Donnell Wallam's insane moment on debut amid netball sponsorship storm

Donnell Wallam, pictured here after scoring the match-winning goal in the first netball Test between Australia and England.
Donnell Wallam scored the match-winning goal in the first netball Test between Australia and England. Image: Getty

Donnell Wallam has left the Australian sporting community in awe after scoring the match-winning goal against England in her Test netball debut for the Diamonds.

After some of the toughest weeks of her life due to the sponsorship storm with Gina Rinehart, Wallam answered critics in dazzling fashion on Wednesday night by scoring the match-winning goal with just seconds remaining.

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Wallam showed her skill and athleticism to nail a lay-up goal with just seven seconds remaining in the Newcastle match to secure a 55-54 victory in game one of the three-Test series.

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.

Wallam, a Noongar woman from Western Australia, broke down in tears after the match and 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.

"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 netball win over England.
Donnell Wallam celebrates after Australia's netball win over England. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images for Netball Australia)

Wallam's selection for the series was overshadowed by the sponsorship storm that erupted over Netball Australia's $15 million deal with Hancock Prospecting.

Wallam raised concerns about vile historical comments made by Rinehart's late father Lang Hancock about the Indigenous population and was said to be uncomfortable about wearing a uniform with the Hancock Prospecting logo.

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.

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," she said.

"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."

Diamonds take 1-0 lead in series against England

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.

But the Australians only trailed by one - 27-26 - at the main break, with wing attack Maddy Proud dominating through the mid-court.

Donnell Wallam, pictured here after scoring the winning goal in the first netball Test between Australia and England.
Donnell Wallam celebrates after scoring the winning goal in the first netball Test between Australia and England. (Photo by Steven Markham/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Cardwell, who will play for Adelaide Thunderbirds in next year's Super Netball competition, did the bulk of the damage in the goal circle and finished the match with 44 goals from 48 attempts.

It looked like the match would go to extra time, but a turnover by Kate Moloney sent the ball back Australia's way with Wallam delivering the win.

Marinkovich was excited to test her depth and come up trumps.

"There's been a lot of emotion around the team but you see that this is every player's happy place - they love being out on court and they love the big moment," said Marinkovich.

"It was really good to get all of our players out there and obviously for Donnell to hit the court.

"We had a new group out there, new combinations, so it's really exciting for the depth that we've got."

with AAP

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