NSW Blues revelations Hayden Kerr and Blake Nikitaras have earned contracts for 2022-23 after last season’s heroics that saw the pair make strong Sheffield Shield debuts.
Kerr, who excelled in all three formats, was rewarded for a season where he won the state’s Michael Bevan One Day Player of the Tournament Medal and was named Sydney Sixers BBL Player of the Tournament, with a full Blues contract.
The all-rounder was joined as the recipient of a Blues contract for the first time by Manly bowler Ryan Hadley who was upgraded from a rookie contract last season to a senior deal for this coming summer.
Kerr and Hadley replaced retired stalwart Peter Nevill and fast bowler Harry Conway as the only two changes to the Blues’ full-time senior list.
Nikitaras joined his father Steve as a NSW Sheffield Shield player when he made his debut for the Blues in the final match of the season, confidently scoring 44 and 56 in a 5-wicket loss to South Australia. That performance combined with a stunning Premier Cricket season secured Nikitaras a CNSW rookie contract for 2022-23.
The St George opener, who is from the Illawarra region, was joined as rookie contract recipients by Australian Under 19 World Cup squad members Lachlan Shaw, Will Salzmann and a reserve for that squad, Liam Doddrell.
Promising up and comers Jack Nisbet, who was also part of the Australian Under 19 World Cup squad, and Hunar Verma retained their rookie contracts.
Cricket NSW Head of Male Cricket, Michael Klinger, said the deals for Kerr and Nikitaras were well deserved after both made it impossible to be ignored.
“Hayden Kerr was one of the stars of the Australian domestic summer and he has thoroughly deserved his opportunity for a Blues contract,” Klinger said.
“He is 25 and wasn’t even on a rookie deal last year so it goes to show if you work hard and produce the right performances when given a chance, anything is possible.
“Blake (Nikitaras) is similar and he took his opportunity in our last Sheffield Shield match with both hands. While he is 22 and older than our other new rookies Lachy Shaw, Will Salzmann and Liam Doddrell, he has demonstrated that a weight of runs or wickets in Premier Cricket, followed up by outstanding Second XI performances, can lead to a professional opportunity.
“Our focus on development and growth will further allow these players and others like Ryan Hadley, who earned an upgraded contract, to continue their progression to have a long term sustainable professional cricketer career.”
Klinger said the addition of Shaw, Salzmann and Doddrell was exciting with all three teenagers displaying encouraging attributes off and on the field.
“Obviously we look at skill level and performance when we asses players but we also look at things like character and attitude when introducing new cricketers onto our rookie list,” Klinger said.
“These three guys, along with Blake and Hunar Verma and Jack Nisbet have demonstrated maturity and skills on and off the field.
“With our rookies, we have a big emphasis on cricket and life balance including those who are still at school, university or working.
“We look forward to watching them develop and grow in our system.”
The Blues and CNSW player lists are complimented by the seven NSW players who are contracted by Cricket Australia, including Test skipper Pat Cummins, bowlers Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc and Adam Zampa and batters Steve Smith and David Warner.
The Blues currently have a large contingent of players plying their trade overseas at the IPL and in the UK, while many will represent Australia on the upcoming tour to Sri Lanka.
Those players remaining in Australia will return to training at CNSW’s new facility on the Wilson Park site in June.
NSW Blues squad for 2022-23 season
Ins: Liam Doddrell (rookie), Ryan Hadley (upgraded), Hayden Kerr, Blake Nikitaras (rookie), Lachlan Shaw (rookie), Will Salzmann (rookie)
Outs: Josh Baraba (rookie – delisted), Harry Conway (SA), Peter Nevill (retired)
CA Contracted Blues: Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Adam Zampa
Blues Contracts: Sean Abbott, Trent Copeland, Oliver Davies, Ben Dwarshuis, Jack Edwards, Mickey Edwards, Matthew Gilkes, Ryan Hackney, Ryan Hadley, Liam Hatcher, Lachlan Hearne, Moises Henriques, Baxter Holt, Daniel Hughes, Hayden Kerr, Kurtis Patterson (c), Daniel Sams, Jason Sangha, Tanveer Sangha, Chris Tremain
CNSW Rookies: Liam Doddrell, Blake Nikitaras, Jack Nisbet, Lachlan Shaw, Will Salzmann Hunar Verma