PUEBLO, Colo. – Tanner Byrne may have won the Glen Keeley Award for a third consecutive season, but the 24-year-old knows he has a hungry group of challengers coming after him in 2017.
Quite frankly, Byrne wouldn’t want it any other way.
The Glen Keeley Award is given annually to a Canadian-born rider who earns the most world standings points. And based upon the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals, there are stout challengers awaiting Byrne in 2017.
“Like I have said before, there are so many great Canadian riders that are up there,” Byrne, who finished 15th in the world standings, said. “You see guys qualifying like Dakota (Buttar) and Ty (Pozzobon) this year going strictly to Canada events. There are so many good guys, so to win an award that says you are the best of your country never gets old to me.
“Glen Keeley is a legend in our sport and the best bull rider to ever come out of Canada. To win an award with his name on it is a huge honor for me. I have huge respect for the Keeley family.”
Pozzobon – the 2016 PBR Canada champion – nearly won the 2016 World Finals with his 4-for-6 performance and wound up finishing 23rd in the world standings, only 427.5 points behind Byrne.
The 25-year-old competed in just three BFTS events before the World Finals after primarily competing in PBR Canada events.
“Pozzy is phenomenal and he has always been so good,” Byrne said. “I have always said he is one of the best bull riders I have ever seen. Not just Canadian bull rider, but bull rider. He has just never had a full season where he doesn’t get hurt.”
Then there is Buttar, a two-time Canadian Professional Rodeo Association champion. The 24-year-old has eight guaranteed BFTS events in 2017 after his 88.25-point ride on Hy Test in Round 5 of the Finals helped him finish the year 30th in the world.
Buttar had only competed in two BFTS events, but qualified for the World Finals thanks to his 2-for-4 showing at the Velocity Tour Finals.
“Dakota is getting his feet wet here,” Byrne said. “Getting to come to the World Finals at the end of the year and he really stepped up to get into the Top 35 and get his eight events next year.”
In general, 2016 was a great year for representation of bull riding north of the border.
Byrne, Pozzobon, Buttar and five-time Glen Keeley Award winner Aaron Roy all qualified for the World Finals, which was the most Canadian-born qualifiers since 2012, and Canadian bulls Seven Dust and Hey Jack were 2016 World Champion Bull contenders.
Not to mention, Byrne became the first Canadian bull rider to win a BFTS event since 2003 this past season.
“The top bulls in the world are coming out of our home country,” Byrne said. “There has always been good bull riders come and go from Canada, but I feel like with the way the sport is going these are the best bulls and bull riders that have come out of there. It is because of the guys that came before us that showed us the way and how to get where we are.
“I am going to take it all in this year because I know I worked to be the best Canadian in the world and I am very, very proud of that. With the good caliber of guys we have just gives me the confidence that I am the best.”
There has never been a World Champion rider or bull from Canada.
Which will come first?
“World Champion Canadian bull rider,” Byrne replied. “I have gone my whole life wanting to be a World Champion. It is like anything. Once you get rolling, you get rolling. Look at Cooper Davis. He won the World Finals last year and all of a sudden he started kicking ass.”
2016 was a year of pros and cons for Byrne. He won his first two career events during the first half of the season, but the Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, bull rider failed to build off those victories during the final seven months of the season.
Byrne, who finished eighth in the world standings in 2015, saw his riding percentage drop from 44.87 percent to 32.88 percent.
“I know I am the best bull rider in the world and I feel like I have always been a late kind of guy to get rolling,” Byrne said. “When I first came to the pro scene, I wasn’t all that good, but I work harder than anybody to get myself built up for these next levels. I won two events this year and that is going to feed me for next year.
“I know I am World Champion caliber and I want to win a World Championship. That is why we are all here. There are days I can’t get bucked off and there are days I can’t stay. It is a mental game. I work hard getting myself physically ready for everything that there is to handle.”
Byrne, who will be entering his fourth PBR season, also knows the easiest way to insure himself of a fourth consecutive Glen Keeley Award would be by winning the world title.
“Obviously my goal is to win a World Championship next year and with that will come the Glen Keeley Award.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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