Like basketball, the game is played on a hard court with scoring rings at both ends, and with a ball resembling a basketball (but much lighter and slightly softer in construction). The rings, whilst of similar height and dimension to basketball rings, do not have a "backboard". The field 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.
Diagram of a netball court.
There are seven players on each team, who are given nominated, named positions (and in competitive netball must wear "bibs" showing the abbreviations below indicating that position). They are only allowed in certain areas of the court, as described below:
|Position Name||Abbreviation||Opponent||Areas permitted|
|Goal Shooter||GS||Goal Keeper||Attacking goal third including shooting circle|
|Goal Attack||GA||Goal Defence||Attacking goal third, shooters circle, and center third|
|Wing Attack||WA||Wing Defence||Attacking goal third and center third, not shooters circle|
|Center||C||Center||Everywhere except shooting circles|
|Wing Defence||WD||Wing Attack||Defensive goal third and center third, not shooters circle|
|Goal Defence||GD||Goal Attack||Defensive goal third and center third, including shooters circle|
|Goal Keeper||GK||Goal Shooter||Defensive goal third, including shooters circle|
By the combination of the above, only the Goal Attack and Goal Shooter are are able to score goals directly.
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 teammate. This, combined with the restrictions on where players 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 get three feet (90 centimetres) away to defend, meaning that hard physical contact is rare.
Netball is a popular participant sport in Australia and New Zealand, mostly among women (in country areas a netball competition is usually arranged to coincide with the local football league), but men's and mixed teams are becoming popular, as the fundamentals of the game are easy for new players to learn, and men and women can compete with each other on reasonably fair terms as the restrictions on defence (and, typically, the women's greater familiarity with the game) prevent men's superior strength and size gaining an overly large advantage.
The women's game has an elite international competition, with Australia and New Zealand undoubtedly the world's strongest teams -- however, despite a growing club competition, only two of the current Australian team are full-time netballers. New Zealand finally broke an Australian strangehold on major titles, after a heartbreaking run of near-misses, with a 49-47 win in the 2003 World Championship final in Jamaica.
Whilst not attracting much public attention, there are representative men's netball teams. On occasions, trial matches between national men's and women's teams have been arranged, with the men usually coming off victorious because of their height advantage.
Famous netballing identities past and present: