This year’s Wrangler National Finals Rodeo will be a little different for saddle bronc riding fans.
Between them, Billy Etbauer and Rod Hay have 41 qualifications to ProRodeo’s finale. Neither will nod his head inside the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, which begins in less than two weeks.
Etbauer, a five-time world champion, failed to qualify for the NFR, finishing the season 36th on the money list with $26,578. Since his first trip to the biggest rodeo in the country in 1989, this is the first year the 47-year-old isn’t competing. Some wondered if he was starting to hang ’em up, but he’s not. He just didn’t win the way he needed to.
Hay, who missed the 1991 and 2009 championships, announced Friday he will not be healthy enough to compete — a rather disheartening finding for the Canadian champion who is in ninth place in the world standings with $77,693. He won the $50,000 shootout round at RodeoHouston, earning more than $54,000 there.
But on June 20, Hay’s right femur was shattered at a rodeo in Innisfail, Alberta — a rodeo he won, by the way — and it just hasn’t healed the way he needed it to in order to compete for the world championship.
Hay’s spot at the NFR will be filled by first-timer Jesse Wright, the younger brother of world champion Cody Wright, who finished the regular season No. 16 in the standings.
“I needed to get more mobility in my leg and feel comfortable that I could be competitive,” Hay told the PRCA. “If I’m going to go there, I want to be a threat and believe I have a chance. People pay a lot of money to go to Las Vegas, and they want to see that guys are competing to win. I didn’t feel I would be at that level.”