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Elaine's big net gain at Sport NI awards

By Adam McKendry

Northern Ireland netball head coach Elaine Rice picked up yet another award for her role in helping her squad to a stunning year in 2017, this time at the annual Sport NI Awards in Belfast's Titanic building.

Elaine walked away with the High Performance Coach of the Year prize just weeks after taking home the coveted Coach of the Year accolade at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards.

The successful coach was joined on stage by members of her netball squad, who this year will be competing at the Commonwealth Games in Australia, as she accepted the award from Irish Rugby referee Joy Neville.

Neville, who made history by becoming the first woman to officiate a Guinness PRO14 match when she took charge of Ulster's win over the Southern Kings last Friday, was on hand to celebrate local sport in Northern Ireland.

The night, named the SportMaker Celebration Evening, recognised the achievements in both delivering and supporting sport within the local community over the last year.

As well as Rice being honoured for an outstanding 2017, which saw her netballers reach eighth in the world rankings and secure their place at the Gold Coast Games, there were awards for many different organisations.

Judo initiative Simply Judo Connects was recognised for the work it does in integrating refugee families into the local community as it was awarded the Coaching Project of the Year.

Sport NI chief executive Antoinette McKeown commented: "At Sport NI, we are passionate about supporting everyone's goals, from playground right through to podium.

"We know that local clubs and our outstanding sporting workforce are at the heart of making sport happen.

"Sometimes, it can be easy to forget the work that's done behind the scenes, or to take for granted the difference it makes. That's why we're so honoured to be hosting this event.

"This was all about shining a spotlight onto our local SportMakers and celebrating the work they do and the impact it has on athletes, clubs and communities.

"I would like to congratulate all of those recognised this evening, thank them for their outstanding work in service of local sport and wish them continued success in the future."

SPORT NI AWARDS WINNERS

Children's Coach of the Year: Bridgeen Bryne (Athletics).

Community Coach of the Year: Matt Shields (Athletics).

Young Coach of the Year: Ciaran Chambers (Badminton).

Disability Coach of the Year: Stephanie Martin (Gymnastics).

Talent Development Coach of the Year: Niall Wilkinson (Athletics).

Club Performance Coach of the Year: Mark Tumilty (Hockey).

Coaching Project of the Year: Simply Judo Connects (Judo).

High Performance Coach of the Year: Elaine Rice (Netball).

Reach - Supporting Women in Coaching Award: Nadia McAleavey (Gymnastics).

Technical Official of the Year: Robin Gray (Sailing).

Young Technical Official of the Year: Adam Brown (Table Tennis).

Volunteer of the Year: Gerard O'Neill (Gaelic Football).

Young Volunteer of the Year: Erin Getty (Hockey).

Belfast Telegraph

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