The Game of Netball

So, you want to learn about the fast-paced and exciting sport of NETBALL?


Information below provided courtesy of the pages of wikipedia - see web link: - and also in consultation with the International Rules of Netball endorsed by Netball New Zealand.  A copy of the rule book can be ordered via Pasgaard Sports Distributors -, Phone: 0800 656 735, Fax: 0800 656 300, Email:





Netball is a ball sport played between two teams of seven players. The sport derived from early versions of basketball, and is similar to it in many respects. Netball developed as a distinct sport in the 1890s in England, from where it spread to other countries. It is popular in many Commonwealth nations and is predominantly played by women.

Games are played on a rectangular court divided into thirds, with a raised goal at each short end. The object of the game is for teams to score goals, by passing a ball and shooting it into their team's goal ring. Players are assigned "positions" that define their role within the team and restrict their movement on court. During general play, a player with the ball can take no more than one step before passing it, and must pass the ball or shoot for goal within three seconds. Goals can only be scored by the assigned shooting players. Top level netball games are 60 minutes long and divided into 15-minute quarters, at the end of which the team with the most goals scored wins.  Winter competition games for those in Premier 3 grade and below tend to last 40 minutes in duration with 10-minute quarters.

The sport is administered globally by the International Federation of Netball Associations (IFNA), and is reportedly played by over 20 million people in more than 70 countries. Local-level participation is widespread in Commonwealth nations, particularly in schools, although international competition and domestic leagues receive substantial recognition in several countries. The highest level of international netball includes the Netball World Championships, the netball event at the Commonwealth Games, and the World Netball Series. In 1995, netball also became an Olympic-recognised sport.

History of Netball

Netball emerged from early versions of basketball and evolved into its own sport as the number of women participating in sport increased. Basketball was invented in 1891 by James Naismith, a Canadian physical education instructor working in Springfield, Massachusetts. His new game was played in his school's gymnasium between two teams of nine players, using an association football ball that was thrown into closed-end peach baskets.  Naismith's new game spread quickly across the United States and variations of the rules soon emerged.  Senda Berenson, the director of Physical Education at Smith College in Massachusetts, developed modified rules for women in 1892 that would eventually give rise to women's basketball. Around this time separate intercollegiate rules were also developed for men and women.  The various basketball rules converged into a universal set in the United States and it wasn't until the game spread to England that the sport of netball emerged.

Martina Bergman-Österberg introduced one version of basketball in 1893 to her female students at the Physical Training College in Hamptstead, London. The rules of the game were modified at the college over several years: the game moved outdoors and was played on grass; the baskets were replaced by rings that had nets; and in 1897 and 1899, rules from women's basketball in the United States were incorporated.  Madame Österberg's new sport acquired the name "net ball".  The first codified rules of netball were published in 1901 by the Ling Association (later the Physical Education Association of the United Kingdom.  From England, netball spread to other countries in the British Empire. Variations of the rules and even names for the sport arose in different areas: "women's (outdoor) basketball" arrived in Australia around the start of the 20th century and in New Zealand from 1906, while "netball" was being played in Jamaican schools by 1909.

Female umpire and male umpire watch as young girls shoot a ball at a netball hoop.
School netball game in New Zealand, ca. 1920.

From the start, netball was viewed as an appropriate sport for women to play, with restricted movement that appealed to contemporary notions on women's participation in sport, while remaining distinct from potentially rival male sports.  Netball became a popular women's sport in countries where it was introduced, and spread rapidly through school systems. School leagues and domestic competitions emerged during the first half of the 20th century, and in 1924 the first national governing body was established in New Zealand.  International competition was initially hampered by a lack of funds and varying rules in different countries. Australia and New Zealand contested the first international game of netball in Melbourne on 20 August 1938, which the host nation won 40–11.  Efforts began in 1957 to standardise netball rules globally: by 1960 international playing rules had been standardised, and the International Federation of Netball and Women's Basketball (later the International Federation of Netball Associations) was formed to administer the sport worldwide.

