PUEBLO, Colo. – Aaron Kleier is once again back to his winning ways in Australia after being victorious at this past weekend’s PBR Australia Iron Cowboy event.
The 19-year-old has been the most dominant rider in Australia since he debuted last December, and he has won seven of the 19 events he competed in – a 36.84-percent winning percentage.
If not for choosing to start his PBR career halfway through the 2017 season, Kleier likely would have won the 2017 PBR Australia championship.
However, Kleier wound up finishing second to 2017 champion Troy Wilkinson, and that was a big reason why the 2017 PBR Australia Rookie of the Year made the surprising decision to turn down a spot at the 2017 World Finals after finishing the regular-season 34th in the world standings.
“It was hard, but I talked to my dad a lot and we figured it was the right choice to make,” Kleier said earlier this month at the inaugural PBR Global Cup. “I was still in my first year of PBR Australia. I had set my goals of winning the Australia title before coming over and stepping up to quick.”
When asked if he felt he wasn’t ready yet for the caliber of bull power that would have been awaiting him in Las Vegas, Kleier quickly responded, “Yeah.”
Aaron’s father, Fred, was an amateur bull rider that even competed in the United States briefly before returning to Australia and getting involve in the stock contracting business.
Fred now brings bulls to Australian rodeos and PBR Australia events, and he also is able to provide his son with a strong set of practice bulls whenever he wants to get on at home in Clermont, Australia.
The two have talked a lot about the development path Aaron is on, and the son is trusting the process.
“Really through my whole life I have never stepped up to quick,” Kleier said. “Going through the junior levels and stuff, I have stayed where I should and it seems to work for me. I thought why jump up to quick and go to that one when it is sort of against what I have done my whole life and what has worked for me.”
It was still surprising to see a rider turn down the opportunity, especially when another rookie – Jose Vitor Leme – went 6-for-6 inside T-Mobile Arena to win the World Finals in his debut event and at 21 years old.
Fellow Australian Lachlan Richardson said he was a little surprised when he heard Kleier was not coming to the United States for the 2017 World Finals.
“Yeah I thought he still would have went because you qualify for something,” Richardson said. “It is each their own. That is his decision. I didn’t talk to him about it. Myself, I would have went.”
Richardson made his own tough choice of moving to the United States at 18 years old. He won his debut event in Uncasville, Connecticut, and has qualified for six consecutive PBR World Finals.
The now 23-year-old understands the ups and downs and challenges that come with moving to a foreign country and learning how to adapt to American-style bulls.
He believes when Kleier is mentally ready to make the move across the pond that he has the potential to be the latest Australian-born rider to succeed on the PBR’s primary United States tour.
“I have mainly seen videos (before Global Cup), but I have seen him ride a few,” Richardson said. “He rides really good. He hasn’t been on many of them kind of bulls yet, but he has dominated the Australian bulls. He has done what he needs to do there really, but it just depends if he wants to come. He could definitely give it a fair shot.
“The big step up is when you come here and do it every week and you are away from home. When you can’t see your friends and family for a long time that is what makes or breaks people. He is definitely as good as we have had in a long time.”
Richardson finished second to Kleier at Iron Cowboy.
The two were teammates at the Global Cup in Edmonton, Alberta, as Kleier got his first taste of North American bulls at the Global Cup.
The rookie rode Big Dirty for 84.5 points, but bucked off 2017 World Finals bull Boot Jack in 4.57 seconds.
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Regardless, Kleier said he doesn’t regret the decision to skip the World Finals, and he expects to one day ride full time in the United States.
He first wants to win the PBR Australia championship, which is he quickly on his way to after beginning the 2018 season 3-for-5 to win the Iron Cowboy event in Townsville.
“I will get over there soon,” Kleier said. “The plan is to focus on Australia.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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