‘Sleeping in cars’
Diamonds star’s tears as players hit back at ‘publicity stunt’ in netball pay war.
Diamonds star Jo Weston broke down in tears in an emotional press conference as Australia’s professional netballers hit back at Netball Australia over the ongoing pay dispute.
Netball Australia on Wednesday offered an interim deal to immediately pay players – who have been out of work for nine weeks – and given them backplay, while increasing minimum wages by 11 per cent over the three-year deal.
But the latest offer was labelled “offensive” by Australian great Liz Ellis and termed a “publicity stunt” by former Diamonds captain Kathryn Harby-Willias, while the players union unanimously rejected the offer on Wednesday night.
Star defender Jo Weston, the president of the Australian Netball Players Association, burst into tears in a Thursday media call as she described her reaction to Netball Australia’s legal threats to national team players ahead of the Australian Netball Awards last weekend.
Diamonds players were forced to attend the awards after the legal threats, but other Super Netball players boycotted the annual event.
“The Netball Australia awards are one of my favourite … It’s been really hard,” a teary Weston said.
“All of us just want to be able to move forward with what we think is fair and reasonable for our playing group.
“We want to feel like we’re valued. We want to feel like we’re respected and listened to and hopefully tomorrow (Friday) when we’re in the room we’ll be able to get something done for our players.”
Former Diamonds captain Kathryn Harby-Williams, the CEO of the netballers union, labelled the interim offer a “publicity stunt”, and said that Weston’s tears showed the stress that players were facing.
“We are desperate to get a deal done for these players because that’s the emotional toll that you are seeing right there,” she said.
“I have had players sobbing and weeping; players have slept in their cars; players have had to move out of their homes and move across the country back to families.
“That’s the toll that this is taking on these players.
“It’s a very fair and reasonable deal (we’re asking for). We’ve pared it back from a percentage of licensing, merchandise events, ticketing to simply a small share of above forecast sponsorship revenue.”
Super Netball franchises are unable to contract players until an agreement is done, but Netball Australia continues to refuse to agree to a revenue-sharing model – the key demand of players in negotiations that have lasted nearly a year.
The players are asking for 15 per cent of revenue above forecasts from new sponsors.
Harby-Williams also claimed that Netball Australia rejected an interim player payment deal even before the players’ contracts expired.
“Netball Australia has said they are listening to the players and they need to be paid and they are struggling being unemployed,” she said.
“We don’t want just words, we want action. That could have been done nine weeks ago.
“We put a proposition on the table to say to Netball Australia, lock in player payments to the end of January which will enable us enough time to do a deal and that was rejected.
“So for it to be put on the table now is confusing because it was part deal – I thought a page was missing because there was no reference to revenue share or the commercial arrangement.
“So it was just a publicity stunt as far as we’re concerned.”
PLAYERS BLAME NA FOR $15M SPONSOR’S EXIT
The netballers’ union on Wednesday unanimously agreed to 21 resolutions, which included one criticising Netball Australia for the collapse of a $15m sponsorship deal with Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting.
Last year, Indigenous star Donnell Wallam had raised concerns over comments by the late Lang Hancock in the 1980s, but later agreed to wear the company’s logo on her dress.
However, Hancock Prospecting subsequently cancelled their sponsorship deal, and the players have now pointed the finger at Netball Australia for failing to defuse the situation.
“Players absolutely did not turn their back on this sponsorship as is a popular misconception,” the players’ union statement read on Thursday.
The resolution criticised Netball Australia for: “Reneging on an agreement between NA and ANPA chairs for the Diamonds to wear the Hancock Prospecting logo versus NZ and not versus England and a commitment by both parties to work with Hancock to ensure the sport did not lose a partner in the game”.
The 21st and final resolution resolved “to meet again to determine if the players have confidence in Netball Australia.”
AUSSIE GREAT SLAMS ‘OFFENSIVE’ OFFER
Meanwhile, former Diamonds captain Liz Ellis was a co-host on Channel 10’s The Project on Wednesday, where she described the latest offer as “offensive”.
“I find the media release that’s come out this afternoon with this offer … that we’re going to give the players almost everything that they want, it’s a little bit offensive,” Ellis said.
“Because the players’ biggest bargaining chip is not turning up to work and Netball Australia is saying, ‘You release that bargaining chip and you go back to work … and the stuff that’s really sticky we will work it out later.’
“The players are standing strong and saying no, we want to talk about this revenue-share model, this partnership model.”
She added: “My only concern now is the relationship is so poisoned between the two parties that we may not end up with any kind of meaningful agreement in the near future.”