A new Belinda Clark Award winner could be crowned on Monday night when the Australian Cricket Awards are held in Melbourne.
After a five-year period in which national captain Meg Lanning and star allrounder Ellyse Perry have dominated the award for the nation’s top female cricketer, wicketkeeper-batter Alyssa Healy and spearhead Megan Schutt are the frontrunners for this year’s prize after stunning years with bat and ball respectively.
The coveted award will be presented to the player who collected the most votes during a 12-month period encompassing last March’s T20 and ODI series against India, September’s home T20Is against New Zealand, October’s ODIs and T20s against Pakistan in Malaysia and the successful ICC Women’s T20 World Cup campaign in the Caribbean.
Throughout that period, which saw Australia play six ODIs and 17 T20Is, Healy scored 907 runs in 22 innings at an average of 45.35 – including her maiden international century in an ODI against India in Baroda, and the stunning run of form in the Caribbean that saw her crowned the T20 World Cup’s player of the tournament.
Behind the stumps she took 18 catches and executed 15 stumpings.
No Australian player scored more runs across that period, with Healy more than 300 runs clear of her nearest rival in Lanning.
Schutt, meanwhile, led the way in the wickets column, capturing 31 wickets in 22 matches at 12.95, including becoming the first Australian woman to take a T20I hat-trick last March.
The 25-year-old South Australian right-armer is currently ranked the ICC’s No.1 T20I and No.2 ODI bowler.
Another player expected to poll well is captain Lanning, who struck 602 runs at 46.31 after returning from the shoulder surgery which sidelined her through the previous summer, while allrounder Ashleigh Gardner should also collect plenty of votes after a year that saw her take 31 wickets at 15.42 with her off-spin, while also striking two half-centuries.
Perry, meanwhile, looks less likely to add a third Belinda Clark Award to her tally. Despite lighting up the Rebel WBBL with a record-breaking runs fest, the star allrounder had fewer opportunities with the bat at international level during the last 12 months and wasn’t in Australia’s top five run scorers, although she did finish the voting period with the third most wickets behind Schutt and Gardner.
A new-look Belinda Clark Award was unveiled in 2017, with a teardrop-shaped medallion replacing the trophy awarded in previous years.
For the first time this year, separate awards have also been introduced for the top women’s ODI and T20I player, with Healy a strong chance to collect both.
The 28-year-old was Australia’s leading run-scorer in both limited-overs formats, but could face a challenge for the ODI award from leading one-day wicket taker Gardner, who collected 11 scalps in six matches at 15.91, or second-leading run-scorer Nicole Bolton, who struck one century and a half-century during the voting period.
Schutt is another leading contender for the inaugural T20I award, have snared 28 scalps at 11.50 during a period that saw her claim the mantle of world’s best 20-over bowler, while Gardner had a strong year with ball and bat.
Elyse Villani, alongside Perry, Rachael Haynes, Rene Farrell and Heather Graham shape as favourites for the Women’s Domestic Player Award.
Villani scored more runs than any other player in the WBBL and WNCL across the voting period – December 9, 2017 to November 12, 2018 - notching 824 runs at 45.78 across two WNCL seasons for Western Australia, Victoria and for the Perth Scorchers in WBBL|03.
She was closely followed by Perry (779 at 45.82 for NSW and Sixers) and Haynes (709 at 39.39).
Former Australia seamer Farrell collected 36 wickets at 15.17 for NSW and the Thunder, while WA and Scorchers allrounder Graham performed well with bat and ball, scoring 481 runs and taking 32 wickets.
Meanwhile, Victoria and Renegades leg-spinner Georgia Wareham, Tasmania/Hurricanes batter Stefanie Daffara, South Australia/Strikers allrounder Tabatha Saville and ACT/Renegades quick Maitlan Brown are among the top candidates to take out the Betty Wilson Young Women’s Cricketer of the Year.
Introduced in 2017, eligible players must have been aged 24 or younger and played 25 or fewer WNCL, WBBL or international matches on December 9 2017.
The winner will follow in the footsteps of Australian allrounder Sophie Molineux and Tasmanian wicketkeeper Georgia Redmayne, who took out the first two awards.
Australia’s leading run scorers across all formats
Alyssa Healy: 907 runs at 45.35 (100 x 1, 50 x 7)
Meg Lanning: 602 at 46.31 (100 x 1, 50 x 2)
Beth Mooney: 525 at 30.88 (50 x 2)
Rachael Haynes: 397 at 56.71 (50 x 3)
Ashleigh Gardner: 392 at 42 (50 x 2)
Australia’s leading wicket takers across all formats
Megan Schutt: 37 wickets at 12.95 (BBI 3-12)
Ashleigh Gardner: 31 at 15.42 (BBI 3-22)
Ellyse Perry: 23 at 24.04 (BBI 4-21)
Sophie Molineux: 21 at 16.19 (BBI 4-14)
Delissa Kimmince: 20 at 20.55 (BBI 3-20)
Previous Belinda Clark Award winners
2002 – Karen Rolton
2003 – Karen Rolton
2004 – Cathryn Fitzpatrick
2005 – Karen Rolton
2006 – Karen Rolton
2007 – Lisa Sthalekar
2008 – Lisa Sthalekar
2009 – Shelley Nitschke
2010 – Shelley Nitschke
2011 – Shelley Nitschke
2012 – Shelley Nitschke
2013 – Jess Duffin
2014 – Meg Lanning
2015 – Meg Lanning
2016 – Ellyse Perry
2017 – Meg Lanning
2018 – Ellyse Perry