Australia’s only world champion bull rider, Troy Dunn, has hand-picked Singleton’s Cody Heffernan to be on his team.
Dunn is the coach of our PBR Global Cup team and has the arduous task of determining who is up to taking on the best of the best in this ground breaking event.
With its nation verses nation team format, the Global Cup is set to settle the score on which country lays claim to the best bull riders in the world.
Each country competing - Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and the United States - will host an event to decide “The Toughest Nation on Dirt”.
Canada was the first cab off the rank but Team USA spoiled the party, coming from behind to win in Edmonton.
“It’s a huge honour to be selected for my country, one that I won’t take for granted,” says our home-grown champ.
The second leg of the inaugural PBR Global Cup will be held at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney from June 9 – 10.
And, this will give Team Australia the “home-field advantage”.
As the host nation competes with 14 riders on their team as opposed to the visitors seven.
Hefferan, Gresford’s Cliff Richardson, Nathan Burtenshaw and Fraser Babbington are Dunn’s first four picks.
They will join automatic qualifiers Lachlan Richardson, Aaron Kleier and Troy Wilkinson on Team Australia with remaining spots to be announced periodically after upcoming PBR events in Mt Cotton (May 6) Rockhampton (May 11) and Cairns (June 2).
“This group of guys are going to fly the flag high and leave it all in the arena,” says Heffernan.
“This will be the biggest bull riding event Australia has seen, it’s going to be intense.”
Prior to show time these fearless competitors will go into camp with Dunn after the PBR event in Cairns, he explains.
Then they will fly down to Sydney on the Wednesday, where they will stay together in a motel before defending our national pride in the battle for global dominance.
This type of preparation is a departure from the norm for practical cowboys like Heffernan and Richardson.
These no fuss characters are accustomed to finding their own way to events.
This often involves leaving Singleton and Gresford respectively, in the early hours of the morning and driving for hours on the day they compete.
As unlike their American counterparts most of our top professional bull riders can’t survive on prize money alone.
Richardson combines the sport he loves with working in the family business, commission cattle buying and fulfilling his obligations to his young family.
On top of this his wife, Jess, regularly competes at rodeos in the breakaway roping.
“We have always got a lot going on,” he says.
This is quite the understatement as the 2017 ABCRA Bull Riding National Champion also qualified for the first leg of the inaugural Global Cup in Edmonton.
An experience comparable to no other, and one he was able to share with his younger brother, Lachlan who finished 4th overall (86.5-87.75-0-0-174.25) while Cliff placed 8th (86.25-0-85.25-0-171.50).
“It’s pretty cool to ride for your country, in any sport not many people get to do that,” he says.
But for Cliff sharing this experience with his “best mate” made it all the more memorable as the siblings don’t get to ride together much these days.
“Lachlan spends nine to ten months of the year overseas competing,” he explains.
“But as kids from a young age we would ride together at rodeos every weekend.”
And, now the talented siblings are set to re-unite in Sydney.
Before this, Cliff will be competing at the upcoming ABCRA sectioned Singleton Rodeo and has graciously accepted the challenge of riding in a $5000 charity match-up.
He is going head-to-head with the 2017 ABCRA Buckin Bull of the Year Call Me Joe - a prospect that excites him.
After all Richardson’s form of late has been impressive - on the PBR circuit he secured a win at Yass and came in second best at Adelaide and Wodonga.
He is currently ranked third in the Australian standings and has his sights set on the ultimate prize – the 2018 PBR Australian Championship.
A buckle he would probably already have earned, if it was not for a life-threatening injury that sidelined him in 2014.
Prior to this Cliff had picked up the PBR 2013 rookie of the year, and in 2011 the ABCRA rookie bull rider, all-rounder and bareback rider.
But given the unpredictable nature of this brutal sport and his strong work ethic, Richardson doesn’t plan too far ahead.
“I just take it as it comes,” he says.
And, what is coming his way is the chance to get one up on Call Me Joe.
“He is a really good bull. I have seen him grow up as he is owned by a good friend so I am pretty excited about getting on him at Singleton.”
While this year Heffernan will not make an appearance at his home town rodeo on Saturday, April 28 as he has re-joined the top tour in America.
After breaking into the Top 35 on the international standings after the Wodonga PBR, Heffernan decided to return to the top tour.
His first stop on the 25th PBR Unleash the Beast Tour was the Tacoma Invitational and the next is Billings in Montana from April 20-23.
Earlier this week Team America coach Justin McBride commented on Heffernan’s inclusion in the Australia’s Global Cup team.
“I like Troy’s call there,” McBride said.
“I like Cody Heffernan. I think he is a young guy that with the right tutelage, somebody like a tough guy like Troy – an all-time great from any country – can do some good. Troy can do some really good things with Cody Heffernan. Cody has the tools. He just has to be shown how to use them at times.”