“I had to step up,” Burtenshaw said. “No one wanted to get on that bull last night. I walked up and said, ‘I’d take that bull in the draft.’ Should just freaking prove a point for the people getting on the good ones.”
Dunn admitted he tried to pair up his better riders against some of the easier bulls and that maybe that plan backfired.
“I can probably beat myself up all I like, but at the end of the day that’s what was supposed to happen,” Dunn said. “The number of bulls we got rode are the number of bulls that were always going to get rode. That’s the way it goes. And I did change some things around last night at midnight. I had some better guys getting on the tougher bulls and I put the better guys on the softer bulls so we could get some more bulls rode. I did change some things.”
Regardless of what could have been on Saturday night, the Australians still control their destiny in Sydney.
There is still a path to victory for them on home soil.
“Like I said to the fellas, ‘Just keep your chin up. Everybody gets thrown off in bull riding. That’s just bull riding. That’s what happens. You’re riding bulls. Everyone’s going to get dusted,’” Dunn said. “I told them they contributed to the other fellas riding well because we’re all pulling together and there seems to be a high team morale and they’re all getting along. So hopefully that helps. The boys, they’re professionals. They’ve been thrown off before and they know how to bounce back.
“If we all get behind them, and we are, there’s no reason why we can’t be better.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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