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Netball Rules: The Objective Of Netball

In this guide we’re going to take a closer look at the game of netball. We’ll explain the netball rules and netball positions, how to play netball, and cover some of the key things you’ll need to know if you’re going to be playing or watching the game.

The objective of netball is to score more points than the opposing team. The team is supposed to pass the ball around and shoot it into the goal ring to score goals. Scoring in netball is very straightforward. Each time the ball goes through the net the team gets a point.

Benefits Of Playing Netball

Before we delve into how to play netball, let’s look at some of the reasons to play netball. There are many netball positions available to play, so you can be involved no matter what kind of person and athlete you are.

Netball is a non-contact sport, this removes lots of potential for danger and makes things much safer . The main values of this sport are teamwork, skill, and communication, all of which makes netball a fantastic way to teach such concepts to kids. 

Netball is also an amazing way to meet people and to make lifelong friends. This makes it a great way to teach people all about social and verbal skills. It is also a great way for the community to bond together and socialise together.

In netball you will find find yourselves running short as well as long-distance throughout the game with the right change in direction and accuracy.

This helps players to learn the importance of patience as well as timely movements and attacks . So, as players improve and evolve, they’ll get better at decision-making as they’ve been in a situations like this before when playing netball.

Playing netball is also a great way to relieve stress and to have lots of fun. It also is an easy way to improve cardio and overall fitness.

This brings us onto another amazing benefit of netball, which are all the amazing health benefits:

  • builds up your muscle strength and stamina
  • improves the bodies nimbleness and flexibility
  • improves hand-eye co-ordination
  • builds depth perception
  • increases reaction time

As you can see there are many benefits to playing netball so read on further and learn the netball positions, rules and how to play netball.

Netball Rules: The Court

Netball is played on a rectangular court measuring approximately 30 metres by 15 metres. The court is divided into thirds. The middle third is known as the centre third and the two areas at either end are called the goal thirds.

In each goal third you’ll find a semi circle known as the circle containing a post with a ring and a net.

In the centre third you’ll find smaller circle known as the centre circle. This is where games are started from and then restarted whenever a team scores a goal.

The long outer lines of the court are known as the side lines. The shorter outer lines are called the goal lines and the two lines that separate the thirds of the court are known as the transverse lines.

Netball Rules: Netball Positions

Netball team

Although netball is a fast-paced and dynamic team game it’s also a non-contact sport. Although you wouldn’t always believe it if you watch international and top-level national matches.

If you’re going to play netball then it’s important that you know the areas of the court and the netball positions, because no single player on a netball team can move in every area of the court.

Each netball team has seven players on court. All the netball positions have a specific name:

  • the goalkeeper (GK)
  • the goal defence (GD)
  • the wing defence (WD)
  • the centre (C)
  • the wing attack (WA)
  • the goal attack (GA)
  • and the goal shooter (GS)

You can easily spot which netball position someone is playing from the letters on their kit. The two letters correspond to the initials of their netball position, GK is the goalkeeper WA is the wing attack and so on.

let’s look at where the players and netball positions can move on the court.

  • the goalkeeper (GK) is only allowed to move in the goal third that she’s defending
  • the goal defence (GD) can move in the goal third and the centre third
  • the wing defence (WD) can move in the goal third and the centre third but cannot go into the circle
  • the centre (C) can move in all thirds but can’t go inside either circle
  • the wing attack (WA) can move in the centre third and opposition goal third but not inside the circle
  • the goal attack (GA) can move in the centre third and attacking goal circle
  • the goal shooter (GS) can move only inside the goal third she’s attacking

Netball Rules: Game Length

A game of netball is made up of four quarters, each lasting 15 minutes with a three minute break after the first and third quarters, and the five minute break halfway through between quarters 2 & 3 (this is the halftime).

The game is won by the team that scores the most goals, and each team sets up opportunities to score goals by passing the ball down court to the goal shooter or goal attack in the circle. Both these players can score goals and they have to be standing inside the circle when they shoot.

Whistle on the green background.

The game is started at the beginning of each pass with a centre pass made by the centre from the centre circle.

Teams alternate the first centre pass of each quarter, so if the team playing in white throws the centre pass at the beginning of the first quarter then it’ll be the team wearing the black kit that starts the second quarter.