In Australia, confusion existed because both netball and basketball were called "women's basketball".  There was a movement during the 1950s and 1960s to change the name of the game in the country from women's basketball to netball in order to avoid confusion between the two sports. The Australian Basketball Union offered to pay costs involved to alter the name but this was rejected by the netball organisation prior to 1968.  In 1970 the Council of the All Australia Netball Association officially changed the name of the game to "netball" in Australia.

In 1963, the first international tournament was held in Eastbourne, England. Originally called the World Tournament, it eventually became known as the Netball World Championships.  It has been held every four years since, most recently in 2007. The World Youth Netball Championships started in Canberra in 1988, and have been held roughly every four years since. In 1995, the International Olympic Committee designated netball as an Olympic recognised sport.  Three years later it debuted at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.  Other international competitions also emerged in the late 20th century, including the Nations Cup and the Asian Netball Championship.

What is involved in playing the game of Netball

The objective of a game of netball is to score more goals than the opposition. Goals are scored when the ball is passed to a team member positioned in the attacking shooting circle who then shoots the ball through the goal ring.

For FUN FERNS (5-7 years):   Aim is having fun and learning the basics of the game.  Modified equipment is used such as hoops rather than goal posts, numbered bibs instead of positional, and a size 3 - 4 ball.

For FUTURE FERNS (8 - 10 years):   Emphasis on fun, active participation, and netball specific movement and skill development.  Modified equipment is used such as goal posts lowered to 2.6 metres (8' 6"), positional bibs and size 4 balls.

For traditional NETBALL (11 years - to adult):   Focus on position-specific skill development after establishing a solid base in the basic skills.  Full height goal posts of 3.05 metres (10' high) are used and are 380mm (15") in diameter and the ring projects 150mm (6") forward from the pole.  The ring must be of steel rod 15mm (5/8") in diameter, fitted with a net which should preferably be white in colour, clearly visible and open at both ends.  Both ring and net form part of the goalpost.  Positional bibs and size 5 balls are used.  The ball must measure between 690mm - 710mm (27" - 28") in circumference and weigh between 400 grams - 450 grams (14 ounces - 16 ounces).  The ball may be of leather, rubber or similar material.  Players tend to now specialise in one or two positions or in a certain area of the court ie, shooting, defending, circle.

The netball court is to have a firm surface and measures 30.5m (100 feet) long and 15.25m (50 feet) wide" and is divided into thirds.  Each court has a center circle with a diameter of 0.9 metres (3 feet) and two goal circles which are semi-circles measuring 4.9 metres (16 feet) in radius. All lines are part of the court and measure 50mm (2 inches) in width, preferably white and clearly visible.  The netball goal posts are placed mid point of each goal line.  A game consists of 4 x 15 with an interval of 3 minutes between the first and second and third and fourth quarters and a 5 minute half time interval.  Alternatively, games at a lower-level grade are played as 4 x 10 minute quarters with an interval of 90 seconds between quarters and 2 minutes at half time. There is up to 2 minutes of time allowed for injury time per team, per quarter however injury time must be kept on an independent timer otherwise play continues with the communal bell/buzzer.

Suitable sports footwear may be worn.  Spiked soles are not allowed.  Registered playing uniforms, which shall include playing position initials, must be worn at all times.  Playing position initials shall be worn above the waist both front and back and shall be 150mm (6") high.  No item of jewellery, except a wedding ring and/or medical alert bracelet, can be worn.  If either or both are worn, each must be taped.  No adornment that may endanger player safety shall be worn.  Fingernails must be short and smooth.

Only seven players are allowed on the court for each team and they are each given specific positions. Each player wears a "bib" that shows an abbreviation of their position.  The seven positions are Goal Keeper (GK), Goal Defence (GD), Wing Defence (WD), Center (C), Wing Attack (WA), Goal Attack (GA) and Goal Shooter (GS). Players are restricted to certain areas on the court as determined by their position. Goal Attack and Goal Shooter are the only players allowed in the attacking shooting circle and therefore are the only players that are allowed to shoot for goal. Goal Shooter is restricted to the third that includes the shooting circle, while Goal Attack is also allowed in the central third. Goal Keeper and Goal Defence are the only players allowed in the defensive shooting circle and try and prevent the opposition from shooting goals. The Goal Keeper is restricted to the defensive third and tends to mark the Goal Shooter, while Goal Defence can also move into the central third and tends to mark the Goal Attack. Wing Defence is restricted to the defensive two-thirds of the court and Wing Attack to the attacking two-thirds, while Center can move through any of the thirds. However, neither of these positions are allowed in the shooting circles and their objective is to either move the ball to a player that can shoot or to prevent the opposition from doing so.

