Rules of the Game Netball

Updated February 21, 2017

Netball is a game directly related to basketball and, in fact, grew out of a misunderstanding regarding basketball: When James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, mailed instructions and a diagram to Calara Baer in 1895, the rules were misconstrued. A new sport was born. Netball is particularly popular in England, the Caribbean and the South Pacific.

Essential Rules

The netball court is 100 by 50 feet and divided into equal thirds, lengthwise. There are two goalposts, which are basketball hoops 10 feet in the air at each end with no backboard. A half circle is drawn around each goalpost in a 16-foot radius. The goalpost is the centre of each half circle. No player can hold the ball for longer than three seconds. Likewise, a player can’t move any more than two steps with the ball. Each game lasts four quarters at 15 minutes apiece. There is a three-minute break between the first and second quarter, a five-minute halftime and a three-minute break between the third and fourth quarters. The ball is around 27 to 28 inches in circumference. A basketball can work well.

Player Positions

There are seven players on each netball team. The goal shooter stands in his offensive third of the court and attempts to shoot the ball into the net. The goal keeper tries to defend his net from the goal shooter. The goal attack tries to feed the ball to the goal shooter, who can play up to the half-court line on the offensive side and can enter the goal circle to shoot. The goal defender tries to take the ball away from the goal attack and feed it to his side of the court. The wing attack must feed the ball to the goal shooter or the goal attack. They cannot enter the goal circle but can move to half-court line. The wing defence must try to take the ball from the wing attacker. All defensive players have the same court limitations as the offensive players they are defending. The centre can run anywhere on the court except for the goal circles.


Flip a coin to decide which team has the ball. The centre player has possession of the ball. Players can move wildly about while they don’t have the ball but can only take a step or two to pass it to a teammate. They cannot jump or drag their feet either, and one foot must be on the ground at all times. It must be fast paced to avoid holding the ball for more than three seconds. Players cannot touch each other during play. Defensive players must stay three feet away from the offensive player with the ball. Players cannot move outside of their area of the court. All penalties find the ball removed from the offending team and given to the other team’s centre. Any serious penalties, such as pushing or shoving, give the goal shooter a chance to make a shot. Nobody can touch the goal shooter during his penalty shots. Once a shot is made, the other team’s centre takes position of the ball. Each shot is worth one point.

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About the Author

Eric Benac began writing professionally in 2001. After working as an editor at Alpena Community College in Michigan and receiving his Associate of Journalism, he received a Bachelor of Science in English and a Master of Arts in writing from Northern Michigan University in Marquette.