Ex-Australian netball captain Sharni Norder has opened up on the Diamonds’ dress debacle, labelling the ordeal “messy” and “embarrassing”.
Norder responded to claims Australian netballers refused to wear the team dress featuring new sponsor Hancock Prospecting in the current series against New Zealand.
Norder said players had been prepared to wear the dress with the new sponsor for the Constellation Cup series, but the “dresses they got provided with didn’t have the sponsor on it”.
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The former star defender said the dress issue relates to the upcoming home series against England beginning later this month – which will likely feature indigenous goal shooter Donnell Wallam in her Australian debut.
Wallam, named in the Diamonds’ squad of 14 to face the Roses, told the playing group she was not comfortable wearing a dress with Hancock Prospecting sponsorship.
“We have an indigenous player in her very first series, Donnell Wallam, and she’s openly said – which is very tough to say by the way as a player in a new organization representing Australia – that she doesn’t feel comfortable wearing Hancock Prospecting because of what has been said in the past,” Norder revealed on RSN Radio.
“Which is completely fair enough.
Diamonds sponsorship drama escalates | 00:44
“The Australian team are a very united group, and they’ve said: ‘Look Donnell, if you don’t feel comfortable wearing the dress whenever you are out on court, we will see if we don’t have to wear the sponsorship’.
“The players were happy to wear the dress as they were over in New Zealand and Donnell wasn’t in the side. But the dresses they got provided with didn’t have the sponsor on it.
“It’s just a mess. There’s a lack of communication – there’s different stories out there everywhere and it’s really quite embarrassing.
“All of this could all be avoided.”
Netball Australia chair Marina Go on Monday departed her role amid criticism of the sport’s $15 million sponsorship deal with Hancock Prospecting.
The partnership with Hancock Prospecting, owned by Australia’s richest woman Gina Rinehart, was described last week as “one of the most significant investments in our sport”.
For Rinehart, the sponsorship continues her association with elite sport having supported Swimming Australia for over a decade, Rowing Australia since 2016 and this year announcing it would sponsor the Olympic team through to 2026 as well as a number of other philanthropic initiatives in the areas of health and education, including being a sponsor of NAIDOC since 2012 and Cambodian Children’s Fund.
But Norder said a lack of communication with the players was to blame for the deal causing such a divide.
“It’s just a lack of communication and a lack of due diligence from Netball Australia about how they are going about their business at the moment,” she said.
“It’s really important they get the players on board – not because you have to but it looks more professional as an organization if you’re all on the same page.
“(Hancock Prospecting) are giving a large amount of money to the sport – which we all know that the sport needs.
Silver Ferns outshine Diamonds | 01:42
“Despite other reports, this was not run by the players or the players’ association.
“I just think Netball Australia need to take into consideration the players – they need to listen and work together because they’re currently not doing that.
“The players are going, ‘Guys we want to work with you’, but it’s just not happening.”
Norder, a Sports Environment Alliance ambassador, addressed the playing group ahead of the Test series in New Zealand, and shared that she did not believe the Hancock Prospecting sponsorship was “suitable” for the sport.
“This is not a respectful way to act and even if Donnell wasn’t in the team, we must do better,” she said at the time.
“I did a Zoom with the players just to educate them on doing right by the sport but also doing right by yourself and honouring your own values.
“I just wanted to have a conversation is that money worth your reputation and what you stand for as a person?”
Netball Australia board member Wendy Archer has now replaced Go – who will remain a director – as chair.