At the beginning of every quarter and after a goal has been scored, play starts with the player in the Centre position passing the ball from the centre of the court. These "centre passes" alternate between the teams, regardless of which team scored the last goal. When the umpire blows the whistle to restart play, the Goal Attack, Goal Defence, Wing Attack and Wing Defence players can move into the centre third to receive the pass. The centre pass must be caught or touched in the centre third.  The ball is then moved up and down the court through passing and a player must touch the ball in each adjacent third of the court. The ball can only be held by a player for three seconds at any time and it must be released before the foot they were standing on when they caught the ball touches the ground again.  Contact between players is only permitted provided it does not impede an opponent or the general play. When defending a pass or shot players must be at least 90 centimetres (35 in) away from the player with the ball. If illegal contact is made, a penalty is given to the team of the player who was contacted, and the player who contacted cannot participate in play until the player taking the penalty has passed or shot the ball.  If the ball is held in two hands and either dropped or a shot at goal is missed it can not be picked up by the same player unless it rebounds off the goal.

Variations of the game of Netball

 Indoor netball

Indoor netball is a variation of netball, played exclusively indoors, in which the playing court is surrounded on each side and overhead by a net. The net prevents the ball from leaving the court, reducing the number of playing stoppages allowing it to played at a faster pace than netball. Different forms of the game are played. In the 7-a-side version, seven players per team play with rules similar to netball. However, a game can comprise of 15-minute halves with a three-minute break in between or 4 x 8-minute quarters with a two-minute break in between. Indoor netball is played in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and England; the sport is often referred to as "action netball" in the latter two countries. A 6-a-side version of the sport is also played in New Zealand, with six-player teams comprising two attackers, two centre players and two defenders. The attacking and defending players can each go in one half of the court including the goal circle, while the centre players can play in the whole court except the goal circle. A unique feature of this form of the game is that the attacking and centre players can shoot from outside the goal circle for a two-point goal, while shots taken inside the goal circle still earn one point. A five-a-side game is also common in indoor netball. Teams have a centre position, two attackers and two defenders and all positions can run the entire court. Only the defenders and attackers can enter their respective goal circles and each goal is one point.


 Fastnet is a variation on the rules of netball designed to make games faster and more television-friendly much like 20-20 cricket and Sevens Rugby has worked for their sporting codes. It is employed in the World Netball Series with the ultimate aim of raising the sport's profile and attracting more spectators and greater sponsorship.  The game is much shorter with each quarter lasting just six minutes and with only a two minute break between quarters. Injury time-outs are just 30 seconds although one initial two-minute injury time-out is allowed. The coaches can give instructions from the sideline during play and unlimited substitutions are allowed. Like six-a-side indoor netball, the goal shooter (GS) and goal attack (GA) may shoot goals from outside the shooting circle that count for two points. Umpires raise one arm for a single-point goal and two arms for a two-point goal.  Each team can separately nominate one "power play" quarter, in which each goal scored by that team are worth double points and the centre pass is taken by the team that conceded the goal.  Tied scores are decided by a penalty shoot-out, similar to those that occur in association football.

