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Netball is a team sport primarily played by woman. Teams attempt to score points by throwing a ball through an elevated hoop. It is a strictly no contact sport and players are even limited in movement around the court based on their assigned positions. The ball cannot be held by any one player for more than 3 seconds.

The sport has its origins in the late 19th century, when Martina Bergman-Österberg started teaching a version of basketball to women at the physical training college in Hampstead London. By 1901, the game was established and the first codified rules were published. From there, the game spread to many Commonwealth countries and, by 1909, was being played in Jamaican schools.

The modern game is popular in schools in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Jamaica. There are national competitions and it is one of the main female sports in those countries.

The sport of netball

The game is mainly played by women, although there are some amateur men’s and mixed teams, especially in Australia and New Zealand. Each team consists of seven players who each have specific roles. There are two defensive specialists, two offensive specialists, and two midfielders. The seventh player is a universal position and can play in any area of the field.

Court and equipment

Netball is played on a rectangular court measuring 30.5 meters long and 15.25 meters wide. At each end there is a goal, which is a 38 cm hoop, placed atop a 3.05 meter pole. In front of the goal, there is a 4.9 meter semicircle which is the goal attack area, and all shots at goal must be taken from within it. The court is divided into three equal parts: a defensive third, an offensive third, and a midfield third.

The ball is usually made of leather or rubber, measures 680 to 710 millimetres (27 to 28 in) in circumference, and weighs 397 to 454 grams (14.0 to 16.0 oz)

Players wear either a skirt and sleeveless dress or shorts and a sleeveless top. Unlike most sports, players do not have numbers on their shirts but instead have a two letter combination that displays their position on the team.

How the game begins

Netball begins with a coin toss, the winner gets to start the game. At this point, with both teams in their positions, a player in the centre passes out the ball to another player in the centre. This start is performed every time the game is restarted, either after a pause or after a goal has been scored.

The rules of netball

The rules of netball are relatively simple; each match consists of 4 fifteen minute quarters, and the team which scores the most points wins. Players are not allowed to run with the ball or dribble, and can only hold on to it for 3 seconds before they pass. There is no physical contact permitted that impedes a player’s action. If a player jumps, they must release the ball before their feet are back on the ground again. When defending a pass or a shot, a player must be at least 90 cm away from the opponent, and batting the ball out of the opponent’s hands is not permitted.

One of the nuances of netball is that players are restricted in their position on the court. Only two designated players are allowed into the goal circle, and are the only ones who can score goals. Similarly, there are two designated players who can be in the goal circle for defensive duties.

Other players can generally only move in two thirds of the court depending on their specialist position.

A netball match is officiated by two umpires on the field who ensure the smooth run of play. There are two time keepers who are responsible of keeping the clock, and two score keepers who are responsible for keeping the game score. Netball is governed by the International Federation of Netball Associations (INFA), which was founded in 1960, and is based in Manchester in the United Kingdom.

Tactics and flow

The main objective in netball is to win a match by scoring more goals than the opposing team. Teams will use various offensive and defensive tactics such as a zonal defence, where each player is responsible for defending an area of the court. Alternatively, teams may opt to play a man marking defense. Teams may choose to speed the game up or slow it down depending on the tactical situation. Teams that are winning may for example choose to retain the ball with plenty of movement and passing to prevent the opposition from gaining possession. Netball teams have a general manager, or head coach, and the normal suite of trainers and medical staff. Coaching from the sidelines, managers shout out instructional and tactical orders to the teams throughout the match.

Netball competitions

There are many national competitions in the main countries that play netball, however there are few international competitions. The pinnacle competition is the Commonwealth Games, and the World Netball Championship, which are both held every four years. Additionally, there is the World Netball Series. Almost all netball tournaments are a two stage tournament, with a group stage that is in a round robin format, and then a knock out finals stage. There are very few fully professional netball players and there is no certain route to becoming such a player.

Betting on Netball

Betting on netball is restricted to the main tournaments, although some betting does exist on televised domestic games. Generally, betting tends to be on match winners and tournament winners.