Steven Nicholson has returned from a season in hibernation to land the Ballarat Cricket Association’s highest individual honour.
Nicholson, who didn’t play a first grade match during the 2016-17 campaign, claimed victory in the EJ Cleary Medal count on Wednesday night.
The all-rounder produced three three-vote performances, including in the last match of the home and away season. This helped him climb over round 11 leader Jayden Hayes (Ballarat-Redan) to win by two votes. Golden Point import Manjula De Zoysa finished third.
Nicholson said it was a “surreal” feeling to be crowned the EJ Cleary Medal winner.
“I never thought I’d be standing here for something like this,” Nicholson said.
“I was happy with how I went this year and the side is in the finals, so that’s even better.”
After sitting out much of 2016-17, Nicholson revealed there had been thoughts of having another season away from the game.
But when his wife suggested his spare time could be used helping out around the garden, cricket was quickly put back on the radar.
“I said ‘I think that’s enough motivation for me to go and have a hit of cricket’,” he said.
“Who would have thought this would have happened? I certainly didn’t.”
Nicholson has long been known for his left-arm orthodox spinners, but his emergence with the bat helped him claim the 2017-18 EJ Cleary Medal.
The Mt Clear star made 513 runs – including the season’s highest score of 174 – at an average of 64.13. This helped him claim the first grade batting aggregate and champion player awards.
To show how far Nicholson has come, in 2015-16 he made just 156 runs.
While dominating with the willow this season, Nicholson also claimed 16 wickets at a rate of 17.88.
He played in Mt Clear’s Regional Twenty20 Big Bash grand final win at the MCG and is a key part of the Mounties’ BCA first grade premiership hopes, with the club to battle Golden Point in the decider. The four-day match will start this Saturday at CE Brown Reserve.
The Pointies head in as the favourites after finishing undefeated on top of the ladder. They beat the Mounties in round 11.