In The Picture — 1 June 2021

Chief 'Warrior'



Dr Elaine Rice, Senior Lecturer in Physical Education

Dr Elaine Rice, Senior Lecturer in Physical Education



Dr Elaine Rice has been re-appointed to the position of Head Coach of the Northern Ireland netball team which will compete in the Commonwealth Games next summer in Birmingham.

Elaine responded to the appointment on Twitter by saying:

“Delighted to be back with our warriors! Exciting times with the squad – prepping for a big year ahead.”

The following statement was released by Netball NI:


  NetballNi # Strongest Together

Netball NI appoint Elaine Rice as new Warriors Head Coach

Richard Bullick

Elaine Rice, the most successful national coach in Northern Ireland netball history, is returning to take charge of the Warriors as they seek to secure qualification for next year’s Commonwealth Games.
The 43-year-old, a native of the north west who is now based in Glenavy, has been appointed as the new NI Warriors Head Coach in succession to Australian Dan Ryan, who stood down at the end of last month.
Rice emerged from a worldwide recruitment process as the selection panel’s preferred candidate from a high-quality international field and her appointment has been unanimously endorsed by the Netball NI Board.
This will be a fourth spell at the helm for the former Northern Ireland captain, who works as a Senior Lecturer at St Mary’s University College in Belfast and has steered the girls in green to a number of historic highs over the years.
First appointed national coach in the autumn of 2008 aged just 31, Rice presided over Northern Ireland’s first international trophy triumph when they won the Nations Cup in the Far East the following year.
Although dealing with the effects of a particularly challenging pregnancy, she masterminded victories over Scotland and Wales to secure qualification for the 2011 World Cup in Singapore at which Northern Ireland reached the quarter-finals for the first time.
A mother of three young children, Rice stood down after that tournament to focus on family life but stepped in to take temporary charge for the 2015 European Championships at Antrim Forum, at which Northern Ireland won bronze medals.
She was appointed permanent coach again the following summer for what would prove an exceptionally productive third stint in charge as the award-winning Warriors repeatedly punched above their weight at international level.
Victory over Barbados in the Quad Series final in the summer of 2017 secured qualification for the following spring’s Commonwealth Games and, a few months later, the Warriors dramatically claimed silver medals at the European Championships in Cardiff.
Those results catapulted Northern Ireland to an all-time high of eighth place in the world rankings and Rice’s team followed up by qualifying for the 2019 World Cup at the expense of Wales before heading to Australia for the Commonwealth Games.
In Rice’s last tournament before standing down due to other professional commitments, the Warriors did Team NI proud by securing an excellent eighth place at Gold Coast 2018 where all of the world’s leading netball nations were represented.
Rice watched Northern Ireland, now under her replacement Ryan, finish 10th at the Liverpool 2019 World Cup but, following his departure, the highly-regarded homegrown coach has stepped forward to answer her country’s call once more.
Northern Ireland need to maintain their place in the top 12 of the international rankings to qualify for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and will also be competing with Scotland and Wales for a place at the 2023 World Cup in Cape Town.

New Warriors Head Coach Elaine Rice said: “It’s a great privilege to be given this opportunity to coach the Warriors again at such an important period and I’m grateful to Netball NI for putting their faith in me.  Anyone who knows me will be aware of how passionate I am about the team.
“Whenever the Northern Ireland netball team plays, I find myself emotionally involved, whether on the side-line as head coach, watching helplessly from afar or impatiently refreshing for updates!
“I am exceptionally proud of what the team achieved when I had the honour of doing the job before, but now we’re looking to the future.  It’s an exciting challenge and I’ll leave no stone unturned in the quest for fresh success.
“A significant nucleus of my last squad is still there and I look forward to working with those players again but also some of the younger generation who are emerging now.  We’re fortunate to have such committed and talented athletes in Northern Ireland netball.
“Our player pool may not have the depth of many netball nations but, over the past decade and more, we have shown we can compete effectively at international level and the fantastic spirit always in evidence was what led to the Warriors moniker being conceived!”

Netball NI Chair Geoff Wilson said: “I am delighted to welcome Elaine as the new Head Coach of the Northern Ireland Warriors.  Elaine is no stranger to the national team set-up and brings with her a wealth of experience and knowledge to the role.
“The next two years are very important to Netball NI, with qualification not only to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022 but also the 2023 World Cup in South Africa.  I would like to wish Elaine and her backroom team every success in the years ahead.”