The pace bowler from Queensland and Brisbane Heat, Sammy-Jo Johnson has signed with the NSW Breakers for the upcoming 2020-21 season, leaving Queensland Fire after nine years. She will join 19-year-old quick Emma Hughes and young top order batter Anika Learoyd, 18, as the new faces among the 17 contracted players for 2020/21.
Johnson, a vital cog of the Brisbane Heat side that has won consecutive WBBL titles, will move to Sydney to join the Breakers in 50-over cricket. However, her future in the Big Bash remains unclear since she is currently uncontracted with the Heat who face a tough competition to re-sign all their key players after two successful seasons. Meanwhile, all the clubs are unable to sign players due to the contracting embargo period now.
Sammy-Jo Johnson will have the WBBL 05 player and Sydney Thunder allrounder Hannah Darlington who has also received a full contract for 2020-21, although Naomi Stalenberg and Saskia Horley did not offer contracts. With the retirement of Sarah Aley and Rene Farrell, Johnson will play a key role for a squad where eight players are under 20.
Notably, Johnson was the main pacer of the Queensland Fire for many seasons and picked up 39 wickets at an average of 27 in WNCL. Her bowling and power-hitting ability helped Brisbane Heat in their successive WBBL title win for the past two seasons.
“I’m a Lismore girl and played all my underage Pathway cricket with NSW, so it feels a bit like I’m coming home,” said Johnson. “I spent nine wonderful years in Brisbane playing for the Fire and I’m very grateful for the opportunities Queensland Cricket gave me.”
“The stars have aligned for my partner Brian and I. He has been a great support to my cricket career and now I can support him with an opportunity that has arisen in Sydney,” she added.
On the other hand, young sensation Phoebe Litchfield is one of the eight payers who are under 20 in the squad. In her debut at just 16, she scored 252 runs which came at an average of 42; helping Breakers reach to their 24th successive WNCL Final last season. However, they lost to WA. Breakers captain Alyssa Healy, along with Rachael Haynes and Ashleigh Gardner, are the only three Cricket Australia contracted players in the Breakers team that won 20 of the 24 WNCL titles.
“The Breakers have lost some talented Australia players lately and have an exciting young squad so I hope my experience can help them on their journey,” she said. “This gives me the opportunity to be part of the Breakers, who have a great tradition of sustained success. I harbour an ambition to play for Australia and believe the Breakers can help me achieve that goal by playing a key role for them.”
Former Blues captain Dom Thornely to continue his second season as Breakers coach after guiding them to the WNCL Final.
“While last season was deemed a successful one for our new look Breakers squad, we still have a great deal of improvement and consistency to establish,” said Thornely. “This year’s squad is one of immense talent, skill and flexibility.”
“We have obviously lost some incredible experience in Rene Farrell and Sarah Aley. They are both winners, played competitively and have all the attributes of a NSW Breaker. We have brought in Sammy-Jo Johnson to replace some of that experience and all-round talent, whilst Hannah Darlington’s impressive season could not be over-looked and she has been rewarded. We also have included two exciting talents in Anika Learoyd and Emma Hughes to add to the endless list of talent our state is producing in this era,” Thornely concluded.
NSW Breakers 2020-21 squad
Alyssa Healy (C)*, Rachael Haynes*, Ashleigh Gardner*, Erin Burns, Stella Campbell, Lauren Cheatle, Maddy Darke, Hannah Darlington, Lisa Griffith, Emma Hughes, Sammy-Jo Johnson, Anika Learoyd, Phoebe Litchfield, Hayley Silver-Holmes, Lauren Smith, Rachel Trenaman, Tahlia Wilson
*Cricket Australia contracted