2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Sports

Netball is a sport similar to and derived from basketball, and was originally known in its country of origin, the United States, as "women's basketball". Invented by Clara Gregory Baer, a pioneer in women's sport, it is now the pre-eminent women's team sport (both as a spectator and participant sport) in Australia and New Zealand and is popular in Jamaica, Barbados, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and the United Kingdom.

Description and rules

Diagram of a netball court.
Diagram of a netball court.

Like basketball, the game is played on a hard court with scoring rings at both ends, and with a ball resembling a basketball (but lighter, smaller and slightly softer in construction, even mainly white). The hoops are of smaller dimension and height in comparison to basketball hoops, though they contain no backboards. The court is divided into thirds which regulate where individuals in each team are allowed to move, and two semi-circular "shooting circles" at each end from within which all scoring shots must be taken.

There are seven players on each team, who are given nominated, named positions. (Some junior/training variants have only five players per team.) Each player must wear a "bib" showing one of the abbreviations below, indicating that player's position. Each player is only allowed in certain areas of the court: a player in a section of court that is not part of their playing area is deemed "offside". The positions are described below:

Netball positions
Position Name Abbreviation Opponent Areas permitted
Goal Shooter GS Goal Keeper Attacking goal third including goal circle
Goal Attack GA Goal Defence Attacking goal third, goal circle, and centre third
Wing Attack WA Wing Defence Attacking goal third and centre third, not goal circle
Centre C Centre Everywhere except goal circles
Wing Defence WD Wing Attack Defensive goal third and centre third, not goal circle
Goal Defence GD Goal Attack Defensive goal third and centre third, including goal circle
Goal Keeper GK Goal Shooter Defensive goal third, including goal circle

By the combination of the above, only the Goal Attack and Goal Shooter are able to score goals directly. A ball that passes through the hoop, but has been thrown either from outside the circle or by a player not the GA or GS, is deemed a "no goal". Furthermore, a shooter (GA or GS) may not shoot for a goal if a "free pass" has been awarded for an infringement such as stepping, offside, or using the post.

Netball rules do not permit players to take more than one step in possession of the ball. Consequently, the only way to move the ball towards the goal is to throw the ball to a team-mate. The ball cannot be held by a player for more than three seconds at any time, and players may not tap the ball to themselves ("replay"). This, combined with the restrictions on where one player can move, ensures that everyone on the team is regularly involved in play. Defence is restricted — not only is contact not permitted, but players must be at least three feet (90 centimetres) away from a player with the ball, meaning that hard physical contact is rare. If contact is made, a penalty is given to the team of the player who was contacted, and the player who contacted must stand "out of play", meaning they cannot participate in play until the player taking the penalty has passed the ball.

Malawi plays Fiji at the 2006 Commonwealth Games
Malawi plays Fiji at the 2006 Commonwealth Games

A game is played in four quarters, each one lasting 15 minutes, with intervals of three minutes between the first and second quarters, and between the third and fourth quarters. There is also an interval of five minutes at half time. If a player has an injury, a team-mate or umpire calls time, and the time keeper pauses the timer. When the game starts and the player has swapped places with another player, or is healthy, play is resumed and the timer is restarted.

Court Dimensions

A netball court is slightly larger than a basketball court, being 30.5m long and 15.25m wide. The longer sides are called Side Lines and the shorter lines called Goal Lines. The court is divided into three equal areas. A 90cm-diameter Centre Circle is located in the centre of the court. A 4.9m-radius semi-circle on each Goal Line is called the Goal Circle. The court lines are not more than 50mm wide. The goal posts are 3.05m high from the top of the ring. The rings have an internal diameter of 380mm and are located 150mm forward from the post. The rings are made of 15mm diameter steel. The free space around the court will be a minimum of 37.9m x 22.65m.

Starting and restarting play

When a quarter begins, or after a goal is scored, play begins from the centrer of the court with a "center pass". These passes alternate between the teams, regardless of which team scored the last goal. A center pass is taken by the Center player, who must have one foot grounded within the center circle. As the game restarts, only the teams' Center players can be in the center third. When the umpire blows the whistle to restart play, the Goal Attacks, Goal Defences, Wing Attacks and Wing Defences move into the center third, and the center pass must be taken by someone who lands within the center third of the court when they receive the pass. If the ball is not received in the centre third then the opposition receives a "free pass" where the ball was received in the area of infringement. If the ball leaves the court boundaries, then a member of the team that did not touch the ball last restarts play by making a pass from the court boundary back into play. WOW!


Netball a non contact sport traces its roots to basketball, which explains why its rules are related. When James Naismith devised basketball in 1891 for his students in the School for Christian Workers (later called the YMCA), female teachers got curious and started to formulate a version for girls. The outfits of women at this time hindered them from effectively executing important basketball moves such as running and dribbling, so the game had to be modified to accommodate these restrictions. Women’s basketball, or ‘netball,’ was conceptualized.

Netball was first played in England in 1895 at Madame Ostenburg's College and quickly spread to all the British Commonwealth territories, but it did not yet have hard-and-fast rules. So loose were the regulations, in fact, that some games were played by nine players in each team, while some were played with only five players in each. The nets used were also ineffective – they were not open at both ends, so after each goal was scored, the umpire had to retrieve the ball from the top of the post.

Finally, Clara Baer, a gym teacher from New Orleans, asked Naismith for a copy of the basketball rules, identified the areas within which women players could move, and consequently introduced the ‘zoning areas’ we know today. This was the start of netball’s formalization. These zoning rules along with many other provisions (such as elimination of the dribbling rule) were all included in the first draft of ‘Rules for Women’s Basketball.’ In 1901, this set of rules was ratified and netball officially became a competitive sport.

