Australia’s national netball team, The Diamonds, have reportedly taken a stand against Netball Australia’s new sponsor, mining giant Hancock Prospecting, after being addressed by their former skipper Sharni Norder.
The Diamonds, in New Zealand for the Constellation Cup series with game two in Tauranga on Sunday, are said to be concerned about the sponsor being branded across their uniforms.
Netball Australia and its Players’ Association are now in urgent talks ahead of Sunday’s second Test of the Constellation Cup against New Zealand in Tauranga after Diamonds players raised issues about taking the netball court against New Zealand wearing a uniform featuring new sponsor, Hancock Prospecting.
Netball Australia confirmed the new squad uniform had been delayed “pending the resolution of outstanding matters relating to the player interim agreement and certain sensitivities”.
Late last month the cash-strapped organisation trumpeted the multi-million dollar sponsorship deal with billionaire mining magnate Gina Rinehart. The sponsorship, continuing until the end of 2025, was set to go towards the sport’s high-performance program.
However Netball Australia has now said in a prepared statement: “This delay allows time to ensure players remain focused on the Constellation Cup competition and for Netball Australia and the Australian Netball Players Association to resolve these matters in an appropriate time frame.
“Netball Australia is committed to continuing these conversations and working with all parties to the benefit of our sport,” the statement continued.
“The Hancock Prospecting partnership is one of the most significant investments in our sport, $15m dollars will be provided over four years with 100% directed at players, coaches and the Diamonds high-performance program, providing the opportunity to help grow and strengthen netball.
“Netball Australia, Hancock Prospecting and the Diamonds will continue to work together for the benefit of the entire sport.”
The controversy comes at a key time for the national team as they prepare for the 2023 Netball World Cup in Cape Town and the Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games.
Hancock Prospecting was set to feature on their uniforms as part of the deal, however the Diamonds wore an old strip in their opening loss to the Silver Ferns on Wednesday.
Norder (nee Layton), who played 46 times for Australia and skippered the team in 2017, called on the governing body to “do better” than accept money from Rinehart, whom she called a “climate denier”.
At the time of the announcement Norder, who switched to AFLW in 2018 and is a Sports Environment Alliance ambassador, said netball should not associate itself with Rinehart.
“As a proud @SEA_theChange ambassador, it’s unacceptable to put our brand alongside an open climate denier,” Norder tweeted. “We have put too much into our sport to give social licence to a company who’s (sic) profit-at-all-cost attitude puts our future in danger. Be better”.
The stand-off also reportedly surrounds the views of Rinehart’s father, the late Lang Hancock, who founded the business and espoused strong right-wing views about Australia’s Indigenous community.
The Diamonds have Indigenous player Donnell Wallam in their squad.
Norder told Fox Sports she held an online meeting with the players to “educate” them on the sponsor. “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,” Norder said.
“I just wanted to have a conversation – is that money worth your reputation and what you stand for as a person? Just so they are making good decisions for themselves, because they represent the clubs and our country but also themselves.”
Earlier this year the extent of netball’s cash crisis was revealed, with the COVID-19 pandemic contributing to losses of more than $7 million over the past two years.
Hancock Prospecting is one of the most significant private investors in Australian sport, partnering with elite level swimming, synchronised swimming, rowing and women’s volleyball, as well as making a multi-million dollar commitment to the Australian Olympic Committee.