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Netball Australia signs on as mining sponsor

Netball Australia is struggling to reach a compromise with Indigenous goalkeeper Donnell Wallam after he reaffirmed his commitment to his sponsorship deal with mining giant Hancock Prospecting.

Wallam, a Noongar woman from Western Australia, has raised concerns about NA’s $15 million sponsorship over four years with billionaire Gina Rinehart’s company.

The 28-year-old challenged Hancock Prospecting’s record on Indigenous issues, which dates back 40 years to Rinehart’s late father, Lang Hancock, who proposed that some Indigenous people be sterilized to “reproduce”.

Slated to become the first Indigenous Test player in over 20 years when they face England later this month, Wallam was reluctant to wear the sponsor’s new logo.

She considered asking for a bye, as other athletes have done when a sponsor doesn’t match their beliefs or religion, but the issue erupted when her teammates chose to stand by her side.

On Tuesday, NA and Diamonds skipper Liz Watson voiced her support for Hancock Prospecting as the deal secures the future of the sports organization which has suffered losses of more than $7 million over two years affected by the COVID.

The money will go directly to the high performance programme, which will see the Diamonds qualify for next year’s World Cup in South Africa and the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Victoria in 2026, where they will defend their title.

“As players we know Hancock is such a good investment for our program,” Watson said on Tuesday ahead of the team’s third Constellation Cup Series Test against New Zealand in Melbourne.

“We support Hancock and all the players here are too.”

But Watson said they also wanted to show their support for their new teammate.

“Donnell is part of this program, she knows where we are at and we support Donnell in everything that is going on. I am confident that we will find a solution on this,” Watson said.

“We support her cultural sensitivities around the program, around the partnership, and we want her to be herself and feel comfortable and strong. I know the girls are supportive of that.”

Representatives for Hancock spoke to the Australian team on Tuesday morning and Watson said all parties “wanted this to work”.

New NA president Wendy Archer, who replaced Marina Go on Monday, said she was in talks with Wallam.

“Netball Australia has continuously attempted to understand, support and work on a long-term solution to this issue which at this time remains unresolved,” Archer said in a statement.

She said the players had not boycotted the new uniform, but after arguing with the Australian Netball Players Association (ANPA), NA decided it might prove an “unnecessary distraction”.

The issue is the latest in a series of flare-ups between NA and the union, which is led by former skipper Kathryn Harby-Williams.

New general manager Kelly Ryan kicked herself out when she sold the Super Netball Grand Final to the highest bidder five weeks before the game without asking their opinion.

She also rejected a private equity takeover of Super Netball despite the union’s unanimous support for the move.

Although Hancock was not identified due to his commercial sensitivity, Archer said players were made aware of an impending mining partnership in July.

Given that their current main sponsor is Origin Energy, no concerns have been raised.

Watson said the players hoped to be involved in future sponsorship deals to ensure they aligned with their beliefs.

“We need to align Netball Australia with our values ​​as a group of players because we want to leave a legacy behind,” she said.

“As players we always say the bib we wear, we want to leave it in a better position than when we get it.

“I feel like it’s just about having open conversations with them and I know they’re willing to do that with us as well.”

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