 Children's versions

The rules for children are similar to those for adults, except the length of each quarter can be reduced and the height of the goal may be lower. In New Zealand, Netball New Zealand established FUN FERNS for agest 5-7 years with the aim to have fun and learn the basics of the game.  Modified equipment is used such as hoops rather than goal posts with numbered bibs instead of positions and a size 3 - 4 ball.  A modification for older children aged 8-10 years is FUTURE FERNS where the emphasis on fun, active participation, and netball specific movement and skill development.  Modified equipment is used such as goal posts lowered to 2.6 metres (8' 6"), positional bibs and size 4 balls.  In Australia, Fun Net is a version of netball developed by Netball Australia for 5–7 year olds that aims to improve basic netball skills using games and activities.  The Fun Net program runs for 8–16 weeks and there are no winners or losers. The goal posts are 2.4 metres (7 ft 10 in) high and a smaller netball is used.  Netball Australia also runs a modified game called Netta aimed at 8–11 year olds.  The same goals and ball is used, but all players rotate positions throughout the game so that they all get to play each position. It was created 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.  Most netball players under the age of 11 play this version at netball clubs.  A similar version called High Five Netball is promoted by the All England Netball Association.  It is also aimed at 9–11 year old girls, but consists of just five positions.  The players swap around these positions during the game and when a player is not on the court, they are expected to help the game in some other way, such as being the timekeeper or scorekeeper.  The game is played over four quarters, with each quarter lasting six minutes.


Information above provided courtesy of the pages of wikipedia - see web link: - and also in consultation with the International Rules of Netball endorsed by Netball New Zealand.  A copy of the rule book can be ordered via Pasgaard Sports Distributors -, Phone: 0800 656 735, Fax: 0800 656 300, Email:

Upcoming events in the next fortnight or so...

14 - Quad Series: Silver Ferns vs England 7am NZT
20 - Quad Series: Silver Ferns vs Australia 5.30am NZT
21 - Quad Series: Ferns vs South Africa 4.30am NZT
22 - Netball Umpire Holiday Programme for Y8+ ASBSC
23 - Holiday Position-Specific Clinic for Y7-13 ASBSC
25 - Holiday Prep for Trials Clinic for Y9-13 #1 ASBSC
28 - Holiday Prep for Trials Clinic for Y9-13 #2 ASBSC
30 - Holiday Prep for Trials Clinic for Y 9-13 #3 ASBSC

1 - Walking Netball #1 6pm to 7pm at ASBSC
11 - Netball Season Kick-Start for Y7&8 begins ASBSC
11 - Mama Brown Mon Summer Twilight begins Hataitai
12 - Netball Season Kick-Start for Y9-11 begins ASBSC
12 - 7 Weeks of Fitness #1 for all ages , 6-7pm ASBSC
13 - Mama Brown Wed Summer Twilight begins ASBSC
14&15 - Intermediate Comp begins ASBSC
14&15 - College Comp begins ASBSC
14 - Mama Brown Thurs Summer Twilight begins ASBSC
18 - Netball Ready, Set, Go! for Y5&6 begins ASBSC
21 - Planning coach course Taita 6.30pm
25 - Selecting coach course Hataitai 6.30pm
28 - Planning coach course Masterton 6.30pm

Online forms now active...
2019 Netball Umpire Holiday Programme for Y8+
2019 Holiday Position-Specific Clinic for Y7-13
2019 Holiday Prep for Trials Clinic for Y9-13
2019 Netball Season Kick-Start for Y7-11
2019 7 Weeks of Fitness for all ages
2019 Netball Ready, Set, Go! for Y5&6
2019 NWC Umpire Registration
NWC Online Shop
2019 NNZ Coach Courses held Feb-May

Centre Supporters

Funding Agencies


2019 Mama Brown Summer (Term 1) Twilight League Mon/Wed/Thu - registrations open 12pm Wed 16th of Jan


2019 January Netball Umpire Holiday Programme for Yr 8+ on Tue 22 Jan


2019 January Holiday Position-Specific Clinic for Yr 7-13 - Wed 23 Jan


2019 January Holiday Prep for Trials Clinics for Yr 9-13 - Fri 25, Mon 28, Wed 30 Jan


2019 Term 1 Intermediate Netball Comp Wed/Thu - registrations open


2019 Term 1 College Netball Comp Wed/Thu - registrations open


2019 Netball Season Kick-Start Yr 7-11 - starts 11/12 Feb


2019 7 Weeks of Fitness in Feb & Mar - pre-season group workout starts 12 Feb


2019 Netball Ready, Set, Go! for Yr 5&6 - starts 18 Feb


2019 NWC Umpire registration form


NWC Online Shop order form

Photo Gallery

Endorsed ANZ futureFERNS provider

Netball News