Who will dominate the sports headlines in 2012?

Yorkshire's Joe Root is set to be a star of 2012.
Yorkshire's Joe Root is set to be a star of 2012.
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The next 12 months promise an unforgettable mix of drama and emotion on some of the grandest stages in sport.

An Olympic Games in London, Euro 2012 in eastern Europe and the Ryder Cup in America swell an already cluttered menu from the top table of world sport.

Yorkshire male and female sporting stars are all set to play their part and have their say in the big sporting stories of the next 12 months.

At national level, Leeds Rhinos have a title to defend, Yorkshire County Cricket Club have Division One to return to and a host of the region’s football clubs are planning promotion pushes.

Here, our team of writers take you through their Yorkshire sports men and women to watch in 2012. From team players to gold medal hopefuls, jump jockeys to golfers, these are our men and women to keep an eye on.

Cricket

THE Yorkshire cricketers to watch out for next year are Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root and Gary Ballance, writes Chris Waters.

All in their early 20s, they can take their game to another level.

Bairstow is the most obvious star-in-the-making, having broken into England’s one-day team on the back of a splendid summer for Yorkshire.

The 22-year-old was the only player to score 1,000 County Championship runs during a season in which Yorkshire were relegated. Test recognition cannot be too far away for Bairstow, who ticks all the boxes as a batsman/wicketkeeper.

There may be dips in form along the way – as there invariably are with young players – and how he deals with those will be all-important. But he is one of the most talented youngsters around and can serve Yorkshire and England well for years to come.

Root is a different sort of batsman – one who has drawn comparison with the great Michael Vaughan. He is not an X-factor player like Bairstow, but, rather like the former England captain, possesses a calm and graceful manner at the crease.

Root flourished as an opening batsman last season but can bat anywhere in the top-order.

The 20-year-old scored his maiden first-class hundred against Sussex at Scarborough in August and is a good bet to reach 1,000 first-class runs next year.

Another who could reach the four-figure mark is Ballance, a rapidly emerging top-order player. He was Yorkshire’s most consistent batsman last season, scoring 862 first-class runs at 47.88, as well as contributing a number of important one-day innings. Ballance can also be relied on to make hay in the Championship Second Division and will only learn from the likes of Phil Jaques.

Football

James Chester is one of four former Manchester United players on Hull City’s books, and the central defender has become an integral part of a defence that is among the meanest in the Championship this term, writes Richard Sutcliffe.

Not the tallest at 5ft 11in, Chester more than makes up for any lack of height with his awareness and pace.

Yet to miss a minute of action for Hull in either league or cup competition this season, Chester has proved to be an inspired signing. City’s resolve is likely to be tested once the transfer window opens next week.

Robert Snodgrass is another Yorkshire-based footballer who is likely to be on the radar of Premier League clubs in January.

Snodgrass has been at Elland Road since 2008 but it is over the past 12 to 14 months that he has really grown.

Already a full international with Scotland, he has become arguably the most potent wideman in the Championship. Usually employed on the right flank, allowing him to cut in on his stronger left foot, Snodgrass tops the assists chart and has added goalscoring to his admirable array of talents.

His importance to Leeds’s promotion hopes cannot be over emphasised.

Jordan Rhodes’s four-goal salvo against Sheffield Wednesday earlier this month may have brought the Huddersfield striker to the attention of the wider sporting public, but to those who have watched Rhodes on a regular basis, his recent scoring exploits have come as no surprise.

The goals started to not so much flow as flood out of the striker in October as he netted 14 in just six games for Town and Scotland Under-21s. It was enough to earn a first senior international appearance. Rhodes is one of the most highly-sought after players in the Football League.

Jacob Butterfield’s future is currently the subject of intense speculation and it will be a major surprise if he, the youngest captain in the history of Barnsley FC, has not joined a Premier League club by the end of January, writes Ian Appleyard.

At 21, Butterfield, who was born in Bradford and released by Manchester United as a youngster, has emerged this season as a hugely-talented midfielder whose performances have been the highlight of the new era under Keith Hill.

He has been called up by the England Under-21 squad and is also on standby for next year’s British Olympic football squad.

Doncaster’s lethal marksman Billy Sharp is another player destined for the top-flight. Widely regarded as one of the best strikers in the Football League, Sharp has scored 109 goals in 206 league games. Rovers will allow Sharp to move to any club willing to pay £3m for his services. On current form, there is going to be no shortage of takers.

Stoke, Wigan, West Brom and Championship leaders Southampton have all been monitoring his recent form.

Golf

Two wins propelled Simon Dyson into the world’s top 30 in 2011 and into all of the big tournaments next year, writes Nick Westby.

He is also well placed to seal a first birth in the European Ryder Cup team in September.

Cool coming down the stretch, he has gained a reputation as one of the best finishers in golf.

Olympics

Up to 60 people, either born, raised or trained in Yorkshire, could challenge for medals at London 2012, writes Nick Westby.

There are three standout gold medal hopes. Lizzie Armitstead has progressed significantly in 2011 and is set to emulate Nicole Cooke in 2008 by winning cycling’s Olympic road race title, if the two of them end a rift that threatens to derail their chances.

Jessica Ennis is already a household name. The heptathlete lost her world title in 2011 and has the drive and desire to atone for that by winning Olympic gold next summer.

And triathlete Alistair Brownlee has won every accolade going in 2011. For someone so young, he is a formidable sportsman.

Determined and driven, the 23-year-old and his younger brother Jonny will be two of the stars of our home Olympics.

Racing

Henry Brooke is a very promising jump jockey, who is currently leading the race to be champion conditional, the title that goes to the best up-and-coming National Hunt rider, writes Tom Richmond. Brooke is based at the yard of Grand National-winning trainer Donald McCain and is certain to receive plenty of opportunities when Jason Maguire, the stable’s regular jockey, is unavailable.

Phil Makin accumulated winners throughout 2011 after recovering from a serious back injury, including a first Royal Ascot victory on Bapak Chinta.

Makin’s neat riding style, and strength in the finish, continues to earn many plaudits.

Rugby League

Elegant young centre Kallum Watkins is highly-rated by Super League champions Leeds Rhinos, writes Dave Craven.

Injury has dogged his progression but with Rhinos needing a high-class centre to fill the void left by Keith Senior, this could be Watkins’s year.

At 20 and with pace and awareness, he is ready to make his mark on Super League.

Rugby Union

Danny Care has been in and around England’s squad for three years but with his former Leeds mentor Stuart Lancaster now in charge of the team for the Six Nations, this could be his best chance to make his mark.

His club side Harlequins are also chasing a title, with Care having played an instrumental part in their remarkable start to the season. The dynamic scrum-half could have a big year.