Netball commentator issues apology over remark about Donnell Wallam

Donnell Wallam, pictured here celebrating with teammates after scoring the match-winning goal for the Diamonds against England.
Donnell Wallam celebrates with teammates after scoring the match-winning goal for the Diamonds against England. Image: Getty

Fox Sports commentator Matt Russell has issued an apology after copping a wave of backlash over his remarks about Donnell Wallam's game-winner for the Diamonds on Tuesday night.

Wallam produced a fairytale moment on debut for Australia after scoring the game-winning goal with just seconds remaining in the first netball Test against England.

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The incredible moment came after a week of turmoil in which Hancock Prospecting - the company owned by mining magnate Gina Rinehart - pulled out of a $15 million sponsorship deal with Netball Australia after Wallam had expressed reservations about wearing the Hancock logo on her uniform.

Wallam, who became just the third Indigenous player to represent Australia in netball, was reportedly uneasy about the sponsorship due to comments from Rinehart's late father Lang Hancock in the 1980s about “sterilising” Indigenous Australians.

Rinehart abruptly pulled the sponsorship on Sunday, taking aim at athletes for 'virtue signalling'.

Wallam was reportedly left devastated at the development, but her heroics on debut provided a heartwarming moment amid the storm.

However netball fans were left fuming after the match due to Russell's commentary at the time of Wallam's match-winner.

“Could you have written that if you’d tried,” Russell said on Fox Sports.

“Donnell Wallam on debut. Cheered on by a sold out crowd.

“In the eyes of some, she’s cost Australian netball millions. In the eyes of others, she’s just won them a Test.

“Sport is the most magnificent theatre. It’s the ultimate reality television. Nobody knows what’s going to happen. You would never have believed that could happen. Injected in the fourth quarter. Game on the line and with the most trademark Donnell Wallam shot she sends Australia 1-0 ahead.”

A number of fans took exception to Russell's remark about Wallam costing her sport millions, and the commentator has since addressed the backlash on social media.

“Spent the day marvelling at Donnell Wallam’s strength and resilience last night,” Russell posted on Twitter.

“To call her moment, in an instant, I wanted to neutrally portray what 'SOME SAY' about her. And how, despite all that, she emerged spectacularly triumphant on debut, despite it all.

“Sorry to those who have been distracted from Donnell’s success and the Diamonds’ win. It was humbling/heartening to speak/message with Indigenous leaders/Donnell today.

“I look forward to calling the Aussie Men on Sunday in Sydney and Women next Thursday in Brisbane. It’s been a privilege.”

Some had labelled Russell's initial comments 'unnecessary' and 'disgusting', while others said the backlash was a huge overreaction.

Donnell Wallam's amazing moment on debut for Diamonds

An emotional Wallam, a Noongar woman from Western Australia, said the "outside noise" over the last few weeks had taken a toll.

"I was relieved to finally get my chance on court - it's been some of the toughest few weeks of my life," Wallam told Kayo Sports after the 55-54 victory.

"To finally get out there and just play in this dress was just really special and it makes the last couple of weeks feel like a blur.

"I just hope that I'm now a role model to the young girls and boys coming through."

Donnell Wallam, pictured here celebrating after Australia's win over England in the first netball Test.
Donnell Wallam celebrates after Australia's win over England in the first netball Test. (Photo by Steven Markham/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Wallam said while it had been a testing time she was grateful to those who supported her stance, including her teammates.

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

"Coming into the bubble we tried to not let the outside noise impact us and they really wrapped their arms around me.

"Thanks for everyone for their support, the kind messages I've been getting, it hasn't gone unnoticed and has really helped me in these last few weeks."

with AAP

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