Australian netballers gagged by Diamonds coach Stacey Marinkovich over Gina Rinehart’s $15m sponsorship controversy

The Diamonds have closed ranks after a week of on-court losses and off-court controversy and are on the verge of losing their second straight Constellation Cup for the first time.

Stacey Marinkovich’s side will swap New Zealand for Melbourne on Monday and make a long run without the support of gold-clad stands.

The Australians will play their first home tests of netball since 2019 when the Constellation Cup concludes in Melbourne on Wednesday and the Gold Coast on Sunday.

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After losing the first two games to a sharper and more accurate Silver Ferns team, the Diamonds need two strong wins to reclaim the trophy.

But beyond netball, the sport must also address a dispute between the players and the managers of the sport that threatens the code.

The ABC has reported that players are boycotting uniforms with the logo of new sponsor Hancock Prospecting, the mining company owned by multi-billionaire Gina Rinehart.

The Diamonds are reportedly siding with squad member Donnell Wallam, who has raised concerns about the company’s record on Indigenous issues.

The issue is thorny, not least because Netball Australia has suffered losses of more than $7 million in two years hit by COVID.

Hancock has agreed a four-year, $15 million sponsorship deal with the cash-strapped governing body.

Former Diamonds captain Sharni Norder (née Layton) is also opposed to the sponsorship due to Rinehart’s carbon footprint and spoke to the team ahead of this series.

As of Sunday night, the Diamonds had not publicly addressed the spat other than a written statement acknowledging the need to overcome “certain sensibilities.”

According to Netball Australia, the issue will be resolved by the end of the series.

While the players are showing solidarity, the situation is one of chaos marred by poor communication between the sports directorate and the stars.

Netball Australia media manager Georgina Cahill said Marinkovich ordered an interview ban until Tuesday, when the coach planned to hold a media briefing.

Australian Diamonds coach Stacey Marinkovich during the Constellation Cup. Recognition: PhilWalter/Getty Images

The subject was tacitly raised after New Zealand’s 52-48 win in Tauranga when Marinkovich was asked during her post-game duties if she had been able to concentrate this week.

“When we’re together as a group, it’s all about excellence,” she said.

“It’s about improvement. It’s about our game plan. It’s about our connections and culture.

“I’m really happy with how we can be in our little bubble and focus on what we need to do on the pitch.”

The controversy could spill over into other sports.

The Australian Diamonds players are under a media ban ordered by the manager. Recognition: Getty

Rinehart and Hancock sponsor the Australian Olympic Committee, Volleyball Australia, Rowing Australia, Synchronized Swimming Australia and Swimming Western Australia – they will all likely be following this episode closely.

At the center of the storm, the Diamonds also have a trophy up for grabs and netball-hungry fans who need to be reintroduced to their national team.

“We haven’t (played) at home in over 1000 days, so we’re really excited to be in front of our home crowd,” Marinkovich said.

“As a coach, I haven’t really coached Australia on home soil. There are many girls who haven’t even played in front of their family and friends.

“Playing at home is a huge advantage… it will be nice to be in a normal routine.”

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Moto2 riders run over in horror crash at Phillip Island. Australian netballers gagged by Diamonds coach Stacey Marinkovich over Gina Rinehart’s $15m sponsorship controversy

James Brien

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