The Australian Diamonds have dropped the Indigenous star at the centre of the $15 million sponsorship row with Gina Rinehart for a vital warm-up tournament ahead of July’s Netball World Cup.
Donnell Wallam, 29, sparked a firestorm last October when it was revealed she was uncomfortable with wearing the Diamonds jersey with the Hancock Prospecting logo on it over racist comments made by Mrs Rinehart’s father, Lang Hancock, almost four decades ago.
Her team-mates backed her boycott call and the furious backlash saw Mrs Rinehart, 69, pull out of the $15m deal, sparking a financial crisis for Netball Australia.
But Wallam was controversially dropped from the Diamonds squad despite scoring the winning goal on debut against England at the height of the row, with her World Cup place now in doubt.
She was cut from the squad for the Quad Series against England, South Africa and New Zealand, which the Diamonds dominated in an unbeaten four-match run in Cape Town, South Africa, in January.
Indigenous star Donnell Wallam (pictured) was axed by the Australian Diamonds for a vital warm-up tournament ahead of July’s Netball World Cup
Wallam was at the centre of the $15million sponsorship row with Gina Rinehart (pictured) over racist comments made almost 40 years ago by Mrs Rinehart’s father Lang Hancock
Wallam is also still missing from the official squad list on the Diamonds website, with the Netball World Cup in South Africa now just four months away. She faces a fight with Collingwood’s Sophie Garbin for the same shooter’s spot on the WC squad.
‘I’m surprised at that one (Wallam being left out),’ admitted former Australian goal shooter Caitlin Bassett when the squad for the Quad Series was revealed.
‘I think she’s the X-factor.’
Netball Australia insisted Wallam was still part of the Diamonds set-up, despite not featuring in the most recent squad.
‘Nelle is a much-loved part of the Diamonds 2022-23 squad,’ a spokesman told Daily Mail Australia.
Wallam’s rise last year was meteoric for a player who didn’t even have a club a year ago and had to fight for a temporary player replacement contract with Queensland Firebirds.
She ended her debut season with 519 goals at 86 per cent accuracy and was named the competition’s Rookie of the Year award.
Wallam was also named Australia’s Emerging Athlete of the Year at the AIS Sport Performance Awards and included in two lists of the most influential women in Australian sport for International Women’s Day last week.
But she first made headlines over her opposition to the Mrs Rinehart’s mining company’s sponsorship deal over her father’s comments in 1984 that Indigenous Australians should be sterilised to ‘breed themselves out’ in coming years.
Wallam revealed she was driven to make the protest out of a sense of duty.
‘It’s part of my responsibility as a First Nations athlete to pave the way and help make the journey for the younger generation smoother, easier, culturally safer,’ she told the Firebirds website in the wake of the blow-up.
‘Every time I think it’s getting too hard or feels like a burden, I always think, “You’re doing this for the next generation.” I’m doing this, so they don’t have to.’
She added: ‘I feel like I’m more prepared now. I know what I’m going into.
‘Last year I was a bit of a deer in the headlights and I was just learning things as I went but now I feel I’m better prepared. I know what to expect.’
The backlash from Australian Diamonds star Donnell Wallam (pictured) prompted Gina Rinehart, Australia’s richest woman, to withdraw her Hancock Prospecting sponsorship
Donnell Wallam (pictured) was dropped by the Diamonds for the Quad Series tour in South Africa and her spot at the World Cup in July now also hangs in the balance
Five months after the saga, Netball Australia is still reeling from the furore, despite Visit Victoria coming to the rescue with a replacement $15million deal.
Under the new deal, players will wear Visit Victoria branding on their uniforms and appear in tourism campaigns to promote the state.
It also gives Victoria hosting rights for the 2023 Super Netball Grand final as the state becomes the official home of the Diamonds.
However, the sport remains in a massive financial hole after the Covid pandemic plunged the last three seasons into chaos.
‘$4.2 million is the debt that we have and need to repay,’ Netball Australia chief executive Kelly Ryan admitted at last week’s season launch.
‘We still do have a considerable, sizeable debt that still does need to be repaid. So we’re still very fiscally responsible and making sure that any opportunities for growth will be realised.’
Netball Australia unveiled a brazen ‘We’re not sorry’ campaign at last week’s launch of the 2023 Super Netball season
Netball Australia is also dealing with ongoing negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement, amid claims by the players union it doesn’t intend to raise the pay of Super Netball players next season due to the financial hole.
‘There’s no more money for the players through to 2026, which aligns with the broadcast deal,’ Australian Netball Players’ Association chief executive Kathryn Harby-Williams recently said.
‘We are not aligned with that approach and will be working with Netball Australia … we have requested financial information, and we hope to come to the table to discuss that.’
Gina Rinehart (right) is pictured with her father Lang Hancock, who started the company Hancock Prospecting.
In a 1984 television interview, Lang Hancock made a shocking statement about Indigenous Australians.
‘The ones that are no good to themselves and can’t accept things, the half-castes -and this is where most of the trouble comes,’ Mr Hancock said in the 1984 documentary film Couldn’t Be Fairer.
‘I would dope the water up so that they were sterile and would breed themselves out in future and that would solve the problem.’
Mr Hancock died in 1992 at the age of 82, and said Indigenous Australians who had been ‘assimilated’ should be left alone.
‘Those that have been assimilated into, you know, earning good living or earning wages amongst the civilised areas,’ he said.
‘Those that have been accepted into society and they have accepted society and can handle society, I’d leave them well alone.’