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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.




Diagram of a netball court


Diagram of a netball court



Description and rules


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. They also 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.


Sometimes there are 5 players on the team, but that is for hi-5 and for (mainly) primary children or when training in groups for a match. Otherwise, there are seven players on each team, who are given nominated, named positions. In competitive netball, each player must wear "bibs" showing one of the abbreviations below, indicating their position. They are 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



Areas permitted

Goal Shooter


Goal Keeper

Attacking goal third including goal circle

Goal Attack


Goal Defence

Attacking goal third, goal circle, and center third

Wing Attack


Wing Defence

Attacking goal third and center third, not goal circle




Everywhere except goal circles

Wing Defence


Wing Attack

Defensive goal third and centre third, not goal circle

Goal Defence


Goal Attack

Defensive goal third and centre third, including goal circle

Goal Keeper


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.


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.



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 taken by the Centre player, who must have one foot grounded within the centre circle. As the game restarts, only the teams' Centre players 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 boundary back into play. ..














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