If the ball goes out of court then the game restarts with a throw-in by the opposing team to the player that last touched the ball before it went out of court.

Occasionally during a game the umpire won’t be able to decide which player is at fault following a 50/50 situation, when this happens the game is restarted with a toss-up.

Basic Netball Rules

Like most sports netball has lots of rules but you only need to know a few of the most important ones to know the basics of how to play netball and to get started.

Games are refereed by two umpires that each cover half of the court. The umpire will blow a whistle to start, restart or stop the game, when a goal has been scored and to signal when an infringement is to be penalized.

Footwork Rule

Let’s look at rules for passing and receiving the ball first. When a player has the ball in their hands they have to release a pass or shoot within three seconds and they have to observe the footwork rule as they do.

The footwork rule puts a limit on the movement a player can make once they have the ball in their hands and it’s interpreted differently based on a number of situations.

Firstly, if a player receives the ball with one foot grounded or jumps to catch the ball and lands on one foot, then they can step with the other foot in any direction any number of times, pivoting on the landing foot.

They can also lift the landing foot but they must throw or shoot before the landing foot is re grounded.

Alternatively in this situation the player can step or jump from the landing foot on to the other foot and then step or jump again, but must throw the ball or shoot before re grounding either foot.

Secondly, if a player receives the ball while both feet are grounded or jumps to catch and then lands on both feet simultaneously then they can step with either foot but whichever foot they pivot from becomes the landing foot.

In the same way as before they can then step or pivot as many times as they wish, but if they lift their landing or pivoting foot then the ball must be released before the foot is re grounded.

Again as before in this situation the player can step or jump from the landing foot onto the other foot and then step or jump again but must throw the ball or shoot before re grounding either foot.

Passing Rules

Players can use a range of passes to get the ball to their teammates and there’s two key additional rules to remember in relation to passing.

Firstly, the short pass rule.

This rule states that at the moment the ball is passed there must be room for a third player to move between the hands of the thrower and those of the receiver which effectively means that the ball must actually leave one player’s hands and fly a distance equivalent to the width of a player before it touches the receivers hands.

There’s also a limit on how far you can throw a pass too.

You can throw a pass across the full width of the court, but when the ball is passed down court it must not pass over more than one transverse line, what this really means is that the ball cannot be thrown from one golfer to another.

It must be passed to a player in the centre third first and then passed on or at the very least touched by a player in the centre third.

This might all seem a little complicated but you’ll soon get the hang of it.

Marking And Defending Netball Rules

Finally, let’s look at the key rule for marking and defending when a defending player marks a player with the ball they can stand no nearer than three feet or 90 centimetres from the player with the ball.

The three-foot mark is measured as the distance between the passing players grounded foot and the nearest foot of the defender or the place where that grounded foot had been if they lifted it.

If the player with the ball doesn’t move their feet at all then the three feet is measured as the distance between the foot of each player closest to the other.

At the three foot mark the defender can defend or attempt to intercept the ball using a range of movements including jumping, but if they land within three feet of that player and they still have possession of the ball then an obstruction may occur.


A no goal occurs if the ball passes through a hoop that has been thrown from outside the circle or by a player other than the two shooters.

If there is a situation where a player completely misses a shot a player may not catch it. If they do it will be considered a replay and a free pass will be awarded to the other team.

A goal will also not be awarded if the ball is deflected off the goal keeper or the goal defence and goes through the goal ring.

Using your hands to block a player off the ball is allowed as long as it is for the purpose of catching, deflecting or intercepting a pass, obtaining a rebound from an unsuccessful shot at goal or signalling for a pass.

Obstruction will be called out by a referee if you mark a player with your arms out. This is because a player cannot move into the landing space of an opponent positioned so closely to an opponent that contact is inevitable.

Push, trip, hold or lean on an opponent resulting in physical contact.

Knock or remove the ball from the possession of the opponent while they are holding it in their hands or push the ball into the hands of their opponent.

If you still need some extra help understanding how to play netball check out this video explanation here.

So that’s the basics of netball covered, if you’re keen to learn more why not check out some of our netball passing or fitness drills.

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