AskDefine | Define netball

Dictionary Definition

netball n : a team game that resembles basketball; a soccer ball is to be thrown so that it passes through a ring on the top of a post

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A women's sport derived from basketball
  2. The ball used in netball


Extensive Definition

Netball is a non-contact generally indoor sport similar to, and derived from, basketball. It is usually known as a women's sport. It was originally known in its country of origin, the United States, as "women's basketball". Invented in 1895 by Clara Gregory Baer, a pioneer in women's sport, netball 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 the West Indies, Sri Lanka, and the United Kingdom. Over 20 million people play netball in more than 70 countries.


Links to basketball

Netball traces its roots to basketball. Basketball was devised in 1891 by James Naismith 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 was thus born.

Zoning rules inadvertently added

In 1895, Clara Baer, a gym teacher from New Orleans, asked Naismith for a copy of the basketball rules. Baer identified Naismith's unclear pencil markings showing the areas players should best patrol as 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. However, it was several years before regular competitions were held.

Introduction of netball to the Commonwealth

Netball was first played in England in 1895 at Madame Ostenburg's College and soon spread throughout Australia, the then-British colonies of Jamaica and Antigua, and indeed most British Commonwealth territories. 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. Netball has been played at the Commonwealth Games since 1998.

World's oldest netball club

On the 6th June 1907 an exhibition of "Net Ball" was organised between the "Ladies" and "Gentlemen" of The Regent Street Polytechnic as part of a garden party to celebrate the opening of their sports ground in Chiswick (West London). Poly Netball Club can trace an unbroken heritage back to this match and are therefore seen as the world's oldest netball club.

Netball rules standardised and the International Federation established

In 1960, representatives from England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the West Indies met to discuss standardising the rules of the sport. This led to the establishment of The International Federation of Women's Basketball and Netball (which later became the International Federation of Netball Associations). New Zealand was the last country to adopt netball as the name for the sport in 1970. Formal rules were established at this inaugural meeting and it was decided to hold World Championship tournaments every four years.

Establishment of the World Championships

The first Netball World Championship was held in 1963 and was hosted by England. Since then there have been eleven more tournaments. 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 2007 World Netball Championship, but was stripped of its hosting privileges as a result of the December 2006 coup. In turn, the 2007 Netball World Championships were held in New Zealand.

Netball becomes a recognised Olympic sport

In 1995 netball became a recognised Olympic sport, making its inclusion in future Olympics possible, and in turn has been included in the Commonwealth Games since then.

Netball gains semi-professional status

With the introduction of the ANZ Championship in 2008, an elite netball competition contested between five teams each from both Australia and New Zealand, netball became a semi-professional sport. This allowed players to focus on netball and work either part time or not at all.

Description and rules

The objective of netball

The objective of a game of netball is for players to pass the ball to a teammate within the oppositions goal circle and score goals. The team with the most goals at the end of a game is the winner.

The court and its dimensions

Like basketball, netball is played on a hard or soft court with scoring hoops or "rings" at both ends. The court is slightly larger than a basketball court, being 30.5 m long and 15.25 m wide. The longer sides are called "side lines" and the shorter lines called "base lines". Court markings are no more than 50 mm wide. The court is divided into thirds which regulate where individuals of each position are allowed to move. A 90cm-diameter "centre circle" is located in the centre of the court. At each end of the court there is a 4.9 m-radius semi-circular "shooting circle" or "goal circle" from within which all scoring shots must be taken. The goal posts are 3.05 m high from the top of the ring to the ground and have no backboards. The rings have an internal diameter of 380 mm and are located 150 mm forward from the post and are made of 15 mm diameter steel. Both the height and diameter of the rings are smaller than basketball hoops. It is possible to play netball using a basketball hoop but if there is any contact between the ball and the backboard, the ball is considered out of play. If a goal is scored off the backboard it does not count. Some versions of the rules allow a goal to be scored from a backboard rebound if a player who can catch it throws it in without touching the ground.

The ball

The ball resembles a basketball but is lighter, smaller, slightly softer in construction, and generally white. A netball will often have a patterns engraved or stiched into its design similar to a volleyball. Gilbert is the official ball supplier of the International Federation of Netball Associations.


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:

Scoring goals

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.

