Cricket Australia today announced the winners of the inaugural Benaud Spirit of Cricket awards at a special State Cricket Awards function held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

In other honours presented at the function, Victorian cricketers Matthew Elliott, Brad Hodge and Belinda Clark made a clean sweep of the Player of the Year awards in the Pura Cup, ING Cup and Women's National Cricket League (WNCL) competitions.

The State Cricket Awards - which promote the profile of the world's leading domestic cricket competitions - are set to become a feature on the Australian cricket calendar, and will be staged as an annual event in the city which hosts the Pura Cup final.

The awards were presented to:

Benaud Spirit of Cricket award winners:

Player of the Year award winners:

Cricket Australia umpire award:
Simon Taufel

Following is a summary of each award category.

The Benaud Spirit of Cricket Awards

The Benaud Spirit of Cricket Awards were introduced this season as part of Cricket Australia's commitment to improve the spirit in which the game is played at all levels throughout Australian male and female cricket.

The awards are named in honour of former Australian Test captain Richie Benaud, whose contribution to the game has spanned more than 50 years.

A perpetual trophy - to be housed at Cricket Australia headquarters for the public to see - will be engraved annually with the names of the men's and women's senior interstate teams.

Each winning team will receive an individual trophy, and the captains of the winning sides will receive an individual medal of the same design.

At the end of each game during the season (at all levels), the officiating umpires issue points on a 3,2,1,0,-1 basis on the conduct of all members of a team, with sides rewarded for displaying the true spirit, traditions, and values of cricket.

Voting in ING Cup games is weighted at a ratio of 1:1, while Pura Cup voting adopts a 3:1 weighting.

The final Spirit of Cricket points tables were:

PURA CUP/ING CUP SPIRIT OF CRICKET POINTS TABLE

WNCL SPIRIT OF CRICKET POINTS TABLE

CRICKET AUSTRALIA CUP SPIRIT OF CRICKET POINTS TABLE

Pura Cup Player of the Year

Victorian Bushranger opening batsman Matthew Elliott has claimed a record third Pura Cup Player of the Year award.

Elliott polled 21 votes, clinching the award from Victorian team mate David Hussey (18 votes) and third placed Queenslander Stuart Law (15 votes).

The 32-year-old finished as the Pura Cup's second highest run-scorer in 2003-04, with 1,171 runs at an average of 73.18 from 10 matches (West Australia's Murray Goodwin topped the Pura Cup run-scoring charts with 1,183 runs at an average of 65.72).

Elliott, who has enjoyed an outstanding year at domestic level, was also among the competition's highest run-scorers in the ING Cup, with 493 runs at an average of 54.77. He fell one vote short of claiming the `domestic double', finishing as runner-up in the ING Cup Player of the Year this season.

Elliott, who also won Pura Cup Player of the Year honours in 1995-96 and 1998-99, receives $8000 and a trophy for the award, which was voted by umpires on a 3-2-1 basis after each game of the series.

ING Cup Player of the Year

Brad Hodge won his first ING Cup Player of the Year award, polling 22 votes - one more than team mate Matthew Elliott, who finished in second place with 21 votes, with Retravision Warrior Michael Hussey in third position, polling 16 votes.

Hodge, Victoria's leading run-scorer and second most capped player in domestic limited-overs competition, finished the 2003-04 season as the ING Cup's second highest run-scorer with 540 runs at an average of 77.14 from nine matches.

Only Queenslander Stuart Law compiled more runs than Hodge - 570 at 57.00 from 11 games.

The 29-year-old receives a $5000 ING OneAnswer Investment Account for the award, which was voted by umpires on a 3-2-1 basis after each game of the series, and a trophy.

In 2001-02, Hodge was named the Pura Cup Player of the Year with Queensland's Jimmy Maher.

WNCL Player of the Year

Victorian Spirit captain Belinda Clark claimed her third WNCL Player of the Year award in 2003-04, polling 25 votes - one more than Southern Scorpion captain Karen Rolton (24 votes) and five more than New South Welshwoman Lisa Sthalekar (20 votes) in third place.

Clark topped the run-scoring charts with 622 runs at an average of 69.11 from 11 matches. Her season run tally - which included two centuries and four half-centuries - fell seven runs short of equalling the most runs in a season. That record is held by Zoe Goss, who scored 629 runs in 1996-97.

Clark compiled the season's highest score - 115 - in match two of the WNCL finals series and was subsequently named Player of the Finals.

The right-hander, who is the WNCL's leading run-scorer with 3,677 runs, also claimed the WNCL Player of the Year award in 1997-98 and 1998-99, when she played with New South Wales. This year's award ends South Australian Karen Rolton's three-year reign as WNCL Player of the Year.

PURA CUP PLAYER OF THE YEAR VOTES
(top 10 place-getters)

ING CUP PLAYER OF THE YEAR VOTES
(top 10 place-getters)

WNCL PLAYER OF THE YEAR VOTES
(top 10 place-getters)

Cricket Australia umpire award

In a new award introduced this season, Simon Taufel received the Cricket Australia umpire award for season 2003-04.

Taufel was judged as cricket's best performed umpire from the 29 Cricket Australia-contracted umpires by a panel consisting of Cricket Australia Chairman Bob Merriman, Chief Executive Officer James Sutherland and Chairman of the Umpire Selection Panel, Mel Johnson.

The award, which includes officiating performance in international and domestic cricket, was presented to Taufel based on his on-field performance and off-field contributions in establishing training programs for umpires, development activities and accreditation manuals for Australian umpires.

The award also recognises Taufel's elevation to the International Cricket Council's Elite Panel of Umpires.