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The Netball Australia chief executive has admitted she is ‘concerned’ about the future of the sport after Gina Rinehart tore up her $15million sponsorship deal.

Kelly Ryan said it was ‘very disappointing’ after Ms Rinehart’s mining company Hancock Prospecting announced it would withdraw its support on Saturday.

‘We are reasonably concerned but at the same time, we have been incredibly transparent with the financial position of our sport throughout the course of the year,’ she told Nine’s Today on Sunday.  

The Netball Australia chief executive has admitted she is 'concerned' about the future of the sport after Gina Rinehart tore up her $15million sponsorship deal

The Netball Australia chief executive has admitted she is ‘concerned’ about the future of the sport after Gina Rinehart tore up her $15million sponsorship deal

‘We are certainly acutely aware of where our sport has been positioned. We have been doing a huge amount of work throughout the year to make sure we can right-size this ship. 

‘It is very disappointing to lose this funding which was really going to help accelerate us forward and put us in a much stronger position. However, I‘m still incredibly confident that we have the right plans in place that will get the sport to where it needs to be.

Ms Rinehart accused Netball Australia of virtue signalling after its players took issue with her sponsorship deal over offensive comments made by her late father. 

The Diamonds national netball team expressed concerns over offensive comments made by Lang Hancock about Aboriginals in 1984.

Poll

Do you think Gina Rinehart should have terminated Hancock Prospecting’s $15million sponsorship deal with Netball Australia?

  • Yes 1720 votes
  • No 49 votes

Indigenous player Donnell Wallam had reportedly wanted an exemption to wear the sponsor’s logo on the team jersey with her teammates backing her decision. 

The $15 million contract was set to be a lifeline for netball Australia, which has lost $7 million in the past two years as Super Netball costs ballooned.

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When asked to respond to Ms Rinehart’s statement that sports teams should not be used for ‘virtue signalling’, Ms Ryan was noncommittal. 

‘Obviously Mrs Rinehart’s views are hers and we fully appreciate them,’ she said.  

‘There is a really important role that sporting organisations do play from grassroots right through to the elite to create a safe environment to have really strong social conversations,’ she explained.

Gina Rinehart has accused Netball Australia of virtue signalling after its players took issue with her sponsorship deal over offensive comments made by her late father

Gina Rinehart has accused Netball Australia of virtue signalling after its players took issue with her sponsorship deal over offensive comments made by her late father

Indigenous player Donnell Wallam had reportedly wanted an exemption to wear the sponsor's logo on the team jersey with her teammates backing her decision

Indigenous player Donnell Wallam had reportedly wanted an exemption to wear the sponsor’s logo on the team jersey with her teammates backing her decision

‘There also needs to be a balance in terms of the commercial realities of that as well and making sure that you continue to be able to invest in the future of your sport.

‘Both are incredibly important to any sporting organisation. It is about making sure that we can strike that right balance.’ 

In a scathing statement on Saturday, Hancock Prospecting unleashed on Netball Australia. 

‘Hancock and its executive chairman Mrs Rinehart consider that it is unnecessary for sports organisations to be used as the vehicle for social or political causes,’ Hancock Prospecting said in a statement.

‘Firstly, because sport is at its best when it is focused on good and fair competition, with dedicated athletes striving for excellence to achieve their sporting dreams and to represent our country at their very best.’

‘Secondly, because there are more targeted and genuine ways to progress social or political causes without virtue signalling or for self-publicity.’

Hancock Prospecting clarified it had not insisted on the logo being worn on the sports jerseys and said it had contributed to the Indigenous communities.  

Offensive comment 

In a 1984 television interview, Mr Hancock made a shocking statement about Indigenous Australians.

‘The ones that are no good to themselves and can’t accept things, the half-castes -and this is where most of the trouble comes,’ Mr Hancock said in the 1984 documentary film Couldn’t Be Fairer.

‘I would dope the water up so that they were sterile and would breed themselves out in future and that would solve the problem.’

Mr Hancock died in 1992 at the age of 82, and said Indigenous Australians who had been ‘assimilated’ should be left alone.

‘Those that have been assimilated into, you know, earning good living or earning wages amongst the civilised areas,’ he said. 

‘Those that have been accepted into society and they have accepted society and can handle society, I’d leave them well alone.’

 

‘For example, the meaningful engagement with local Indigenous communities undertaken by Hancock’s Roy Hill Community Foundation in West Australia to support their actual needs,’ the statement read.

‘Thirdly, because there are more impactful means to make a beneficial difference. 

‘For example, Hancock’s holistic support for real programs including Hanrine Futures — that are providing a true pathway for Indigenous students through education and into employment where they are guaranteed a job should they wish, at the end of their training.’ 

Ms Rinehart has received support for tearing up the sponsorship deal with Nationals MP Matt Canavan and Aboriginal leader Nyunggai Warren Mundine backing her.

‘Good on Gina for walking away from Netball,’ Mr Canavan tweeted. 

‘Why would she support them if they didn’t wear her logo? Gina is a national hero and she uses her hard earned wealth to support many worthy causes. 

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‘I am sure she will find other, more grateful Aussies to help.’

Mr Mundine added: ‘No wonder netball association went broke.’

The $15million deal appeared to be a lifeline after Netball Australia suffered losses of more than $7 million in two Covid-impacted years.

Hancock Prospecting said in a statement on Saturday the $15million would have gone a long way in providing the necessary support to players. 

‘Hancock’s proposed sponsorship would have enabled a generous increase in wages for the players which would not have otherwise been possible given Netball’s financial situation,’ the statement read. 

The company has promised to provide short term funding for the team until it is able to secure another sponsorship.

Ms Rinehart has received support for tearing up the sponsorship deal with Nationals MP Matt Canavan and Aboriginal leader Nyunggai Warren Mundine backing her

Ms Rinehart has received support for tearing up the sponsorship deal with Nationals MP Matt Canavan and Aboriginal leader Nyunggai Warren Mundine backing her

Hancock Prospecting clarified it had not insisted on the logo being worn on the sports jerseys and said it had contributed to the Indigenous communities

Hancock Prospecting clarified it had not insisted on the logo being worn on the sports jerseys and said it had contributed to the Indigenous communities 

‘Hancock and Roy Hill have advised Netball Australia and Netball WA respectively, that it will instead provide a four-month sponsorship should they and their players wish to accept it, to continue funding the athletes and to help Netball as it arranges alternative funding and sponsorships,’ the statement read. 

In a statement posted to Twitter by defender and Australian Netball Players’ Association president Jo Weston, the Diamonds said they were supporting Wallam.

‘Reports of a protest on the part of the players, on environmental grounds and a split within the playing group are incorrect,’ the statement said.

‘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’ Sisters in Arms legacy and the values this represents, alongside Australian Netball’s Declaration of Commitment.’

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