Donnell Wallam scores last-gasp winner to give Diamonds win over England

Donnell Wallam scores last-gasp winner to give Diamonds win over England

A lay-up goal by the Australian Diamonds debutant Donnell Wallam in the dying seconds secured a thrilling 55-54 victory over England in the opening Test in Newcastle.

England levelled in the final minute through Eleanor Cardwell but Wallam sealed the win with a stunning goal before being mobbed by her teammates. She became the third Indigenous Australian 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 sponsors Hancock Prospecting, and being blamed in some quarters when they dumped their $15m deal, she settled her nerves with an immediate goal before finishing with eight from eight attempts.

An emotional Wallam told Kayo Sports the “outside noise” over the past 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.”

Australia got off to a strong start but could not shake off 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 home side trailed by one – 27-26 – at the main break. 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, Australia dominated the third quarter to take control for the first time, leading 42-39 heading into the final quarter.

The 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 and Wallam delivered the win.

The second Test will be played in Sydney on Sunday with the final match in Brisbane next Thursday.