Rules of Netball | How it is Played?

It won’t be wrong to deem Netball a modified version of Basketball. But, it’s not exactly the same as basketball which is why it is recognized as a separate game. This game has been especially associated with women because as per the history, this game was derived from basketball but with little changes in rules to make it convenient for women.

The game is believed to have originated in England but it was Senda Beneson, who was the physical education instructor in the USA, developed the modified rules for women. Until the late 1800s, the game was played indoor on grassy lawns and baskets were replaced by rings that had the nets. The netball continued to spread to other countries including Australia, New zealand, Jamaica, but soon, female version of basketball was also introduced alongside.

However, netball is still played today, which is why we thought it is worth explaining the rules of this game here.

Object of Playing Netball

The object of the netball is to score more points than your opponent in the given time. To score points, players from both sides try their best to force the ball in between the opposition’s ring net, erected straight on each end.

How to Play

Netball is played between two teams of equal number of players, each team has its own half and ring net which they have to protect. Teams score points by sending the ball in the opposition’s net in accordance to the rules of the game. The matches are won by scoring more goals than your opponent.

But, before you start playing netball, you need to learn about offside, time restrictions and a few other things which must be complied in order to avoid fouls and infringements.

General Rules of Netball

  • Up to 5-7 players can participate for each side.
  • Physical contact is strictly forbidden in netball. In case of physical contact, free throw is awarded to the opposition from the same spot.
  • Players can only get possession of the ball by intercepting a pass made by their opponent. Similarly, they can only block the ball from going inside their side’s ring by using their hands.
  • Each player has a designated position in the playing court, and he/she must stay in it.
  • If a player moves into another position, it is deemed as offside.
  • If the ball leaves the sides of play, it is awarded to the opposite side who then pass it to their team mate from the same spot.
  • Not everyone can shoot the ball but only goal shooters or goal attack.
  • Players can’t take more than one and a half steps when in possession of the ball.
  • Goals are scored by forcing the ball in the net.
  • The team with the most number of goals in the given time is declared winner.


Before the start of the game, a coin toss takes place between the captain of both sides and this toss determines which team will start the game. One player from the winning side starts the game with a center pass.

Time Duration

Played in 4 quarters of 15 minutes each, between 1-2 and 2-3 quarters, a 3-minute interval is given to players to refresh themselves or have a conversation to change their strategy. At the end of 2nd quarter, a 5-minute break is provided which is also known as halftime.

Playing Court

The netball court is 50 ft wide and 100 ft long. The net on each side is 10ft high and has a 16ft in radius circle surrounding the net. Ahead of this circle, is traverse (third lines) on either side of the court.

In the middle of the court, there is a small circle of 3ft radius, where the play starts.

Playing Equipment

Netball requires a ball and ring nets. The ball is usually made of rubber or leather measuring up to 680 to 710 millimeters in circumference. This ball can weigh between 397 to 454 grams, depending on the level of players and their convenience.

Playing Positions in Netball

Every team has players assigned the following positions and roles:

Goalkeeper: Goalkeeper stays near the ring on his side and stops the opposition from scoring goals.

Goal Defence: Goal defence is a position behind the traverse lines and ahead of the ring circle, the man on the goal defence can’t move ahead of the middle circle.

Wing Defence: Wing defence stays right at the traverse line and he too can’t move ahead of the center line.

Wing Attack: Wing attack stays at the traverse line of opposition’s goal area and he can’t go beyond the circle surrounding the opposition’s net ring.

Goat Attack: Goal attack stands in between the traverse line and he can move in the opposition’s goal circle to score a goal.

Goal Shooter: Throughout the game, the goal shooter remains in the opposition’s goal area, the circle surrounding the goal and he gets the more opportunities to score a goal.

Free Pass in Netball

Free pass is awarded to the opposition in case of common infringements. Player from the non-offending side gets the chance to pass the ball to any of his team mates from the same spot where free pass occured. The common infringements which result in a free pass include:

  • Footwork
  • Footwork in the center circle
  • Offside
  • Delaying play
  • Kicking the ball
  • Center not in the center at the start of the play

Footwork in Netball

Footwork dictates some rules regarding receiving the ball:

It says a player can only receive the ball with both of its feet grounded or he can also jump to catch the ball. After landing, the player is allowed to take one step in any direction and pivot on the spot with the other foot. Once he has moved a particular foot, the other foot is now considered a landing foot.

Another important thing to learn here is when one foot is grounded or is in the air to catch the ball and the players land on one foot, the landing foot cannot be moved but only to pivot on the spot. However, the non landing foot can be moved in any direction. Once the landing foot is lifted, the player must not ground it again until he has released the ball.

For better understanding, I suggest you watch the plethora of videos available on Youtube explaining this phenomena as words alone can’t be enough to comprehend all the details.

Famous Netball Events

The World Netball Championship and International Netball Worldcup are the most famous events of Netball.

Governing Body

The International Netball Federation (INF) is the governing body of the sport which was created in 1960. It is responsible for world rankings, maintaining the rules for netball, and it also organizes Netball world cup.