In January this year we provided you with our first ever Nottingham Sport Awards for 2020 which were announced online and kept low key due to national lockdown at the time. We hoped by our second edition ceremony that we would be able to party like politicians in Downing Street, but having been told once again by Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently, to stay safe over Covid-19’s latest variant, we’ve decided for the 2021 edition again, like last year, to do as we are told and keep it low key, and not to enjoy a Christmas styled party like those perhaps might, at number ten.
Instead, we will do the same with 2021 as we did for last years winners, no cocktails, no tux or tail, no actual hard gong to be passed with potential traces of deadly virus splashed all over it, instead, we’ll aim again to do all that for our 2022 edition, we will get it right, and we will reward those winners with something silver or gold (plated) with a free bar and buffet along with sanitised hand-shakes, but for now, strap in, read on, and take a look at who we’ve decided are the best sporting stars of 2021 for this great city and county of ours, from the comfort of your home, office (you shouldn’t be there) or wherever you read this article on your device.
So last year we provided five awards based on Nottingham Folklore and we’ll do the same this year, the Robin Hood Man of the Year for 2020 went to Stuart Broad for a fabulous international campaign with England. The Maid Marian Woman of the Year went to Jasmine Joyner, an exceptional American born basketball player for Nottingham Wildcats. The Little John Young Star Of The Year went to another basketballer, Victor Olarerin of Nottingham Hoods. Our Friar Tuck Writer of the Year went to the fabulous Steve Corry and the Merry Men Team of the Year went to Notts Outlaws who won the 2020 T20 Vitality Blast.
So let’s start with our 2021 ceremony and take a look at the nominees for the Robin Hood Man of the Year Award for this year. Cricketer Luke Fletcher had his best ever year taking 66 first class wickets which was more than any other player in the County Championship season last summer. One boxer, Ekow Essuman won the British and Commonwealth Welterweight titles before retaining the British, Commonwealth and IBF European Welterweight titles in his two bouts in 2021, but topping that was Gedling based boxer Leigh Wood who in February won the vacant British Featherweight title before becoming world champion after defeating China’s Xu Can to win the WBA Featherweight title with a twelfth round stoppage.
Leigh is not only a deserving world champion, proving hard work and determination along with slick skillset and a solid chin, can get you to the very top, but he’s also a Nottingham Sport winner and a man who has done our city, which of course has boxing heritage, hugely proud. The city of Nottingham and everyone at Nottingham Sport, salutes you Leigh for not only becoming one of the best in your division on the planet, but for being someone who loves his city, who always emblazons his city with pride, and for being someone who in and out of the ring, always shows dignity and compassion, never the need to trash talk opponents, instead letting his boxing do the talking.
Wood is set to take on Northern Ireland’s Michael Conlon in the new year with the City Ground mentioned as possible fight venues, along with Belfast, Manchester and even Celtic Park, the bout is sure to attract huge national attention.
Special mention to Russian boxer David Avanesyan who fights out of Newark under Carl Greaves Promotions, his two fights this year both ended in victories to retain his own European Welterweight title.
Onto the ladies, and the Maid Marian Woman of the Year Award for 2021. Before leaving in the summer to head back to the US, last year’s winner of this prestigious gong, Jasmine Joyner, suffered injury set back as Nottingham were beaten in the WBBL Cup Final and knocked out in the WBBL playoffs, but an able deputy in Chelsey Shumpert shone with some superb performances before going on to pastures new herself. Team-mate Siobhan Prior became only the tenth woman to score 10,000 WBBL points which was some incredible milestone for the long-standing club legend.
At the Olympics, Mansfield’s Molly Renshaw reached the final of the women’s 200m breaststroke whilst Nottingham born Emma Wilson won bronze in the RS:X sailing event in Tokyo.
One woman however went one better by winning silver in the 87kg weightlifting event. Bulwell based Emily Campbell who lifted 283kg coming second to an Olympic record winning Chinese star in Li Wenwen, did her city proud on a global scale, on the biggest stage of all.
