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Netball is a seven-a-side game in which goals a scored by throwing a ball so that it falls through a netted hoop; it is different to basketball as a player receiving the ball must stand still until they have passed it to another player.
On a netball team there are 7 players: Goal Shooter, Goal Attack, Centre, Goal Defence, Goal Keeper, Wing Attack and Wing Defence. Before the match starts, the names of all players and team officials must be provided to an official, usually the scorers. One member of the team has to be marked as the captain. During a match, the minimum amount of players of one team on the court is five, and the maximum is seven. One of these players must play as centre. Each player in the team has a specific role and is confined to certain areas, dependent on their position. The role of a goal shooter is quite self-explanatory – to score goals. They should also work in and around the ‘D’ section of the court with the goal attack in order to score these goals. Their areas of play include; the ‘D’ in which their team is assigned to shoot in, and the third that this ‘D’ is in. Like the goal shooter, the goal attack is able to score goals but is expected to help the goal shooter to score, rather than be the main scorer. A goal attack may also catch the rebound ball if the goal shooter misses while shooting, or take backline passes when the centre is unavailable/restricted to outside the ‘D’. Unlike the GS, the goal attack has more freedom within the court, and is allowed to move around in the D and the rest of the shooting third, like the GS, but is also allowed in the centre third. This is so they can catch the ball in the centre third via the centre pass, and then feed it to the goal shooter in the ‘D’ so that they can score.
Similar to the goal attack, the wing attack’s role is to assist the scorers to ensure that goals are scored. They are used to feed the ball from the centre third to the scorers, giving them more shooting opportunities. Wing attacks play in the same zones as the goal attack, with an exception of the ‘D’, which they are not permitted to enter as they are not a scorer. The centre could be seen as the most important player in the entire team, as their job is to link both the attack and the defence, almost like they are completing the team. They take the centre pass and act as a link between passes between players such as wing attack and goal shooter, being there to intercept the opposite team’s passes and improve their team’s chance of scoring.
Centres can go anywhere around the court, except in the ‘D’s on both ends, as this is confined to shooters and main defenders only. They are Wing defence acts quite like the opposite of WA, as their role is to look for interceptions to try and get the ball from the other team, in order to optimise their team’s chances of winning. The idea of opposites comes into play again as the WD is paired with the other team’s WA, and here they stop the ball from being fed to the ‘D’ of the opposite team. They can go to the same places as the wing attack, except on the other side of the court, i. e. opposite team’s third (except circle) and the centre third. Goal defence is paired with GA, and their aim is to gain possession of the ball, reducing the effectiveness of the GA. They stay close to and mark the GA, making it harder for the other team’s goal attacker to get the ball. The more they ‘stick’ to the goal attack, the more power they hold over the ball, and therefore of the goals scored by which team. They follow the GA, meaning they stay in the same zones that the goal attackers do. Goalkeepers are very similar to goal defence, as they are used to prevent the other team’s shooters from scoring. They should work with the goal defence in order to prevent goals (of the other team) being scored. They tail the goal shooter and so remain in the same areas as them.
During a match, all players must wear registered playing uniform, with playing position initials that are 6 inches high which must be clearly visible from the front and the back, and suitable sports footwear. The players all have specified areas of the court in which they must play, and leaving these zones during the game and crossing into another is a violation of the offside rule, meaning they must be dealt with accordingly.
Netball has many rules, all of which contribute to the effectiveness of the game, one of these being the offside rule, mentioned in the above paragraph. When a player is ‘offside’ they are simply entering a court area which they are not allowed in due to their position. This rule applies regardless of whether or not the player has possession of the ball. The response to this would be that a free pass is given to the other team. A player may, however, reach across an offside area to pick up or lean on the ball, as long as the player doesn’t make physical contact with the ground in that area. A slight difference to this rule occurs when two opposing players become offside. If one enters the offside zone before the other, then the first one is penalised. This rewards a free pass to their rival team. If they both enter at the same time, and neither touches the ball, neither are penalised and the game continues as normal.
If either player touches the ball while in an offside area, a toss-up is taken between the two players in the ‘normal zone’; their area of play. An example of the offside rule in a game scenario may be that the two centres are stood outside the centre circle, then when the whistle blows Team A’s centre steps into the circle and throws the ball to the goal defence who is still in the third (not stepped into the centre third). This is an obstruction of thirds, as the centre pass should always be caught in the centre third. The whistle is blown and the ball is given to Team B.
