It has been revealed Australian Netball was at breaking point in the wake of Gina Rinehart’s sponsorship withdrawal.
Despite the Victorian Government stepping in with a $15 million sponsorship deal, Netball Australia was reportedly considering pulling the Diamonds out of next month’s Quad Series in Cape Town.
News Corp first reported the relationship between the Diamonds’ dressing room and Netball Australia’s front office remains prickly after the governing body was unable to keep the team’s relationship with Rinehart from falling apart.
Hancock Prospecting, which was founded by Rinehart’s father Lang Hancock, walked away from their sponsorship agreement with Netball Australia in October after a player objection, led by Aboriginal woman and Diamonds player Donnell Wallam.
Wallam, supported by her teammates, had expressed concern over racist statements made by Hancock in 1984.
The governing body clashed with the players’ association during the scandal as the players continued to dig their heels in despite Netball Australia’s attempts to patch things up between the two parties.
The drama is still far from over, according to News Corp, with the sport dangerously close to being left on its knees and unable to participate in a major international tournament.
Australia was reportedly close to pulling the pin on competing in the series against South Africa, New Zealand and England, beginning January 22 because of its perilous financial position.
Netball, despite its popularity, has struggled to attract funding at a level similar to other codes, and Netball Australia announced in its 2021 financial results in July it had recorded a $7 million loss in the past two years.
The report indicates players were only given assurances they would be competing in South Africa with one month’s notice.
Netball Australia boss Kelly Ryan confirmed there was consideration that the high performance budget would not have stretched far enough to allow the Diamonds to play in the tournament.
“Netball Australia assesses all international opportunities for the Origin Australian Diamonds, considering a wide range of factors including travel and timing,” Ryan said.
“The Australian Diamonds playing group was aware that the withdrawal of the (Hancock) sponsorship could have an impact on Netball Australia’s plans and activities.
“Netball Australia is incredibly pleased that the Diamonds will be participating in January’s Netball Quad Series a key lead-up event to the World Cup in July 2023 that will also be played in South Africa.”
The sponsorship agreement with the Victorian Government’s Visit Victoria tourism and major events arm only begins next year and the report indicates Rinehart’s interim sponsorship deal has ceased.
Story Credit: news.com.au