Australia

No regrets from Diamonds captain in $15m sponsorship saga

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Diamonds captain Liz Watson doesn’t regret taking the stand that led to Netball Australia’s $15 million sponsorship deal being pulled.

The wing attack was influential in Sunday night’s emotional comeback defeat of New Zealand on the Gold Coast.

The 57-52 victory was enough to reclaim the Constellation Cup on goal difference, Australia winning both games on home soil after dropping the first two in New Zealand.

Their resilient performance followed a week of unprecedented off-court drama under Watson’s reign.

NA was accused of virtue signalling when Hancock Prospecting pulled a four-year, $15 million high-performance commitment.

Mining firm Roy Hill, majority-owned by Hancock, will also withdraw its sponsorship of Netball WA and the West Coast Fever

It stemmed from Western Australian Indigenous player Donnell Wallam, who is set to debut this week against England, taking exception to the company’s record on Indigenous matters dating back 40 years to comments by owner Gina Rinehart’s late father Lang Hancock.

Wallam’s teammates had supported her concerns and initial requests not to wear the company’s logo on her uniform during the three-Test England series.

The deal was surprisingly pulled on Saturday despite the goaler reportedly agreeing to wear the logo on her uniform, leaving the cash-strapped organisation scrambling for a new backer.

“We’re disappointed that the sponsorship is off the table; we were very excited, wanted to support it,” Watson said.

Donnell Wallam, who will debut for the Diamonds against England, is said to be devastated by the sponsorship fallout. Photo: Getty

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Wallam was “devastated” by the development. Players Association boss Kathryn Harby-Williams said “everyone is extremely disappointed”.

“But I think we need to clarify here the players position has always been that they were prepared to wear the logo during the Constellation Cup,” she told ABC Grandstand.

“We had come to an agreement with Netball Australia where everyone was comfortable that would happen and that Donnell and the players would not be required to wear the logo against England in the three-match series starting shortly.

“At no point in time did the players seek to have the deal fall off the table but we were certainly willing to come to a compromise and had agreed to that shortly after the players stood by Donnell.”

Harby-Williams said the players were “disappointed” at how the issue played out.

“Donnell sought an exemption for herself and that wasn’t forthcoming because there was a meeting where it was made very clear that no exemptions would given to any player,” Harby-Williams said.

Watson said the players had stood by Wallam and had “showed different learning points along the way, from an organisation and players as well”.

“We speak about an environment where everyone feels comfortable and can perform at their best,” she said.

“That’s what I take out of this … and I think we were able to show that [in Sunday’s win].

“I love this group, I’m so proud of every single one of them, it’s not just Donnell, it’s everyone.”

Diamonds coach Stacey Marinkovich was measured when asked if she too was proud of the players’ stance.

“They were able to provide an environment where someone felt safe enough to raise a concern,” she said.

“It’s how you work through that is where you grow as a group.

“That’s a huge reflection on the type of people we’ve got.

“So yeah, I am proud of being able to create an environment where people can be authentic to themselves.”

A sold-out crowd delighted in the side’s comeback win, its first appearance on the Gold Coast since a gutting Commonwealth Games final loss to England in 2018.

The side redeemed itself at the Birmingham Games earlier this year, where netball was the hottest ticket in town, and is looking now towards next year’s World Cup.

Marinkovich was sure the team remained attractive to potential investors despite the turbulent week.

“We play a game that people really enjoy to watch; an exciting brand of netball,” she said.

“There’s nothing better than where netball is in the world at the moment, there’s no guarantee of any win anywhere.

“We do present ourselves well and show some really strong values and this whole experience has enabled us to grow as a sport and will take us in a great direction.”

-with AAP



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