Netball legend Liz Ellis has urged Australia’s sporting administrators “to put in systems” to help athletes better address their wellbeing concerns.
Ellis’ plea comes after Matildas great Lisa De Vanna said she suffered abuse at the hands of other players during her 20-year career.
De Vanna, Australia’s second-highest goalscorer, earlier this week claimed she suffered sexual harassment, indecent assault, grooming and bullying from senior players, in what she described as a toxic culture within the sport.
De Vanna’s comments were supported by fellow former Matilda Renaye Iserief, who backed up the initial comments made by adding, “this toxic culture has been swept under the carpet for years”.
Ellis, the most capped player in Australian netball history, said it was sad to hear how De Vanna’s attempts to address her concerns weren’t taken seriously.
“It’s so disappointing when you hear an athlete like this,” Ellis told Nine’s Sports Sunday.
“My first response is I feel really sad that their career – what should be the high moment of their career playing for Australia – this dark stuff has been happening underneath.
“I don’t know that I could say I’m not surprised. I think you always are surprised when you hear stuff like this, but my first thought was, ‘OK, what is Football Federation Australia going to do about this?’.
“I like what James Johnson has done. He’s got on the front foot early, but that is tempered though by the fact that there have been some accusations about Lisa De Vanna trying to get in touch with the board, trying to get meetings and being rebuffed.”
Matildas great reveals ‘toxic culture’
Ellis said “the biggest indictment” was that De Vanna had to “go nuclear” with her claims.
“The general thing for the sporting community to understand and for sporting administrators to take on board is the fact that they’ve got to put in systems where athletes can come and talk to them. Where athletes feel like their wellbeing is looked after,” Ellis said.
“I think the biggest indictment is the fact Lisa De Vanna felt she had no option but to go nuclear on this and put herself in a pretty uncomfortable situation.
“Unfortunately she’s been attacked online… you want to make sure as a sporting organisation that you have the components in place for the athlete’s trust. I think that’s still missing.”
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