Diamonds players have expressed their disappointment in Hancock Prospecting’s decision to withdraw from their three-year, $15 million partnership with Netball Australia.
In a statement released by the athletes, they say they understand the investment from Gina Rinehart and her major mining business would have made a significant impact on the sport and its high-performance program.
In response to Hancock’s decision and the increasing scrutiny the team has copped from members of the public for being “ungrateful” in their negotiations around the terms of the deal, Diamonds players have shared their side of the story to try and clarify any misconceptions.
“Reports of a protest on the part of the players on environmental grounds and a split within the playing group are incorrect.
“The singular issue of concern to the players was one of support for our only Indigenous team member.
“We are fully committed to the Diamonds’ Sister in Arms legacy and the values this represents, alongside Australian Netball’s Declaration of Commitment.”
Netball’s Declaration of Commitment was released to the public in September 2020, after the Jemma Mi Mi incident surrounding the Super Netball League and its annual First Nations Round sparked a national conversation about netball’s relationship with Indigenous people.
Various past players went public with their stories of mistreatment in the wake of this controversy, leading Netball Australia to form a First Nations Advisory Committee and establish the document which all state bodies and member organisations signed.
In a bid to move forward, it’s believed the players made a variety of proposals to Hancock Prospecting in order to help resolve the issue in a private and professional manner.
One of these was to wear a Diamonds dress featuring the company’s logo for the current Constellation Cup series, while requesting Noongar woman Donnell Wallam be granted an individual exemption to wear a dress without it for the following England Test series — due to begin October 26.
This way, they suggested, the matter could try and be resolved between all parties in November, when both the New Zealand and England series had been wrapped up.
Hancock Prospecting was also invited to make a statement distancing the current company from the historical words of its founder, Lang Hancock, back in the 1980s about his views on the sterilisation of Indigenous people.
Hancock Prospecting today confirmed the issue was more-so attached to the England series than the Constellation Cup via their website.
“We acknowledge that the support of our commercial partners is crucial to the financial sustainability of the sport,” the Diamonds statement read.
“We are hopeful that players are given the opportunity to raise any sensitivities or concerns about sponsorships in a more proactive way going forward so that we can work through them in a collaborative, respectful and inclusive way before agreements are concluded.”
Former Diamond Bianca Chatfield spoke with the ABC last week, where she disclosed players had previously been involved in the decision-making process for these major sponsorships.
“When I was playing, Netball Australia and the players’ association had such a good relationship in that we were quite often having discussions offline that were all confidential,” Chatfield told Summer Grandstand.
“We would even try and help them land the sponsors by going into meetings with them as player representatives, and there was a lot of collaboration.
“That’s the missing piece [here], I don’t know where it’s gone, but it just seems like no one is willing to go together and it’s not a very healthy way to approach it.
“I feel very privileged that the personnel at Netball Australia at the time had a lot of open dialogue before anything was announced, so that we knew it was happening and we weren’t expected to just accept it.”
The Diamonds will take the court on Sunday night on the Gold Coast in the fourth and final match of the Constellation Cup series.
A victory will see the Diamonds win back the trophy from the New Zealand Silver Ferns.