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Wallam looks to the future after advisor behind sponsorship saga revealed

Andrew Mathieson -

The Netball Australia director that Donnell Wallam publicly took the fall for over the loss of a $15 million sponsorship deal walked away from the board more than a month ago without fanfare.

Documents filed to the corporate regulator on Thursday revealed that Marina Go was in charge of the arrangements with Hancock Prospecting in 2022, and only offered to resign 14 months after the controversy.

Just weeks before Go departed Netball Australia's board, one of Wallam's teammates revealed that the star goal shooter was wrongly blamed over advice from the outgoing director.

Mining company boss Gina Rinehart rescinded the lucrative four-year deal for the sponsorship rights of the Australian Diamonds, days after hearing Wallam was uncomfortable wearing the Hancock Prospecting name on the uniform.

The third Aboriginal netballer to represent Australia, Wallam had raised concerns over the views of company founder, Lang Hancock, who called for the sterilisation of Indigenous people in the 1980s.

Australian Netball Players Association president Jo Weston late last year revealed amid a pay dispute between management and the players that an unnamed Netball Australia senior official advised the team not to wear the sponsorship logo.

Weston, at the time, did not name Go as that senior official, who had been a board member for more than a decade.

"The players, absolutely, did not turn their back on this sponsorship, as is the popular misconception," Weston, who spoke through tears on the day, said.

Go apparently told the players they had to "stand as one" together on the issue because the occasion against England was also Wallam's Test debut.

While Wallam's non-Indigenous teammates supported her stance, it can now be revealed that Go never came forward to accept responsibility.

Go quietly stood down from her position on December 15, 2023, in the shadows of Netball Australia chief executive Kelly Ryan quitting.

The resignations, just three days apart, followed weeks of turmoil in the sport and mounting pressure for changes to its leadership structure.

Go had only recently been removed from the list of Netball Australia directors on its website. She had also only updated her personal LinkedIn profile in the new year.

On LinkedIn Ryan thanked Go for showing "faith in me to lead the sport" while Go also responded with, "congratulations on all that you achieved Kelly".

While Ryan largely faced the expected scrutiny after her departure for a litany of errors from the governing body following two years in charge, Netball Australia did not issue a statement for the media to acknowledge Go leaving last month.

Netball Australia in the end took 35 days to announce the end of Go's tenure that included previous roles as chairs of both the now-defunct Super Netball commission and later Netball Australia after the bodies merged in 2019.

"Marina Go has informed the Netball Australia board that she will be stepping down as a director," the statement said on Friday.

"The board is well advanced in the process to choose a new director and an announcement is expected soon."

Netball Australia also insisted Go's exit was part of a "planned transition" - and not based on recent performance.

Wendy Archer, the current Netball Australia chair, handed out praise to Go.

"(Marina) has played a pivotal role in transforming our game, helping improve the financial stability," she said despite the sponsorship loss.

Go was prepared to remark on the reasons behind her resignation following an inquiry from Nine News.

She explained her final steps without attributing the saga behind the sponsorship fallout as having any impact on her decision.

"I was only ever going to stay to establish the (Super Netball commission), as I believe that nine years is already more time than any director should spend on a board of this type," Go wrote in a text message on Friday.

"I stepped down from (the Netball Australia chair role) after 18 months, but agreed to stay on the board for another year to assist with the transition and for stability. That year expired in December 2023.

"Between the Netball Australia board and Super Netball commission, I have devoted almost 12 years to netball. It was simply time."

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