Another rule is the footwork rule, which can be seen as quite intricate, but is actually quite easy to recall when you get used to it. The main idea is that once a player has landed, their landing foot shouldn’t move until they have thrown the ball. A player that catches the ball with only one foot on the ground is not allowed to move the named ‘landing foot’. The other foot is able to move in any direction, as long as the landing foot stays in the same place. While shooting the ball, or even passing it, a player may step forward with their other foot, and then their landing foot, as long as it stays in the air until the ball has been passed/thrown. Landing on two feet gives a player slightly more options, as they are allowed to choose which foot will be their ‘landing foot’. Once this is chosen, and the other foot is lifted from the ground, this decision can’t be changed, and the landing foot must follow the rules above, for a player who lands on a singular leg. If any of these requirements are not met, a free pass is awarded to the other team. An example of a violation of the footwork rule in a game would be that a player catches the ball and lands with their left foot. They then throw the ball, stepping forward with their left foot. This is footwork, and the umpire would blow the whistle and then the ball is given to the other team. While marking, players can intercept the ball from their opposing player, as long as it doesn’t go against the rules of obstruction. A player attempting to intercept a ball must be 3ft away from the player in possession of the ball, and cannot make any contact with the player with the ball.
Obstruction can still happen even if the opposing player does not have the ball. A player tries to defend the player to prevent the ball from getting to them, but this must happen 3ft away from the player. They cannot use any movements that limit the possible movement of an opponent. An example of the obstruction rule being broken is that if in the D, the goal attack is aiming for a goal, and the goal defence is standing 2ft away from them with their arms over the ball, the umpire would blow the whistle due to the obstruction of the GA by the GD, and the goal defence would have to stand next to the goal attack until they throw the ball. Contact seems like a self-explanatory rule, but the contact rule and the idea of contest gets some people confused, as they are quite similar, but the main difference is that competition is that when playing, opposing players may come into physical contact with each other, and as long as the players don’t interfere with each other’s play/use their bodies to gain an unfair advantage over their opponent, it is seen to be ‘contest’, and if they do, it becomes contact, regardless of whether these actions are accidental or deliberate. Examples of such physical contact include pushing, tripping, holding or leading on an opponent, or hitting/placing hands on a ball held by an opponent.
The sanction for incidents like these is a penalty pass. An in-game example could be: When trying to block the ball from getting to Team A’s goal shooter, Team B’s goalkeeper pushes them out of the way so they can intercept the ball. This is contact, and a backline pass is taken by Team A’s goal attack/centre (depending on where the contact happened), and Team B’s GK must stand next to them until the ball has been thrown. //The name given to the sport, ‘net-ball’, explains quite clearly what is required to play the sport; a net and a ball. It may sound simple, but specific measurements must be taken into account for both pieces of equipment. The ball must measure 27-28 inches in diameter, and weigh 14-16 pounds. It has to be made of leather or rubber, and be inflated to a pressure of 11-12 psi. The same ball must be used throughout the entire match, although a spare ball must be kept at the official bench, and may be used by the umpire to replace the match ball if it becomes damaged. There must be two goalposts on each court, placed on the midpoint of each goal line, found on opposite ends of the court.
The vertical metal pole must be 2. 5-4 inches in diameter, and 10 feet tall. It has to be inserted into the ground/beneath the floor so that if it is knocked there is a minimal amount of movement. It must also be placed so that the back of the pole is at the outer edge of the goal line. The hoop should be a horizontal steel ring with a 5-8-inch diameter, and a horizontal 6-inch metal bar to which the ring is attached. A net, of preferably white material, should be fitted to the ring, clearly visible and open at the top and bottom.
The court must be level, and of rectangular shape. It should be made of firm wood, and its two longer sides, called sidelines, should each measure 100ft. The two shorter sides (goal lines) should both measure 50ft. Two lines that are parallel to the goal lines – transverse lines – divide the court into three equal areas, the middle being named the centre third, and the other two are known as goal thirds. A circle, known as the centre circle, is located directly in the centre of the court and must be 3ft in diameter. A ‘D’, or a goal circle is found at each end of the court. They are semi-circles that have a radius of 16ft, the centre being the midpoint of the goal line. All lines, (preferably white), should be 2 inches wide and are part of the court area that they outline. The ‘court surround’ is a rectangular shape that surrounds the court. Its edge is 10ft from the goal and sidelines. A visual representation of these dimensions can be seen in the image, sourced from The England Netball website.