Netball soon spread throughout Australia and the then-British colonies of Jamaica and Antigua. Further improvements were introduced some 60 years later by the International Federation of Women's Basketball and Netball – an international organization composed of netball representatives from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and The West Indies. The first Netball World Championship was held in 1963 in Eastbourne, England, and since then, international netball championships have been held every four years. Australia has dominated the World Tournaments, beating the other 11 teams competing in 1971, 1975, 1979, 1983, 1991, 1995 and 1999. In 2003, New Zealand finally broke the pattern and took home the gold. Fiji was scheduled to host the next World Netball Championship in July 2007, but was stripped of its hosting privileges as a result of the December 2006 coup.

Netball is still very popular in former British colonies. In fact, approximately 10,000 people play netball in Jamaica, and it remains the favored women's sport in that country. Antigua and Barbuda is also very active in the sport, with netball less popular only than cricket. It also enjoys popularity in former British African colonies, such as Malawi.

Growth in popularity

Netball is a popular participant sport, particularly in Australia and New Zealand, but also around the world in countries of the Commonwealth of Nations. In Australia and New Zealand, it is the most popular sport played by women, and both countries have a domestic competition for women. The women's game is played internationally at a high level, with Australia and New Zealand undoubtedly the world's strongest teams. Whilst not attracting much public attention, there are representative men's netball teams. Although Netball is mostly a female dominated sport with its light movements and restrictions in ability to move and contact, men use their height advantage and skill level to manipulate the game.

Netball's fundamentals are easy for new players to learn, and it is a common sport at schools in the Commonwealth. At primary school level, mixed teams are not uncommon. As adults, men and women can compete with each other on reasonably fair terms as the restrictions on defence, limitations of numbers and positions of male players, and the women's greater familiarity with the game, prevent men's superior strength and size gaining an overly large advantage.

Netball variants for children

In Australia young netballers can enjoy a range of experiences from five to seven year olds learning basic skills in Fun Net, eight to ten year olds developing skills and game knowledge through Netta, or participating in Netball Australia's soon to be launched Net Set Go programs.


FunNet is Netball Australia's play based motor skills program for 5-7 year olds. The emphasis is on the acquisition of basic motor skills, in a fun environment of games and activities. The length of the FunNet program can be run between 8-16 weeks, although this is flexible depending on school, association and individual needs. The goal posts are only 2.4m high and a smaller size 4 netball is used.


Netta is a basic introduction into the professional aspect of Netball for children aged seven years or older. A size 4 ball is used to develop correct passing and catching skills with up to six seconds allowed between catching and passing the ball, instead of the three seconds permitted in the adult game. All players rotate positions throughout the game so that they can experience the differences between each position. The program of Netta allows children to acquire important skills necessary in the game of netball in a fun and exciting environment. The aim of Netta is to ensure each child leaves with the confidence and skills ready to play Netball.

Netball teams

  • International
    • Australian national netball team
    • England National Netball Team
    • The Proteas (South African National Netball Team)
    • Silver Ferns (New Zealand national netball team)
    • The Sunshine Girls (Jamaica National Netball Team)
    • The College Of St. Hild and St. Bede Men's Netball Team

Major Netball competitions

  • Australia and New Zealand
    • Commonwealth Bank Trophy - Australia (to 2007)
    • National Bank Cup - NZ (to 2007)
    • Tasman Trophy Netball League (from 2008)
    • Fisher and Paykel Series
  • England
    • The Super League
  • International
    • Netball World Championship

Recent World Championships

New Zealand finally broke an Australian stranglehold on major titles, after a run of near-misses, with a 49-47 win in the 2003 World Championship final in Jamaica. A 3-0 series win over Australia in New Zealand in the winter of 2004 continued the ascendancy, but Australia won the return series at home in November 2004, 2-7. On October 29, 2005, in a one-off Test in Auckland, the Silver Ferns scored their most decisive victory ever against the Australian team, winning 61-36. This result made them clear favourites for the 2006 Commonwealth Games gold medal, which they subsequently won, reinforcing their World Champion status.

In the 2006 Fisher & Paykel Series in NZ, Australia won the series 2-1, in 3 close fought games.

Famous Netball Players

  • Ruth Aitken
  • Chris Barrett
  • Jamie Beer
  • Gemma Bland
  • Joyce Brown
  • Bianca Chatfield
  • Natasha Chokljat
  • Temepara Clark
  • Jessica Cornwell
  • Catherine Cox
  • Rena Dang
  • Karina Davies
  • Vilimaina Davu
  • Sandra Edge
  • Liz Ellis
  • Rita Fatialofa
  • Deborah Field
  • Mo'onia Gerrard
  • Selina Gilsenan
  • Sindisiwe Gumede
  • Kathryn Harby-Williams
  • Emma Hassell
  • Amber Hazleton
  • Kristen Heinrich
  • Cynna Kydd (née Neele)
  • Jill McIntosh
  • Sharelle McMahon
  • Bernice Mene
  • Lois Muir
  • Tracey Neville
  • Amanda Newton
  • Shelley O'Donnell
  • Shannon Power
  • Susan Pratley
  • Julie Prendergast
  • Luke Richardson
  • Lesley Rumball (née Nicol) - New Zealand's most capped netball player
  • Anne Sargeant
  • Julie Seymour
  • Waimarama Taumaunu
  • Amy Thurgood
  • Carissa Tombs
  • Paul Tourle
  • Irene van Dyk
  • Laura von Bertouch
  • Natalie von Bertouch
  • Adine Wilson (née Harper)
  • Vicki Wilson

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