Netball Australia has secured a new $15 million sponsorship deal with the Victorian government after the storm surrounding Gina Rinehart and Hancock Prospecting.
Hancock sensationally pulled out of its own $15 million deal with the cash-strapped sport earlier this month after Indigenous player Donnell Wallam expressed concerns about wearing the company's logo on her dress.
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Wallam raised concerns about vile historical comments made by Rinehart's late father Lang Hancock in the 1980's about 'sterilising' the Indigenous population.
Rinehart and Hancock subsequently withdrew their $15 million and took aim at athletes 'virtue signalling'.
But in a staggering new twist on Monday, the Victorian government came to Netball Australia's rescue.
Premier Daniel Andrews announced that Visit Victoria will support the Diamonds on a deal running to 2027, providing a much-needed boost for the sport which lost $7 million over the last two years due to the Covid pandemic.
The new deal will see the Diamonds play international matches and hold training camps in Victoria from 2023 to 2026.
Players will also appear in tourism campaigns for Victoria and wear the Visit Victoria branding on their playing uniforms.
As part of the deal, next year's Super Netball grand final will also be held in Victoria after it was staged in Perth this year when Western Australia won hosting rights in a bidding process.
Mr Andrews described the sponsorship deal as a "massive coup" for the state.
“We are the sporting and major events capital of our nation … to be able to have the world’s very best netball team wearing our logo, projecting all that we offer to the world and the rest of the country, is absolutely fantastic,” Mr Andrews said.
"Other states wanted this but Victoria secured it."
Netball Australia CEO Kelly Ryan said: “Victoria is a proud sporting state, and we are delighted to announce a new partnership with Visit Victoria.
"The partnership will guarantee Victorians the opportunity to experience more netball across the next four and a half years."
Diamonds captain Liz Watson added: “This is a significant partnership for the Origin Australian Diamonds as we prepare to defend our Commonwealth Games gold medal in Victoria in 2026.
“Visit Victoria is a proud supporter of netball, and this investment will benefit all levels of our game.”
— Netball Australia (@NetballAust) October 31, 2022
Premier @DanielAndrewsMP announcing a $15M partnership with Netball Australia with Victoria branding on their team kit and the 2023 grand final in Victoria. It happens to be the exact same amount Gina Rhinehart controversially withdrew in sponsorship .. @abcmelbourne #springst pic.twitter.com/h9QkH7GXsg
— Bridget Rollason (@bridgerollo) October 31, 2022
— Peter FitzSimons (@Peter_Fitz) October 31, 2022
Donnell Wallam's amazing debut amid sponsor storm
Wallam, a Noongar woman from Western Australia, broke down in tears after her debut for Australia last week and said the "outside noise" 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."
After relentless scrutiny regarding her role in the withdrawal of the $15 million deal from Rinehart, all eyes were on Wallam when called upon by Australian coach Stacey Marinkovich midway through the final quarter in the first Test against England.
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 - scoring the winning goal in the dying seconds before being embraced by her teammates in emotional scenes.
Former Diamonds skipper Sharni Norder, who was also a critic of the sponsorship deal with Hancock, 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.
The Diamonds' other sponsors such as Origin Energy have since pledged their commitment to the team.
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."
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