The way to win a netball match is to score as many goals as possible. A goal is scored when the ball is thrown through the ring on the post. It must be thrown by either the goal attack or the goal shooter, and that player must be within their team’s goal circle. If the whistle to end play is blown before the ball has completely passed through the ring, then no goal is scored, and if a player other than GS or GS throws the ball through the ring, no goal is scored either. If a defending player (from the other team) aims to deflect a shot for goal, and the ball passes above and completely through the ring, then a goal is scored. If a toss-up is performed in the goal circle and is won, the GS or GA can choose to either shoot or pass the ball. In order to take a shot, the player must meet a set of criteria: they must not be in contact with the ground outside the ‘D’, either while catching or holding the ball, they must shoot within three seconds of catching the ball, and also they must obey the footwork rule. Violation of this would result in a free pass for the other team, resulting in a loss of possession and possible chance of scoring for the offending team.
If a defending player causes the goalpost to move, interfering with a shot at the goal and causing it to miss, a penalty pass is given to the other team. Also, if a ball is deflected on its way towards the ring, such as touching it through the net, a penalty pass is given to the scoring team. If the shot is successful, however, then the goal is scored. The scoring system for netball is simply counting up the number of goals scored by each team, and the team with the most points at the end of the match wins. This is tracked by match officials scorers and timekeepers, who keep an accurate count of the amount scored by each team. The only way to win in netball is through the highest amount of goals.
Netball leagues are popular for many people of all ages. Many towns have their own leagues, for example, the Warrington Netball League holds many matches at the Ball Hall on Sundays. Each league has specific rules. Some general ones are: a minimum of 5 players must be on court for the match to be played, substitutions can only be made at the break, teams must not alter/move equipment to gain an advantage, the umpire’s decision is final, and if a team fails to turn up for a fixture they immediately forfeit the match and they lose the fixture, along with standard netball rules. The scoring system may be as follows: Win = 5 points, Draw = 3 points, Lose within 5 goals = 2 points, Lose with ½ goals or more = 1 point, Lose with less than ½ goals = 0 points. Each league’s scoring system may differ slightly.
The match officials in netball include two umpires and a reserve umpire. They are required to wear clothing that is easily distinguishable from the playing teams’ as well as suitable sports footwear. They are responsible for making sure that the field of play and the equipment conform to all of the rules as stated before, prior to the beginning of a match, as well as throughout the match. Before the match, they must also check the teams and players to make sure they are adhering to the rules mentioned in the paragraph about the roles of each team member. The umpires control the match using the rules and decide on anything that is not covered by them. Their decisions are always final and non-negotiable. The two umpires decide on which half of the court they will watch before the match begins, and stay there through the whole game. For this purpose, the length of the court is divided in half across the centre from sideline to sideline. They also use their whistles to signify things such as the start/end of each quarter/half, restarting of play after a goal has been scored, and the recognition of a foul or rule break.
The umpires work together and can ask the other for help regarding a decision. Either umpire is allowed to hold time for injury/illness, foul play or emergency. The purpose of the reserve umpire is to replace an umpire who becomes ill/injured during a match, to help the umpires with any procedures before the match/during intervals, to supervise a suspended player during their suspension period and is to be seated at the umpires’ bench during a match. Alongside the match officials are the technical officials. These consist of two timekeepers, and scorers, and are seated at the official match during a match. The scorers are mainly responsible for keeping an accurate record of the score.
Other responsibilities include: recording the name of all players and playing positions before the match, recording any changes of players/positions during the match, keeping a record of the centre pass taken by each team, signalling the direction of any centre pass to be taken, and recording any warning or suspension. A timekeeper is in charge of ensuring that each period of play and each interval is taking the right amount of time. They take on numerous roles, such as: notifying the umpires when there are 30 and 10 seconds remaining before the start of a quarter/half, commencing timing when a game is started, notifying the umpires of the end of a specified playing time, holding time when signalled to by the umpire, and then restarting it again, notifying the umpire of any time remaining due to stopping because of injury/emergency.
Netball matches typically consist of four quarters: four 15 minute blocks of playing time. Between the first and second quarter, and between the third and fourth quarter there are intervals of 4 minutes, and the halftime interval is usually 12 minutes but could be 8 depending on exceptional circumstances. Intervals can be lengthened by an umpire in the event of an emergency. At halftime, the teams switch ends, so if team A were shooting at the top end of the court, they would start to shoot at the bottom at halftime, with team B shooting at the top. Intervals and halftime don’t impact or reset centre passes, and the alternation continues (team A centre pass, goal, team B centre pass, etc.). If scores are tied at full-time, then play may be extended by four minutes so that a winner can be determined. If after the designated extra time ends and there is still a tie, play continues until one team leads by two goals.
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