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Indigenous trailblazer Donnell Wallam the hero with match-winning goal amid netball sponsorship furore

Indigenous trailblazer Donnell Wallam the hero with match-winning goal amid netball sponsorship furore

A lay-up goal by Indigenous trailblazer Donnell Wallam in the dying seconds has secured a thrilling 55-54 victory over England in their opening netball Test in Newcastle.

England levelled in the final minute through Eleanor Cardwell but Wallam, who was making her debut, sealed the win with a stunning goal before she was swamped by her joyful teammates.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Wallam scores incredible match-winner.

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She became just the third First Nations woman to don the green and gold and the first in more than two decades when she ran on in the final quarter to a massive cheer from the crowd.

After being in the spotlight in the lead up for her opposition to Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting – and blamed by some quarters when they dumped their $15 million sponsorship – she settled her nerves with an immediate goal.

Wallam finished with eight goals, shooting at a 100 per cent success rate.

Donnell Wallam celebrates her winning goal against England. Credit: Mark Evans/Getty Images

An emotional Wallam told Kayo Sports the “outside noise” over the last few weeks had taken a toll.

“I was relieved to finally get my chance on court – it’s been some of the toughest few weeks of my life,” said the 28-year-old, a Noongar woman from Western Australia.

“To finally get out there and just play in this dress was just really special and it makes the last couple of weeks feel like a blur.

“I just hope that I’m now a role model to the young girls and boys coming through.”

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The Australians got off to a strong start but couldn’t shake England with the teams level at 14-14 after the first quarter.

A huge penalty count started to take its toll on the Diamonds, who racked up 40 to England’s 24 in the first half.

But the Australians only trailed by one – 27-26 – at the main break.

Donnell Wallam celebrates the winning goal. Credit: Icon Sportswire/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Cardwell, who will play for Adelaide Thunderbirds in next year’s Super Netball competition, did the bulk of the damage in the goal circle.

As they did in last Sunday’s Constellation Cup win, the Australians dominated the third quarter to take control for the first time, leading 42-39 heading into the final term.

Diamonds coach Stacey Marinkovich continued to ring the changes but England, who were left smarting after missing the medals at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, refused to go away.

It looked like it would go to extra time but a turnover by Kate Moloney sent the ball back Australia’s way with Wallam delivering the win.

The second Test will be played in Sydney before the final match in Brisbane next Thursday.

– AAP

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