NSW Breakers and Sydney Thunder rising star Anika Learoyd and Newcastle off-spinner Nick Foster were recognised as the 2020-21 Women’s and Men’s Country Player of the Year at the Cricket NSW awards on Friday night.

Learoyd, 19, made her Breakers and Thunder debuts this season, and received her first Alex Blackwell Medal as NSW Country Cricket’s female Player of the Year, while Foster was awarded the Josh Hazlewood Medal.

Foster captained Newcastle to the Men’s Country Championships title in late February. The Novocastrians defeating Riverina by 67 runs in the Final.

The current Bush Blues captain has been described as the personification of what it means to be a Country cricketer through his passion and dedication for the sport in the regions, in particular helping to drive the innovation of the cap numbering system for the Bush Blues.   

The other NSW Country Cricket award winners for 2020-21 confirmed on Monday are:

- NSW Country Kookaburra Youth Cricketer of the Year – Gabrielle Sutcliffe (Riverina)

- NSW Country Media Award - Steve Murphy (Albury) – ‘All In Sports’, for live streaming coverage of the NSW Country Championships Final in Goulburn

- NSW Country Groundsman of the Year – Kris Milosta – Alexandra Park, Albury

- NSW Country Umpire of the Year – Graeme Glazebrook (Western)

- NSW Country Coach of the Year – Tommy Anderson (Newcastle)

Sutcliffe, 19, also made her Thunder debut this season, and became the first female winner of the Kookaburra Youth Cricketer of the Year.

The exciting fast bowler hails from Corowa on the banks of the Murray River in southern NSW.

Bathurst’s Graeme Glazebrook recently received a record-breaking sixth Kevin Pye Medal as Country Umpire of the Year at the NSW Cricket Umpires’ and Scorers’ Association Annual Awards held on April 17.

Country Coach of the Year Newcastle’s Tommy Anderson this season coached Northern District to it’s first Women’s First Grade title in the NSW Premier Cricket competition and receives this award after a long and proud record of developing cricketers throughout the Hunter.

The Country cricket season was highlighted in February by the Finals of the Men’s and Women’s Regional Bash competitions each won by the ACT Aces.

Despite the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a full schedule of Country cricket competitions in NSW was completed to the amazement of NSW Pathway Competitions Manager, Bruce Whitehouse, who was so proud of what had been achieved by the Country cricket community in the last 12 months.

“It’s unbelievable we got through what we did in a year where we potentially could have had nothing,” said Whitehouse, who for more than decade has played a leading role in the coordination of Cricket NSW’s Country programs.

“It was just an amazing effort by everyone involved thanks especially to all of the volunteers around the state and positive attitude of all players.”

Within a matter of one or two years, Learoyd and Sutcliffe have graduated from competing at Country Championships into elite level squads demonstrating the strength of the Country Pathway program, Whitehouse said.

“Last year, Gabbi was playing at the Under 18 Country Championships, and one year later she has gone on to bigger and better things, and Anika played at those Championships two years ago proving to us that we have a very solid pathway to train these players to be ready to progress.”