Last year, veteran ex-Test batsman Marcus North was dropped from the Western Australian side for the first time in his career.
He averaged just 15.41 over 12 innings, and his 13th domestic season could well have been his last.
Yet on Wednesday the 34-year-old capped off the first half of a remarkable comeback by being named Sheffield Shield player of the 2013-14 season.
North has made 884 runs at an average of 68 and taken 12 wickets with his offspinners to help the Warriors qualify for their first Shield final in 15 years.
But the fairytale comeback won’t be complete unless his side gets the better of NSW in the final at Canberra’s Manuka Oval from Friday.
“It’s been a long time waiting to play in a Shield final and it’s finally come,” he said.
North received the award – voted on by umpires after each regular-season match – at a Cricket Australia presentation in Canberra on Wednesday.
He polled 19 votes to finish ahead of NSW batsman Ryan Carters and Queensland captain James Hopes (16 votes each) while young South Australian batsman Travis Head was fourth with 15 votes.
North, who played the last of his 21 Test matches against England in Adelaide in 2010, stood down as captain of the Warriors towards the end of 2012 after more than six years at the helm.
The runs then dried up and the middle-order mainstay was surprisingly dropped.
But following a productive stint in English county cricket and moving to the top of the order, North this season scored heavily domestically.
“(Coach) Justin Langer challenged me in an opening position, something I haven’t done since my under-age days, and that gave me a new focus,” he said.
“I was just fortunate enough that it came off in the first game of the year – which gave me confidence and belief again and I’ve just rolled with it.”
With his Warriors contract up at the end of the season, North said he’d sit down with Langer after the final to discuss how long he’d keep playing with the Warriors.
“I’m going to be a one state player, so it’ll be a matter of sussing things out and seeing if it’s a year or two,” he said.
In women’s cricket, fellow West Australian Nicole Bolton was named WNCL player of the year for a second season running, while Victorian Elyse Villani took home the Twenty20 player of the year.
Bolton, who scored 124 in her one-day international debut for the Southern Stars in January, finished the WNCL season with 371 runs at an average of 61.8 and took seven wickets.