TACOMA, Wash. – 2016 PBR Australia champion Cody Heffernan has not forgotten about the bitter disappointment he felt when he failed to qualify for the inaugural 2017 Global Cup in Edmonton, Alberta, event last November.
Heffernan vowed this season to make sure he left no doubt in first-year coach Troy Dunn’s mind that the veteran bull rider would be a slam dunk addition to Team Australia.
The 28-year-old apparently got his message across with a strong start to the 2018 season in the Land Down Under.
Dunn announced on Monday that Heffernan was one of four riders he was adding to Team Australia for the upcoming Sydney, Australia, Global Cup event at Qudos Bank Arena on June 9-10.
The 1998 PBR World Champion also selected No. 23 Nathan Burtenshaw, No. 30 Fraser Babbington and No. 38 Cliff Richardson to the 14-man roster.
The group joins Lachlan Richardson, Aaron Kleier and Troy Wilkinson on the team. Richardson, Kleier and Wilkinson qualified by being the Top 3 Australian riders in the final 2017 world standings.
Dunn will use the following months to evaluate who his final seven riders will be for Team Australia, which will have home-field advantage in Sydney compared to Team Brazil, Team Canada, Team Mexico and Team USA. The invading countries will be competing with seven riders.
Burtenshaw broke his right collarbone on Sunday in Tacoma, but he is hopeful he will be recovered in time to compete in Sydney.
The 23-year-old and Heffernan are new additions to Team Australia, which finished Edmonton in fourth place under former coach Adriano Moraes.
“It was really disappointing,” Heffernan said. “It’s been a big motivator to prove to myself, and a few doubters, that I should be there. It has set me on fire back in Australia. I had a goal to make sure I was on the team. That was important to me.”
Heffernan is the third highest-ranking Australian in the current world standings behind No. 23 Burtenshaw and No. 30 Babbington.
The No. 36 ranked rider in the world standings just came back to the United States for this weekend’s Tacoma Invitational, going 0-for-2, and plans on finishing out the first half in the U.S. before returning to Australia for the summer break and Global Cup.
Heffernan was 10-for-21 in PBR Australia events as of the beginning of the calendar year with two victories and four Top-5 finishes before returning to the United States.
“I am going to come over here and make sure I am on tour and make the World Finals,” Heffernan said. “I am going to compete. I am going to go back there and do the best when I can. If it plays out how I want it, I will win the (PBR Australia) title and still get to go to the World Finals.
“The big thing for me is to make the World Finals and get those (guaranteed) eight events (for 2018). That is really what I want.”
Riders that finish in the Top 30 of the world standings are guaranteed eight premier series events for the following season.
Team USA head coach Justin McBride said that Heffernan could become a better bull rider under the guidance and mentorship of a legend like Troy Dunn.
“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.”
Heffernan’s best season came in 2016 when he went 28-for-100 at all levels of competition to finish 38th in the world standings
Heffernan was close to dominant in Australia with six victories and an additional five Top-5 finishes. He went 26-for-61 (42.62 percent) and had 18 Top-10 finishes.
However, Heffernan struggled mightily at the premier series level in the United States and was a meager 6-for-38 (15.8 percent) in 15 events.
Low and behold, Heffernan was injured during the second half of that season and an injury to his riding elbow wound up being a major factor in him falling short of qualifying for the PBR World Finals.
“Well, I actually got hurt when I was on tour in August-September,” Heffernan said. “I couldn’t lift a feather. I couldn’t lift anything. I was trying to ride on tour and I didn’t tell anyone. It wasn’t broken or nothing, but there were tendons and stuff in the elbow (messed up).
“I didn’t want to make an excuse, but looking back now, it probably affected my riding physically and mentally.”
Heffernan’s elbow issues set him back in 2017 as he went only 25-for-83 (30.12 percent) at all levels of competition to finish 54th in the world standings.
2017 may have been a down year for Heffernan, but he believes his fast start to the season in Australia will spearhead him toward a successful 2018 season, as well as hopefully a Global Cup championship with Team Australia.
“I did kind of lose it a little bit after I won me title,” Heffernan concluded. “It has just taken a little bit to get it back. My recent success in Australia has me feeling like I am kind of back to normal.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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