Introduction to Netball

Netball is a ball sport played by two teams of seven players. Its development, derived from early versions of basketball, began in England in the 1890s. By 1960, international playing rules had been standardised for the game, and the International Federation of Netball and Women's Basketball (later renamed the International Netball Federation (INF)) was formed. As of 2011, the INF comprises more than 60 national teams organized into five global regions.

Games are played on a rectangular court with raised goal rings at each end. Each team attempts to score goals by passing a ball down the court and shooting it through its goal ring. Players are assigned specific positions, which define their roles within the team and restrict their movement to certain areas of the court. During general play, a player with the ball can hold onto it for only three seconds before shooting for a goal or passing to another player. The winning team is the one that scores the most goals. Netball games are 60 minutes long. Variations have been developed to increase the game's pace and appeal to a wider audience.

Netball is most popular in Commonwealth nations, specifically in schools, and is predominantly played by women. According to the INF, netball is played by more than 20 million people in more than 80 countries. Major transnational competitions take place, including the Netball Superleague in Great Britain and the ANZ Championship in Australia and New Zealand. Three major competitions take place internationally: the quadrennial World Netball Championships, the Commonwealth Games, and the yearly World Netball Series. In 1995, netball became an International Olympic Committee recognised sport, but it has not been played at the Olympics.



In 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts a 30-year-old Canadian immigrant to the USA, James Naismith, was ordered to invent an indoor game for high-spirited young men at the School for Christian Workers (later the YMCA).

Most games tried ended with injury rates of staggering proportions! So Naismith conjured up a game whereby a ball had to be lobbed into a high peach basket (his reasoning being that if a ball had to dropped into the "goal", it couldn't be thrown at breakneck speed).
Basketball was born, with the original game featuring nine players - three forwards, three centres and three guards - simply because Naismith had 18 youths to keep amused.

Women's indoor basketball began exactly two days later when female teachers to the gym were captivated by the game but it wasn't until 1895 that the current game of netball was well and truly shaped.

When Clara Baer, a sports teacher in New Orleans, wrote to Naismith asking for a copy of the rules, the subsequent rules package contained a drawing of the court with lines pencilled across it, simply to show the areas various players could best patrol.

But Baer misinterpreted the lines and thought players couldn't leave those areas! In 1899 her mistake was ratified into the rules of women's basketball as zones.

Three-bounce dribbling had quickly been extended in the men's game (which didn't have no-go zones), but it was seldom used in the women's version when it reached Britain and the Empire. In fact, there was no pressure to increase that form of ball movement and in the end dribbling simply ceased to exist.

Netball was first played in England in 1895 at Madame Ostenburg's College. In the first half of the 20th century, Netball's popularity continued to grow, with the game being played in many British Commonwealth countries. There were no standard rules at that time with both nine-a-side and five-a-side versions of the game.

During an Australian tour of England in 1957, discussions took place concerning standardising the rules of the sport and this led to representatives from England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and The West Indies meeting in Sri Lanka in 1960, to establish The International Federation of Women's Basketball and Netball. Formal rules were established at this inaugural meeting and it was decided to hold World Championship tournaments every four years, beginning in Eastbourne, England, in 1963.
Since then World Championships have been held in Australia 1967, Jamaica 1971, New Zealand 1975, Trinidad & Tobago 1979, Singapore 1983, Scotland 1987, Australia 1991, England 1995 and New Zealand 1999. Throughout this period, Australia has dominated, winning the event in 1971, 1975, 1979, 1983, 1991, 1995 and 1999. The 2003 World Netball Championships in Kingston, Jamaica saw New Zealand finally breaking the Australian dominance taking Gold. The 2007 World Netball Championships was due to take place in Fiji but a political coup in the country led to the event being transferred to Auckland, New Zealand. Despite the home advantage, New Zealand were unable to defend their crown and Australia were once more World Champions. Australia retained their title in 2011 in Singapore. Congress voted in 2011 to award the hosting of the next World Championships to Sydney, Australia in 2015.

