30 November 2017 | Tennis SA

Helen Rice (Belair, SA) took home the Coaching Excellence Club award at Monday night’s Newcombe Medal held at the Crown Palladium in Melbourne.

Having been a finalist five times, Rice was thrilled to bring home the award.

“It just feels unbelievable, I’ve been a finalist five times now and this the first win, so it’s just pretty amazing!”

“It does mean a lot, because I’ve been passionate about it and I’ve put in a lot of hard yards, but I’ve done that because I’ve enjoyed it,” added Rice.

Tennis SA CEO, Steven Baldas, congratulated Rice on the announcement.

“Helen is a very well-respected coach in South Australia and this award is testament to Helen’s commitment, passion and enthusiasm for the sport.

“We are incredibly proud of Helen and congratulate her on this wonderful achievement,” said Baldas.

Other South Australian finalists included Sam Wall (Aberfoyle Park, SA) and 2017 Fed Cup Foundation Bronze Women’s AMT and Girls’ JT (Henley Beach South, SA).

Australia’s top-ranked tennis player Ashleigh Barty (Qld) was also awarded tennis’ top honour by legend John Newcombe at the annual awards ceremony.

Barty takes out the award after edging out fellow nominees Daria Gavrilova (Vic), Nick Kyrgios (ACT), John Peers (Vic) and Jordan Thompson (NSW).

The Newcombe Medal is the premier award presented on a night that recognises players, coaches, clubs, communities, volunteers and officials for their service to the sport. The awards ceremony has been held annually since 2010.

A highlight of the evening’s celebrations was the presentation of the Spirit of Tennis Award to the former Victorian Premier John Cain who was instrumental in the development of the Melbourne Park precinct.

Alex De Minaur (NSW) was named Male Junior Athlete of the Year for the second year in a row, while Destanee Aiava (Vic) collected Female Junior Athlete of the Year.

Archie Graham (Qld) was awarded the Most Outstanding Athlete with a Disability.