Who can step forward and become England's sporting heroes of 2011?

Having ended 2010 gloriously by helping retain the Ashes with an emphatically one-sided victory in Melbourne, becoming the first England captain to secure the urn on Australian soil for almost a quarter of a century, Andrew Strauss can quickly confirm his hero ranking for 2011 by actually ensuring the elated tourists win the series next week.

How enjoyable would that be? Embarrassing the bleating Aussies as they have done is one thing but now Strauss and co can prove their credentials as a growing force in world cricket by ruthlessly ramming home the advantage in Sydney.

An unlikely home win would save some face for Ricky Ponting's battered and disillusioned men in that it would leave the series drawn, but if vibrant England can avoid defeat they will return home with a success their overall dominance clearly warrants.

Most importantly though, it will leave them in perfect condition for the next challenge ahead, a summer when they host Sri Lanka and the world's No 1 ranked team – India.

Strauss, who has proven to be a calm, inspirational and eminent captain when many doubted his capabilities, now has two Ashes glories stapled to his leadership CV but could yet top that by cajoling his buoyant side above South Africa and India to the summit of Test cricket in 2011.

Andrew Gale, meanwhile, will seek to learn from the mistakes of last summer when his Yorkshire side were narrowly edged out of the County Championship race by Nottinghamshire on the final nerve-shredding day of the season.

The Tykes have not lifted the title since David Byas's conquerors in 2001 but their youthful squad has importantly gained vital experience in readiness for the campaign ahead.

What better way to mark the tenth anniversary of their last Championship by repeating the feat with the county's youngest post-war captain at the helm? They have the arsenal at their disposal.

England bid to become the first country to reach three successive Rugby World Cup finals when they head to New Zealand in the autumn and there is a raft of players who could emerge as key influences.

The likes of Chris Ashton, Ben Youngs and Courtney Lawes have caught the eye equally with individual flair and promise as Martin Johnson's side build towards the tournament and potentially dethroning South Africa, but Shontayne Hape might yet be the man who produces a crucial notable turn.

Rarely has a player polarised opinion quite so much as the ex-Bradford Bulls centre who has recently been introduced to the Red Rose midfield, some insisting the Kiwi is a one-dimensional dead-weight while others believe he can answer their long-lasting creative inadequacies by providing much-needed balance.

However, do not be surprised if he steps up to the plate when it matters most and helps England repeat their 2003 heroics. For the romantics out there, the final is also fittingly being staged in his home city of Auckland.

Sticking with rugby, if Leeds Carnegie are going to be playing Premiership rugby again when that World Cup kicks off in September they will need, among other things, plenty of strong leadership from their captain Marco Wentzel.

Heading into today's crucial fixture with Gloucester, the floundering Yorkshire side are still yet to get a single league win under their belts and are in severe danger of suffering a calamitous relegation.

However, Wentzel has witnessed these perilous times before – Leeds were adrift at the foot of the table 12 months ago – and helped inspire them out of trouble by leading from the front.

Now the dedicated South African lock will have to draw on all his reserves of strength and power, both mentally and physically, to make sure they rise again.

Willie Mason is renowned for his aggressive, combustible nature and numerous off-field misdemeanours but it is such fiery attributes which could help make the notorious player a genuine hero in the 12 months ahead.

Signed by Hull KR from North Queensland Cowboys in one of Super League's biggest transfer deals, the famed Australian Test prop has the corruscating potential to bring the competition to life in 2011.

A genuine character, Mason is one of the most exciting imports since Andrew Johns's short stint at Warrington in 2005 but will be hoping he is more successful than the last brash Kangaroos front-row who came over here talking the talk.

A confident Mark Carroll joined London Broncos in 1998 telling anyone who would listen what he was going to do to the Poms but soon headed back to Sydney after learning English rugby league was not as soft as he initially believed.

It seems overly-optimistic to mention tennis star Andy Murray in an inventory of potential 2011 heroes given the unfortunate Scotsman is again not only up against two of the finest players of his generation but also in the history of the sport.

However, call it a hunch, gut feeling or just simple guesswork but I am imagining this might be the season when Murray finally earns some rewards for his own impressive efforts. Let us not forget, if that feted duo of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal did not exist, he would be amassing major titles for fun. As it stands, staggeringly, Nadal and Federer have won 21 of the last 23 grand slam finals.

Only Novak Djokovic, in the Australian Open three years ago, and 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro have broken that relentless cycle, but Murray can add himself to the list, possibly on the Melbourne hard courts later this month and become the first British man since Fred Perry three-quarters of a century ago to lift a major singles title.

With no international football tournament to ruin our summer, all eyes remain firmly focused on the domestic scene this year and who will prove the catalyst in the most open Premier League race in recent memory.

This is Arsenal's best chance yet to secure a first trophy in six years and the prodigious teenage midfielder Jack Wilshere is increasingly looking like a vital component of their thriving assault both at home and abroad.

The stylish tyro is more than holding his own amid Arsenal's array of foreign talent including such stellar performers as Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Andrey Arshavin and Tomas Rosicky, something worth noting if we are keeping one eye on the England national side as well.

As most sportsmen and women realise, winning is often not the hardest part of the job; repeating success is intrinsically more difficult.

That is the task facing John Parry in the 12 months ahead, the Harrogate golfer having earned his maiden European Tour triumph with a Vivendi Cup win in September.

However, with European golf in such a flourishing and robust state, the assiduous Yorkshireman is well aware of the gains that can be made.

Seeing his former Walker Cup team-mate and fellow Tyke Danny Willett burst into the top 100 last June, earning a place at the US PGA in August, that is a goal Parry – currently at 128th – knows is well within his grasp if he starts the year in decent form.

No hero list, meanwhile, would be complete without mention of Jessica Ennis.

The Sheffield heptathlete can do no wrong and it would be a shock of gargantuan proportions if she did not continue her dazzling progress by retaining the World Championship title in South Korea while boxer Amir Khan can achieve his own hero placing if a super-fight with Floyd Mayweather Jnr can be arranged and then successfully negotiated in the autumn.