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You are in: SPORTS > Netball > Rules

The rules of netball

netball.The game

Netball is a team game, where seven players only from each team, may be on court at any one time. A team may consist of up to 12 players.

Each player has a playing position, which is determined by the areas on the court where she may move or play. The playing position is shown by identification letters worn above the waist, on the front and the back of the player. GS goal shooter. GA goal attack. WD wing defence. WA wing attack. C centre. GD goal defence. GK goal keeper.

The team in possession of the ball is called the attacking team and the team trying to intercept or gain control of the ball is the defending team. Each team has specialist attacking and defending players even though each player both attacks and defends throughout the game.

The major aim of the game is to score as many goals as is possible from within an area called the goal circle, which is a semi-circle, centred on the goal line and measuring 4.9 metres in radius. Only two players from each team may score goals, the GS and GA. The winners of the game are the team that has scored most goals within the allotted time. A match is divided into four x 15 minute quarters, with a three minute break between quarters one-two and three-four, a five minute break at half time and upto two minutes for injuries.

Rules of play

Netball is about running, jumping, throwing, catching, attacking, defending and scoring or stopping goals being scored. It is a fast, game which needs the players to have excellent skills and good team work.

The Rules are meant to help the players show their skills and be able to compete against an opponent in a fair way.

The two major rules are those of Contact and Obstruction and if those rules are broken, the player breaking them is penalised with a penalty pass or shot and must stand out of play, alongside of the player taking the penalty, until the ball has been released. The penalty may be taken by any player in the team not breaking the rule and it must be taken from where the person who broke the rule was standing.


Contact is when one player unfairly impedes the play of an opponent by physically contacting them in some illegal manner. There is a list of what is not allowed in the Rule Book.


Obstruction is about being within the distance of 0.9 metres, using arms in actions away from the body and of interfering with an opponents passing or shooting action, or their ability to release the ball.

Minor rules

All the rest of the rules, even though they make up 90% of the rule book are called the minor rules because they are only penalised with a free pass, which means no player has to stand out of play while the penalty is taken, and this penalty is taken from where the infringement occurred. The minor rules include,
held ball
short pass just to mention a few of the more common ones.

In netball, the ball, having been caught or held, must be released within 3 seconds. This is the rule of held ball. When the ball is thrown, it must be caught or touched in each third of the court by a player who is standing or who lands in the correct third. This is the over-a-third rule. When a ball is thrown between team mates, there must be enough room on the court, between the hands of the thrower and those of the receiver for a third player to move between. This rule is the short pass rule.

Fast, precise and clever footwork is the basis of the game and there are many variations possible which are legal under the rules. Basically, the principle of the footwork rule is, that once the ball is caught, the first landed foot may not be lifted and re-grounded before the ball is released or the player will be considered to have stepped. Therefore, a player who catches the ball in the air may, land on one foot, keep moving and land on the second but must release the ball before the first foot is back on the ground. Pivoting is possible, as is both one and two feet landings.

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