As part of the Australian Bicentenary Celebrations in 1988, a Youth Tournament took place in Canberra, for players aged under 21. Its success led to this event being held once every four years. Fiji hosted the 2nd World Youth Netball Championship, Canada the 3rd and the 4th has just taken place in Wales. Australia were winners in 1988, New Zealand in 1992 and Australia again in 1996 and 2000. At the 2005 World Youth Netball Championship, held in  Florida New Zealand Won Gold, England Silver and Australia took the Bronze.

The Cook Islands hosted the event in 2009 and Australia won with New Zealand the runner up and Jamaica in the Bronze medal position. The next event will take place in Glasgow, Scotland in 2013.

In 1995 Netball became a "recognized" sport of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and one of the Federation's objectives is to ensure this status is retained and to encourage the International Olympic Committee to include Netball in the Olympic Games Programme in the future.

Netball was included in the Commonwealth Games programme, for the first time, in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur, where Australia took the Gold medal, New Zealand Silver and England the Bronze. It was also a programmed sport in 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester (England), where Australia again took the Gold medal, New Zealand Silver and Jamaica edging out England for the Bronze. In 2006 (Melbourne, Australia) and 2010 (Delhi, India) New Zealand beat Australia and England won the bronze medal. Netball is now a core sport in the Commonwealth Games, with the next editions taking place in Glasgow, Scotland in 2014 and The Gold Coast, 2018.

2008 saw the launch of Fast Net World Netball Series, a shorter, sharper version of the game which in 2012 evolved into Fast5, attracting new audiences around the globe. 2012 also saw the sports governing body unveil a new logo and renamed itself as the International Netball Federation (INF).




The objective of a netball team is to score more goals than the opposition. A goal is scored through a successful shot into the opponents hoop. The team which scores the most goals wins the match! Games are split into 4 quarters, each lasting 15 minutes.

The Court

Netball is played on a court (either hard or soft) which is 30.5 metres in length and 15.25 metres wide. There is a post at either end of the court, with a hoop positioned 3.05 metres off the ground. The court is split into areas, with players only being permitted to enter particular zones depending on their position. The 'netball' itself is similar to a 'basketball', however typically they are white and weigh considerably less.


A netball team is made up of 7 players. Each player has a nominated position and role, and may only be permitted into certain areas of the court. If a player enters a zone which they are restricted from then they are deemed 'offside'.

The positions in a netball team are as follows:

  • GS - Goal Shooter - Can move anywhere within the attacking third of the court, but cannot leave it.
  • GA - Goal Attack - Can move anywhere within the attacking third and the centre third of the court.
  • WA- Wing Attack - Can move within the attacking third and centre third, with the exception of the shooting circle.
  • C - Centre - Can move anywhere across the court, apart from either of the shooting circles.
  • WD - Wing Defence - Can move within the centre third and the defensive third, with the exception of the shooting circle.
  • GD - Goal Defence - Can move anywhere within the attacking third and the centre third of the court.
  • GK - Goal Keeper - Can move anywhere within the defensive third of the court, but cannot leave it.

Only the 'Goal Shooter' and 'Goal Attack' of a team are allowed to score directly, and can only do so when they are in the oppositions goal circle.

Footwork & Contact Rules

The rules regarding footwork in netball are particularly specific and important.

Firstly, a player cannot let their landing foot touch the floor again if they lift it away from the ground at all while in possession of the ball. Thus it is often said that a player can only take 1.5 steps while holding the ball. They can however still balance on the other foot even if landing leg is lifted.

A player may also only hold onto the ball for 3 seconds at a time. The combination of these rules makes for a fast game, whereby the only way of transporting the ball towards the oppositions goal is through passing.

Netball also has strict rules regarding contact. Contact is prohibited where it impedes with an opponent or game play. A player must also always be at least 3 feet away from an opponent with the ball when defending. If impeding contact is made then a penalty is awarded.