Indigenous netballer Donnell Wallam had been willing to wear the Hancock Prospecting sponsorship logo before the company sensationally pulled the pin on its $15 million deal, it’s been revealed.
The dress debacle has taken another messy turn with revelations Netball Australia knocked back Wallam’s plea to be exempt from wearing the logo due to historic comments made by Hancock Prospecting’s late founder Lang Hancock in the 1980s.
Australian Netball Players Association CEO Kathryn Harby-Williams said Wallam, who is set to make her international debut against England after a meteoric Super Netball rise, had then been prepared to wear the sponsor’s logo as the “pressure became too much to bear”.
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“In the end Donnell sought an exemption for herself and that wasn’t forthcoming because there was a meeting during the week, last week, where it was made very clear that no exemptions would be given to any of the players,” Harby-Williams said on ABC Summer Grandstand.
“And that was a disappointing moment because the players thought at the very least that Donnell would be granted an exemption at that point in time.
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“One of our First Nations players had a conscientious objection to just three games to ask for an exemption in the end not to wear that logo … there’s a precedence in other sports where exemptions been given. I would have thought and hoped for Donnell that exemption would be provided.
“It got to the point where Donnell was then actually going to agree to wear the dress and that was simply because the pressure was too much for her to bear and as a sport I think that should be extremely disappointing for everybody.”
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Foxsports.com.au understands the dress saga, which has thrown an enormous spotlight on Wallam after her sudden rise into Diamonds contention, has left the goal shooter distressed and upset.
Harby-Williams said Hancock’s decision to pull its funding – and their support for Netball WA and the West Coast Fever who labelled themselves “collateral damage” in the saga – was “a shock” and “extremely disappointing”.
“I think we just need to clarify here the players’ position has always been they were prepared to wear the logo during the Constellation Cup. We had come to an agreement with Netball Australia where everyone was comfortable that that would happen, and then Donnell and the players would not be required to wear the logo against England in the three-match Test series starting shortly,” she said.
“At no point in time did the players seek to have the deal fall off the table.
“(Donnell) stood true to herself, being really brave.
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“It wasn’t a rejection of Hancock, it was just trying to work through the issues.”
Harby-Williams said the players had been “willing to compromise”, asking for “three weeks grace” to get through the back-to-back Test series before sitting down with Hancock and Netball Australia to work through “the issues and reach an agreement”.
But the pin was pulled on the $15m deal before they could get to that point.
“An Indigenous player, our first Indigenous player in almost 25 years and only our third in history was seeking an exemption just for three games to then get to the table next month and try and work out all the issues on both sides,” she said.
“(The players) wanted the sponsorship to flourish.”
It still remains unclear why Netball Australia did not provide the Hancock Prospecting logo dresses to Diamonds players for the Constellation Cup series that started earlier this month.