Starting and restarting play

When a quarter begins, or after a goal is scored, play begins from the centre of the court with a "centre pass". These passes alternate between the teams, regardless of which team scored the last goal. A centre pass is passed and taken by the Centre player, who must have one foot grounded within the centre circle. As the game restarts, only the Centre player from each team can be in the centre third. When the umpire blows the whistle to restart play, the Goal Attacks, Goal Defences, Wing Attacks and Wing Defences move into the centre third, and the centre pass must be taken by someone who lands within the centre 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 lining back into play.

Stepping, footwork and passing

Netball rules do not permit players to let their landing foot touch the ground again if it is lifted at all while in possession of the ball. Players are entitled to balance on the other foot if the landing foot is accidentally lifted. 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 more than once ("replay"). This, combined with the restrictions on where one player of a partiular position can move, ensures that everyone on the team is regularly involved in play.

Contact and obstruction

Contact is only permitted provided it does not impede with an opponent or the general play and players must be at least three feet (90 centimetres) away from a player with the ball mean attempting to defend. If impeding 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.

Playing time

A game is played in four quarters, each one lasting fifteen 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.

Worldwide popularity

Netball is a popular participant sport, particularly in countries of the Commonwealth of Nations such as New Zealand, Australia, Malawi, Jamaica, and the United Kingdom. Over 20 million people play netball in more than 70 countries. Netball is commonly played by Commonwealth children during their years at school.


In Australia and New Zealand, netball is the most popular sport played by women. 2008 saw the inaugural ANZ Championship, a trans-tasman semi-professional competition that is broadcast on television in both New Zealand and Australia.

West Indies

Approximately 10,000 people play netball in Jamaica, and it remains the favored women's sport in that country with Dayna Kalpagos (Australian) the key player in the league. Antigua and Barbuda is also very active in the netball, with cricket being the only sport more popular.

Physical appeal

Netball requires speed, strategy, team work and co-ordination, thus its appeal is not limited to women. Representative men's teams exist, but attract less attention. At primary home 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 those men of superior strength and size gaining an overly large advantage.

Major competitions

Netball World Championships

The most important competition in netball is the Netball World Championship which is held every four years. The Australian national netball team are the current world champions having won the 2007 Championship in New Zealand. Past winners include the Silver Ferns of New Zealand and the Calypso Girls of Trinidad and Tobago, though England, the Proteas of South Africa and the Sunshine Girls of Jamaica have all also placed.
See list of national netball teams for a complete list of national netball teams.

World Youth Netball Championships

The next World Youth Netball Championships will take place in 2009 in the Cook Islands. The 2005 Youth Championship was held in Miami, Florida.

Commonwealth Games

As netball is popular in the Commonwealth, it is has been included in the Commonwealth Games since 1998. Australia have taken gold home twice since then, the Silver Ferns once. England and Jamaica are the two other teams that have placed.

Asian Netball Championship

The Asian Netball Championship is a competition held between Asian countries.

South Pacific Games

Netball is one of the sport at the Pacific Games (formerly known as the South Pacific Games). The Pacific Games is a multi-sport event, much like the Olympics, (albeit on a much smaller scale), with participation exclusively from countries around the South Pacific. It is held every four years and began in 1963.

The Nations Cup

The Nations Cup (also know as the 4 Nations Netball Cup, the 5 Nations Netball Cup) is an international organised by Netball Singapore. In 2007, the competition included the Singapore national netball team, Canada, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka and Trinidad & Tobago. The 2008 Nations Cup will be between the Botswana national netball team, Barbados, Northern Ireland, the Samoa national netball team and Singapore .

ANZ Championship

The ANZ Championship is the elite netball competition contested between five teams each from both Australia and New Zealand. It began in April 2008, succeeding Australia's Commonwealth Bank Trophy and New Zealand's National Bank Cup as the highest level of competitive netball in those countries..

Domestic competitions




Australian variations for children

Fun Net

Fun Net 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 Fun Net 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.

High Five

High five netball ensures that children gain experience at all positions on the court. There are five positions and the players must swap around these positions during the game, allowing them to try out every position.
netball in Arabic: كرة الشبكة
netball in German: Netball
netball in Estonian: Netball
netball in Spanish: Netball
netball in French: Netball
netball in Scottish Gaelic: Ball-lìn
netball in Italian: Netball
netball in Marathi: नेटबॉल
netball in Malay (macrolanguage): Bola jaring
netball in Japanese: ネットボール
netball in Uighur: تور توپ
netball in Polish: Netball
netball in Portuguese: Netball
netball in Romansh: Netball
netball in Samoan: Netipolo
netball in Simple English: Netball
netball in Finnish: Verkkopallo
netball in Swedish: Netball
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