CAIRNS, Australia – Nathan Burtenshaw was finally himself again.
The 6-foot-2 skyscraper Australian bull rider was back to his witty self a month and a half ago when he stepped foot inside the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington.
Four months of battling the difficulties associated with the premier series cutline was finally over as a third-place finish at the Ak-Chin Invitational, presented by Cooper Tires, in Glendale, Arizona, had pushed Burtenshaw to No. 23 in the world standings.
However, Burtenshaw’s smiles were wiped away when Hell Bound sent him crashing to the dirt in 3.05 seconds.
The impact of Hell Bound’s horn crashing into his right shoulder resulted in Burtenshaw’s right collarbone snapping in half.
Just like that and Burtenshaw’s career-year was put on hiatus as Dr. Alan Jones inserted a plate and eight screws into Burtenshaw’s collarbone on April 18.
Forty-six days later and Burtenshaw will now be returning to competition when he grabs his bull rope Saturday night for the PBR Australia Monster Energy Cairns Invitational.
“Yeah it was frustrating, but there is no point wasting time being frustrated,” Burtenshaw said. “Better off putting time into getting back to being healthy and riding good.”
Burtenshaw will be able to use the Cairns event to try and knock off any cobwebs from his time off before he represents Team Australia on June 9-10 at the Sydney Global Cup event.
The 24-year-old joins 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. 43 Justin Paton, No. 51 Cliff Richardson, No. 71 Bailey Woodard, No. 95 Budd Williamson, No. 113 Ethan Watts and No. 207 Bradie Gray on the team.
The final two roster spots for the 14-man roster will be decided by Dunn following the Cairns event.
“Yeah it is pretty special,” Burtenshaw said. “I have looked up to Troy my whole life. It is cool for him to be our coach. It is a team thing. We are going in and doing a boot camp. We learned a lot of stuff from Adriano (Moraes). Them older guys did last year. I think it should be good.”
Burtenshaw, who went 0-for-1 at the inaugural Edmonton Global Cup, is the highest-ranking Australian in the world standings despite his injury.
The Coonamble, New South Wales, native is a career-best 9-for-24 (37.5 percent) on the premier series and 14-for-37 (37.84 percent) at all levels of competition.
Dunn values Burtenshaw’s United States experience.
“Nathan is another one who has solid fundamentals, does a lot right and has UTB experience,” the 1998 World Champion said.
Burtenshaw was 5-for-9 at the time of his injury and appeared ready to turn a corner before Hell Bound had other plans.
“I am just starting to settle in,” Burtenshaw said before getting hurt. “I think I am not getting over freaking worried about what is going on around me or who is around me. It is good to be at the bull riding. There is no pressure or nothing.”
Burtenshaw has split his time this season in the United States between the 25th PBR: Unleash The Beast (nine events) and the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour/Touring Pro Division (five events).
The 2017 PBR Australia Finals event winner said getting solidified positioning inside the Top 35 helped him finally relax some and get back to riding in the United States like he did in Australia.
Burtenshaw has a 49.12-percent career riding average in Australia.
“I don’t have to worry about where I am sitting or where I am going,” Burtenshaw said. “I felt like I was riding like this a lot of times, but it just hadn’t been here at this level. I got really hot last year and felt just as good. Then I came over here and I got kind of overwhelmed by the situation and towered off pretty bad. I am just back to having fun and riding bulls like we do.”
Burtenshaw had begun to room with Team Canada’s Tanner Byrne earlier this season, and Byrne said he could see the weight lifted off Burtenshaw’s shoulders once he cracked the Top 35.
“He is one of those guys that he fits up here because he has that attitude that he is the best in the world,” Byrne said. “That is what has got him to where he is at today. You will hear a lot of guys say that in the locker room we all have that never say die attitude or that tough guy attitude. You never show that you are feeling like that cutline is there or anything like that.
“He has always been that confident Aussie guy that is always calling people out and having a good time and riding bulls. It was more inside his head. You can see it now. He has confidence and he is riding good so if that is what it took to get him to here then that’s perfect.”
Coincidentally, Burtenshaw broke his collarbone almost a year to the day of his 2016 season-ending broken back injury he sustained in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, at a Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event.
Burtenshaw bounced back in 2017 to win the 2017 PBR Australia Finals and finish the year 42nd in the world standings. The fifth-year pro was 35-for-87 (40.23 percent) at all levels of competition.
Now he is hoping to return from a far less serious injury and help his teammates defend their soil in their native land.
“You are going to see Australia this year will be pretty tough to beat,” Burtenshaw concluded.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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