PUEBLO, Colo. – Justin Paton never expected a torn right PCL to end his season last year when he was bucked off by Pile Driver at the PBR premier series event in Anaheim, California.
Paton knew he would be out 12 weeks, but he had plans of returning to competition and potentially
Instead, the injury kept him out eight months and cancelled his bid at qualifying for the PBR World Finals for the second time in his career.
Paton has rebooted his career back home in Australia this season and is off to one of the best starts of his career, which he was awarded for by Team Australia head coach Troy Dunn this month.
Dunn named Paton one of five additional riders to the Team Australia roster for the upcoming Global Cup event scheduled for June 9-10 in Sydney, Australia.
“Extremely proud,” Paton said. “The greatest honor for any athlete I believe is the opportunity to represent their country, and in our sport it’s rare to have that moment where we get to pull on an Australian jersey.
“I’ll be wearing mine with pride.”
Also named to the squad this week was No. 70 Bailey Woodard, No. 94 Budd Williamson, No. 111 Ethan Watts and No. 204 Bradie Gray.
The five riders join previously named six-time PBR World Finals qualifier Lachlan Richardson, PBR Australia leader Aaron Kleier, 2017 PBR Australia champion Troy Wilkinson, 2016 PBR Australia champion Cody Heffernan, 2015 PBR Australia champion Fraser Babbington, No. 27 Nathan Burtenshaw and No. 50 Cliff Richardson on the team.
The final two roster spots will be filled following the Cairns Invitational on June 2.
Paton is the No. 5 rider in the PBR Australia standings, but he is riding at an unbelievable rate by his standards.
He is 18-for-30 in PBR Australia this season and his 60-percent riding percentage is 14.36 points higher than his 45.64-percent career average.
Paton won back-to-back events last month – the Wodonga Invitational and Dirt N Dust Festival – to go with nine Top-5 finishes and is currently 41st in the world standings.
The 26-year-old trails Kleier by 2,006.66 points in the Australia standings.
Paton’s riding percentage is second to only Babbington’s 62.5 percent (20-for-32) in Australia.
“I sat on the sideline for about eight months until I had the confidence in my knee to ride again,” Paton said. “No surgery. Just a long physio process.”
Part of that process came with rehabbing alongside three-time PBR World Finals event winner Robson Palermo and personal trainer Tony Cruz.
The workout regimen helped Paton pack on 12 pounds of muscle during his time away from the sport.
Palermo, who was the head coach of Team Brazil at the inaugural Global Cup last November, said the workouts were good for Paton.
"Well, those first weeks were kind of hard for him because he never trained like this here. He worked a couple different parts of his body. He was kind of sore for a couple of days, but it was ok. He was a good hard worker and he learned pretty quick. He picked it up and started training with me pretty good."
Paton returned to Australia later in the spring and attempted to ride in a May event five months after initially tearing his PCL, but he didn’t feel 100 percent and decided to shut things down for an additional three months.
“I was meant to be back riding a lot sooner but there was still something bothering me with certain actions.”
Paton is one of three riders on Australia to have qualified for the PBR Finals. He won the International Wild Card invite at the 2015 Velocity Tour Finals and went 1-for-6 in Las Vegas.
Richardson leads the way with six qualifications, while 2017 PBR Australia champion Troy Wilkinson qualified last year.
Babbington and Heffernan have competed at the World Finals before as alternates.
Paton also attempted one bull at the 2016 World Finals as an alternate.
The Nebo, Australia, native believed that he was ready to ride full time on the PBR’s premier series last year prior to tearing the ligament in his knee.
“Yeah it sucked, but it’s been good to spend time back in Australia, and having the injury gave me the opportunity to stay home for a while,” Paton said.
Paton has been focusing on attempting to win the 2018 PBR Australia championship, but he has plans on returning to the United States following the PBR Australia National Finals this summer.
The seven-year Aussie pro is only 92.5 points out of a Top-35 ranking.
“Yeah I can’t wait to come back,” Paton concluded. “I’m hoping I’ll be in a good enough position in the standings after our Finals here to come finish the season over there. Definitely will be making a return.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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