LAS VEGAS – Cliff Richardson had an important goal 12 days ago that took the utmost precedence over any PBR Australia championship race or a possible trip to the 2019 PBR World Finals.
Instead, Richardson wanted to make sure his grandmother, Dell Richardson, had the chance to meet her great granddaughter before it was too late.
Cliff and his wife, Jess, had just celebrated the birth of their second child a few weeks earlier – a beautiful little girl named Lilah May – and they knew time was of the essence.
Del, 83, was beginning to lose her battle with leukemia, and the Richardsons believed she likely did not have much time left. Therefore, Cliff made sure to visit with his grandmother on Oct. 25 so she could meet Lilah May.
During the visit, Dell asked her grandson what he had been up to and how his bull riding career was going.
There used to be a time when she and her husband, Max, were not big fans of Cliff and his younger brother Lachlan taking up the sport. However, bull riding eventually grew on them and they became two of their grandsons’ biggest fans.
Dell told Cliff that day something that has stuck with him since her passing on Oct. 29 in Australia.
“She actually said to me, ‘Where you going this weekend?’” Cliff said. “I had Mildura coming up at home. She said, ‘Good luck, and hopefully you strike a big one soon.’
“They called me here (for the World Finals), but I don’t think she means big one by qualifying. I think she means big one by doing good.”
Richardson finished Round 1 of the 2019 PBR World Finals in ninth place Wednesday night with 85.75 points on Excessive Force less than 48 hours after attending his grandmother’s funeral in Australia.
“I haven’t had much sleep in the past three days to be honest with you, but when you get to the bull riding, you don’t seem to yawn and you are not drowsy,” Richardson said. “You know what you’ve got to do. Sometimes a short time after the event it ticks in.”
Richardson did not land in Las Vegas until Wednesday at 10 a.m. local time following a flight from Sydney to Los Angeles and second one to Las Vegas. He came to the U.S. with his buddy Mitch Russell as Jess and the newborn had to stay back in Australia.
It has been an emotional two weeks for Richardson as he knew his grandmother’s passing and funeral were likely coming.
Cliff and his brother decided to turn down the PBR Australia invite for the 2019 Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour Finals last weekend so they could be home for their grandmother’s funeral this week.
Cliff, though, went a perfect 3-for-3 at the PBR Australia event in Wodonga to earn 90 world points and qualify for the World Finals for the first time in his career.
Richardson had ridden seven consecutive bulls in Australia and 11 of his past 13 to qualify for Las Vegas. At the beginning of his streak on Aug. 17, Richardson was ranked No. 46 in the world standings.
The Richardsons have had to say goodbye to three of their grandparents in the last 18 months.
“We have all been through it,” Richardson said. “We are a really close country family that is pretty close-knit. No matter how much you tell yourself to be strong in there, and they are no longer in pain, it is just one of those things that hits hard.
“It is so hard. Everyone loves their grandparents.”
Prior to his grandfather Max passing away last year, Richardson won the PBR Australia Monster Energy Cup event in Newcastle.
Max had told his grandson to go do good in Newcastle and “bring us a buckle home.”
“It was a special thing between him and I,” Richardson said. “He set it on his stand above his bed and he later passed away. I will never wear that buckle. It is granddad’s buckle to me. It is life, but is tough. Everyone knows what it is like.”
Richardson explained that even though his grandparents were foreign to Western sports and rodeo, they still helped teach him the qualities necessary to be successful in and out of the arena.
“I learned a lot from them,” he said. “They weren’t rodeo people, our grandparents. But a lot of their life things they taught us carries on. Work ethic. Kindness. All sorts of things with life. My grandparents taught us to work hard daylight to dark.”
Richardson will continue his pursuit of striking the big one Thursday night against Cochise (50-18, UTB) in Round 2.
Fans can watch Round 2 live on CBS Sports Network (10 p.m. ET) and on RidePass (9:40 p.m. ET).
Richardson knows his grandmother will also be watching the action.
“I guarantee she is,” Richardson concluded.