Campbell said after “I’m ‘bringing it home for’ the ones that feel like they don’t belong.”
To those of us who knows, enjoys and understands sport, Campbell certainly belongs with ‘the greats’ of this cities most loved athletes, and deservedly wins our crown as the best female success story (in our eyes) of 2021.
Emily crowning off the year with a bronze at the World Weightlifting Championships in December after winning gold at the European Championships in what was a terrific and historical 12 months for the local star of ours.
Some stunning performances by our young sportsmen and women this year which brings us to the Little John Young Star of the Year Award. In cricket, anyone of Calvin Harrison, Lyndon James, Joey Evison and Liam Patterson-White, deserving a mention for their huge impacts on Nottinghamshire’s up turn in fortune this year, particularly in the red ball format, finishing third in the County Championship table and missing out on a Bob Willis Trophy Final at Lords by just half a point.
Brahe Ashton has impressed since her return to Nottingham Wildcats following a couple of seasons playing for NTU whilst Kennedy Nicolas and Brooklyn Pannell have starred this season so far following moves from the US.
Nottingham Forest’s Brennan Johnson has been brilliant since breaking through into the first-team having also won his first international caps with Wales whilst Dale Taylor has recently won his first Northern Ireland cap without yet kicking a ball for the Reds first team.
But our winner for 2021 is 20-year-old Whatton based showjumper Jack Whitaker who has risen to 127 in the world rankings having won silver in the individual and bronze for the team event at the Continental Regional Championships in Villamoura (a top FEI ranking event) with six wins in the calendar year taking his tally to 42 career victories.
Whitaker is looking to follow his famous father Michael’s footsteps to show jumping stardom and is fastly becoming one of the best around, certainly at his young age he has plenty of potential to fulfil a promising career ahead, with horse riding running in his family, he certainly has a fabulous opportunity to succeed in the sport.
Succeeding in writing, and a little closer to home than international showjumping, is the Friar Tuck Writer of the Year Award which goes to the fabulous Peter Mann for 2021.
Peter has contributed more than any other writer for Nottingham Sport often covering non-league football and niche sports that are overlooked by some, with superb reports and stunning interviews he’s deserving more than any other of this award, which was first won by Steve Corry last year.
Special mentions to Marc Williams who has provided us regular insight into Basford United, the Sky Blue Miller of Carlton Town who has always asked to remain anonymous when posting regular content, and recent additions, Callum Castel and Kci Rennicks, who have flew the flag for Forest and Notts County respectively, with superb and enthralling writing that captures our younger audience specifically.
As ever, we are always looking for young (or old) budding writers to join our team so if you know of anyone or are interested in pursuing a career in sports writing, please get in touch and we’ll let you know of our opportunities.
And finally… The last award is for the Merry Men Team of the Year with a few up for consideration including our debuting elite cricket men’s hundred team the Trent Rockets, who after finishing third were beaten in the Eliminator match ahead of the Lords final in August.
Notts CCC after ‘almost’ winning the County Championship over a season that went to the final day.
Nottingham Wildcats after reaching the final of the WBBL Cup and the WBBL playoffs.
The one team however with major silverware during 2021 was Nottingham Panthers who won the Elite Series which was hosted at the Motorpoint Arena during May. The Panthers beating Sheffield Steelers over two games in the final after topping a tournament also involving Coventry Blaze and Manchester Storm.
2022 Nottingham Sport Awards Roll of Honour:
- Robin Hood Man of the Year: Leigh Wood
- Maid Marian Woman of the Year: Emily Campbell
- Little John Young Star of the Year: Jack Whitaker
- Friar Tuck Writer of the Year: Peter Mann
- Merry Men Team of the Year: Nottingham Panthers
*Main image @TeamGB Emily Campbell wins Olympic silver before capping the year with World bronze.