This weekend kicks off the last month of the 2019 PBR Australia season and there are three events remaining before we head to Townsville for the Grand Finals.
The pressure is on at both ends of the National Standings with only the Top-17 riders competing on November 15-16.
A maximum of 1800 points remain up for grabs to any individual rider over the next three weekends. The remaining events on the Monster Energy Tour are October 26 at Mildura, November 2 at Wodonga and November 9 in Adelaide.
Once we arrive in Townsville, there are increased points available with 1250 round points, plus a further 1250 event points available across the two nights at the 2019 PBR Australia Grand Finals.
The contenders in the run to Townsville
Defending PBR Australian National Champion Aaron Kleier sits atop the standings with 4228.33 championship points earned in 2019, a lead of 780.83 points over his nearest rival, townsman Brady Fielder.
Heading into last season’s finale, the buffer between Kleier and the second-placed Cliff Richardson was 776.82 points.
While there are a host of cowboys with a mathematical chance of catching Kleier, realistically, the race is down to four riders.
The No. 2 ranked Fielder has 3447.5 points banked. The 19-year-old holds an almost unassailable lead in the Rookie of the Year race.
Lachlan Richardson holds down the third spot in the standings with 2365 points, 1863.33 points adrift of Kleier, while Cliff Richardson completes the Top-5 on 2190 points, 2038.33 points behind.
The next fortnight of PBR Australia competition will be crucial for the Richardson brothers. An unfortunate result in Mildura or Wodonga would almost certainly eliminate either rider from Gold Buckle contention.
The numbers behind the battle
All statistics and trends indicate that Aaron Kleier and Brady Fielder will remain within view of each other until the final Championship Round of the season inside the Townsville Entertainment & Convention Centre.
Kleier has averaged a gain of 192.20 points at the 22 events he has contested this season, while Fielder has earned an average of 181.45 points from his 19 performances. The next highest of active riders is Cliff Richardson on 115.26 points from 19 events with Lachlan Richardson averaging a haul of 112.62 points from 21 events.
The Clermont pair are also quite close in terms of riding percentage. Fielder has the lead this time over Kleier, 67.50% to 64.58%. The next highest of the contenders is Cliff Richardson with a 47.37% success rate.
If we look at the average ride scores, Kleier is out in front with 84.42 points. Cliff Richardson is second with 83.64 points and Fielder is close behind on 83.28 points.
The PBR World Standings and the possible 2019 World Finals twist
One thing that may play a factor for the top Australian riders is PBR Finals Week, but that will be a personal decision for each cowboy. This weekend’s event in Mildura may play a big part in this decision making.
After being ruled ineligible for the 2019 PBR World Finals via his No. 19 World Ranking, Aaron Kleier is still eligible to qualify via the international qualifier route at the 2019 PBR Pendleton Whiskey Velocity Tour Finals.
I added an opinion article to the website on this ruling and the scheduling issues back in September – PBR at risk of losing the World from its Finals.
The Velocity Tour Finals are held in Las Vegas on the same weekend as the Wodonga Invitational. It is also worth noting that Kleier is currently ranked No. 35 in the Velocity Tour standings with just one single event remaining in that series.
If Kleier finishes the highest of the international invites, he would then contest the PBR World Finals a week later and would miss the Adelaide Invitational. There are several other possibilities that all depend on what the PBR allows should he head stateside.
Should Kleier decline the international invite, as he did in 2018, the spot would fall to Fielder or one of the trailing riders.
Currently, Brady Fielder is likely to qualify directly to the 2019 PBR World Finals via his No. 33 world ranking. Fielder has accumulated 850 world points and is 163.34 points ahead of the projected cut line which at this stage, appears to be at No. 38.
There are only a handful of opportunities around the world for riders to earn points over the next two weeks, and we are lucky enough to have two events here in Australia. 170-points will be available to the winning rider at both Monster Energy Tour events in Mildura and Wodonga.
This situation bodes well for Cliff Richardson, who occupies 40th spot in the PBR World Standings on 670 points. With numerous injuries to the Top-35 riders, Richardson is in line for a possible alternate spot but any extra points that he can earn in Victoria will enhance his chances of qualifying for a maiden PBR World Finals.
The 340-points available also brings World No. 47 Lachlan Richardson into contention to qualify for his eighth PBR World Finals. The Gresford cowboy sits 231.66 points behind No. 38 Colten Jesse. If he can put together two excellent results, he may very well force his way inside the bubble.
Depending on how the PBR structure the invites this year, Lawson Nobbs could also qualify for the Velocity Tour Finals with his No. 38 ranking in the series.
The race to qualify for the 2019 PBR Australia Grand Finals
Lawson Nobbs currently holds down a qualification spot for Townsville. The Moura talent sits 15th in the Standings on 590 points. A gap of over 100 points has formed ahead of him to the 14th placed Will Purcell.
Jason Mara, who collected his 580 points from the first event of the season in Melbourne sits in 16th place with Brazil’s Flávio Vinícius da Silva rounding out the Top-17 on 525 points.
The door is ajar for riders outside the cut line with No. 4 Cody Heffernan and No. 7 Kurt Shephard both electing to undergo season-ending surgery over the past few weeks.
If we take injuries and possible absent riders into account, we could see the qualification placing set as high as the 21st ranked rider.
Nathan Burtenshaw has returned to Australia after spending the second half of the season competing in the USA, and he sits in 18th place with 500 points.
This extension would bring No. 19 Fraser Babbington and No. 20 Budd Williamson into contention for a spot. The veteran riders have earned 498.33 points and 475 points respectively this season.
Joshua Jones, Jay Borghero and Josh Cavanagh are ranked 21st thru 23rd and are all within 55-points of Williamson.
So, there are plenty of storylines to play out over the next month of competition.
I am looking forward to seeing what direction our Aussie riders take over the next week or two. I also believe that PBR Australia is not too far off announcing the International Invites for the Grand Finals.
Make sure you stay tuned to Ride the Rage for all the latest updates!