Donnell Wallam reduced to tears after question about Diamonds debut

Donnell Wallam is pictured reacting to Australia's win over England.
Donnell Wallam was emotional after her game-winning goal steered the Diamonds to a thrilling victory against England in her debut for the national team. Pictures: Fox Netball/Getty Images

Soon after Donnell Wallam capped her Diamonds debut with a game-winning shot, the 28-year-old felt the full weight of an emotional week in netball.

The Diamonds would have been lost without Wallam on her debut, with her perfect 8/8 shooting performance proving critical in the 55-54 victory over England.

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Wallam became the unwilling centre of controversy late last week, when it was revealed mining giant Hancock Prospecting, owned by Gina Rinehart, had withdrawn from a $15 million sponsorship deal with Netball Australia.

Rinehart withdrew the deal after Wallam, backed by each of her Diamonds teammates, expressed reluctance to wear the Hancock Prospecting logo on her uniform in response to comments made by the company's founder and Rinehart's father, Lang Hancock.

Hancock went on record in the 1984 to suggest sterilisation as a 'solution' to the 'problem' of Australia's Indigenous people.

Wallam told Fox Sports after the game that she was 'relieved' to have been able to debut for Australia, describing the saga as 'the toughest few weeks of my life'.

Tearing up in the interview, she said the 'outside noise' had been incredibly difficult to deal with but thanked those close to her for helping her through it.

"It's really special and I just hope that I'm a role model to the young girls and boys coming through for their turn," she said.

"It's been a long time coming, so I hope I make everyone proud out there.

" Every single one of the team members, the staff, has just been amazing.

"We were just trying to let the outside noise not impact us and they've just wrapped their arms around me and really embraced me and that's just so special.

"Thanks so much to everybody for their support. All the kind messages I've been getting, it hasn't gone unnoticed and it's really helped in the last couple of weeks."

Donnell Wallam responds to critics in shining Diamonds debut

After relentless scrutiny regarding her role in the withdrawal of a $15 million sponsorship deal from mining magnate Rinehart, all eyes were on Wallam when called upon by Australian coach Stacey Marinkovich midway through the final quarter.

But the 28-year-old was flawless after becoming just the third Indigenous player to don the green and gold and the first in 22 years, embracing by her teammates in emotional scenes after the win.

Former Diamonds skipper Sharni Norder, who was also a critic of the sponsorship deal, lauded Wallam's resilience.

"I don't know anyone who would have the strength of character to go through something so tumultuous and have the courage to step up and represent her country on the world stage and smash it. Donnell Wallam is my hero," Norder tweeted.

Donnell Wallam is pictured embracing a Diamonds teammate after their victory over England.
Donnell Wallam thanked her teammates for their support during a difficult time for the Diamonds, enjoying a one-goal win over England in her debut.. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images for Netball Australia)

Teammates took a stand with Wallam, which resulted in the mining magnate's firm cancelling the financial lifeline for cash-strapped sporting body.

The Diamonds' other sponsors such as Origin Energy have since pledged their commitment.

England levelled the score in the final minute through Eleanor Cardwell, but Wallam sealed the win with a stunning goal before she was swamped by her joyful teammates.

The Australians got off to a strong start but couldn't shake England with the teams level at 14-14 after the first quarter.

A huge penalty count started to take its toll on the Diamonds, who racked up 40 to England's 24 in the first half.

With AAP

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