Donnell Wallam in sparkling display as Diamonds sweep netball series

Donnell Wallam, pictured here in her starting debut for Australia against England.
Donnell Wallam starred in her starting debut for Australia against England. Image: Getty

Donnell Wallam has produced another brilliant display in her first start for the Diamonds, helping Australia sweep England in their netball Test series with a 57-53 victory.

The Indigenous trailblazer has been the subject of weeks of scrutiny following Gina Rinehart's decision to pull out of a $15 million sponsorship deal with Netball Australia.

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But Wallam has risen above the criticism both on and off the court and produced another stand-out performance on Thursday night. After coming off the bench and hitting the game-winning goal in the first Test last week, Wallam missed the second match due to injury.

On Thursday night in Brisbane she was handed her starting debut - and didn't disappoint. The goal shooter was a perfect 15-from-15 at half-time and finished with 25-from-26 before being substituted for Sophie Garbin (14-of-18) in the third quarter.

Australia led 9-2 after five minutes and by nine goals at the half before England closed with five goals at the final break. The margin was just three with 10 minutes to play, England rallying again as the clock ticked down to ensure a nervy finish in front of 8566 fans.

Wallam's performance came on the back of intense off-court scrutiny that followed the withdrawal of Hancock Prospecting's $15 million sponsorship deal.

A Noongar woman from Western Australia, Wallam raised concerns about vile historical comments made by Rinehart's later father and the company's former chair Lang Hancock about the Indigenous population. She was said to be uncomfortable wearing a uniform bearing the company logo, and expressed her concerns to teammates.

Teammates took a stand with Wallam, but Rinehart and Hancock Prospecting responded by cancelling the financial lifeline for the cash-strapped sport. The Victorian government has since stepped in to fill the void, agreeing to a $15 million sponsorship deal of their own.

Donnell Wallam, pictured here with her mother Donna after the third netball Test between Australia and England.
Donnell Wallam poses for a photo with her mother Donna after the third netball Test between Australia and England. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Netball world in awe of Donnell Wallam display

With the furore firmly in the rear-view mirror, Wallam let her netball do the talking on Thursday night.

English goal shooter Eleanor Cardwell said the team had learned plenty from watching the controversy unfold, adamant they too would stick together if faced with a similar situation.

"A lot of the limelight's been on (Wallam), a lot of controversy in Australia's house," Cardwell said.

"When she came on in Newcastle it definitely lifted them. We're the opposition but it's something bigger, way bigger, than netball. We were like, 'That is awesome for her to do that'."

There were no lay-up goals like the one Wallam produced to win the match off the bench in her debut in Newcastle last week. Instead, the 28-year-old patrolled the circle with authority, captain Paige Hadley (26 feeds, 16 assists) exploiting the height advantage to feed the Queensland Firebirds talent close to the goal.

Funmi Fadoju and Donnell Wallam, pictured here competeing for the ball during the third netball Test between Australia and England.
Funmi Fadoju and Donnell Wallam compete for the ball during the third netball Test between Australia and England. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Coach Stacey Marinkovich lauded Wallam's hot start for establishing the decisive buffer, while Hadley admitted she was too focused to notice the huge cheers every time the hometown favourite touched the ball.

"What she's been able to do in the two Tests is so exiting ... she's only going to grow, (I) can't wait to see what she does in the future," Hadley said of Wallam.

Goal defence Maddy Turner had two intercepts and a rebound in the first quarter of her starting debut, setting the tone for Australia before she was replaced just after halftime.

Australia's depth stood the test given captain Liz Watson and her deputy Steph Wood both missed the England series, while the Diamonds also won back the Constellation Cup from New Zealand despite the absence of pregnant star Gretel Bueta.

The Diamonds, now eyeing 2023's World Cup in South Africa, also won the Quad Series in England earlier this year before storming to Commonwealth Games gold.

with AAP

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