Anyone playing netball from 1 January this year – from the grassroots to the elite – will have to follow a new set of game rules approved by the International Netball Federation Congress. Depending on the position you play, it could mean breaking old habits and/or learning new ones. Netball has well and truly changed since the first game in England in 1892, with the aim of bringing more enjoyment to both players and spectators. So how are you affected?

The new netball rules are mostly designed to speed up the game – it can now be played fast and furious – while other changes are more practical and/or create greater consistency in the rules around the world. The whistle gets less action, so-called ‘injured’ players don’t get to showcase their acting talents as part of tactical time-outs, and penalties can be made without waiting for sanctioned players to move away, improving flow. And the rules have become clearer.

Summary of the new rules

  • Umpires no longer blow their whistle when goals are scored and if it is clear the ball is out of court. This is estimated to eliminate about 30 per cent of the whistle blowing during a match.
  • Penalties are now known as Sanctions, which include a Free Pass or Pass/Shot. Throw In and Toss Up are considered actions as opposed to Sanctions (or penalties under the current version).
  • The Centre, when taking a centre pass, is now only required to have one foot within the centre circle, not two. Given these ladies are really speedy on their feet, this new rule is much easier to police and that ‘not wholly within the centre circle’ nonsense is gone forever!
    netball chairlift

    The ‘chairlift’ is BANNED!

  • Once a player taking a penalty pass is in the correct position, they can choose to play the ball immediately or to wait for the infringer to stand out of play (It is important to note that a player who is sanctioned for a major infringement must still stand out of play). This measure hopes to stop an infringing player who is purposefully slow retreating in order to provide time for their team’s defence to reposition themselves, negating any advantage to the other team.
  • All injury/illness stoppages, which include blood, are 30 seconds long, and the injured player must come off the court. That’s it! No more Hollywood-style ‘injury’ stunts leading to two-minute holidays on the sidelines, then returning to the court as fresh as a daisy. It will be interesting to see, though, how many truly injured players play through their pain because they don’t want to remove their bib.
  • Goal tending is no longer allowed. This means that players are not able to deflect a shot once the ball is on a downward flight towards the ring, including touching the ball up through the net. This is probably the most contentious rule change of them all. Defenders are the first to leap to their own defence saying that shooters already have plenty of time to line up their shots, and attackers have an advantage of being able to utilise the space just outside the court, so why shouldn’t they have a trick of their own up their sleeves? Let’s see how often they are ‘sanctioned’ now this new rule is in place.

Still a little unsure about some of the new netball rules? Some of Australia’s top umpires and coaches have banded together to explain them in a series of short videos. You can watch them here.

Netballers, we’d love to hear what you think of the rule changes? Have they improved the speed of the game? And how have they left you tactically? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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