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Starting the game Fouls and misconduct
Ball rules Substitutions/Officials
Playing positions Equipment
Out of court Glossary



Objective: Each team must attempt to score goals by throwing the ball through the nets at the end of the opponents side of the court. The team which has scored the most goals by the end of the game wins.

The court is divided into thirds. Each player has a responsibility on court, and they must remain in their own third of the court, according to which position they play. See Playing positions section for details. Netball is played by two teams of seven players.

Netball players must be skilled in both attack and defence in order to be an efficient player, as the game moves quickly. Ideally, netball is played on a sprung wooden floor, but is often played on grass or concrete.

There are four fifteen minute quarters. There are intervals of 3 minutes between quarters one and two, three and four, with a 5 minutes break between two and three. At the end of the intervals, the teams change ends.

For international tournaments, such as the Netball World Cup, where teams may play two matches in one day, the time is reduced to two twenty minute halves.

National and regional differences may apply. Matches for different age groups also have different length of playing times. For school competitions, ten minutes quarters are common, as well as fifteen or twenty minute halves. Junior players will often play five minute quarters.


Starting the game

Before the game starts, the captains of each team meet to toss a coin. The winner of the toss decides whether to take the first centre pass, or they choose which end of the court to aim for.

The game begins with a centre pass taken by the centre who must be entirely within the centre circle. The opposing centre may stand anywhere inside the centre third, providing they are at least 0.9 metres (3 feet) away from the opposing centre.

All other players must be outside the centre third until the umpire has blown the whistle to start play. The first pass must be caught or touched in the centre third.

When the ball reaches the shooting player in the opponents goal circle, a shot may be taken. When this happens, the player aiming for the net will stop to throw the ball. When the ball has left their hands, the play starts again.

A goal is scored if the ball is thrown directly through the ring. Goals count as one point. If a goal is scored, play is restarted with a centre pass taken from the centre circle. The centres on each team take the passes alternately.

If the ball does not go in the net but rebounds, it remains in play. If the ball does not go in the net, and goes off the edge of the court, it is out of play and a throw in is taken. A throw in is taken by a member of the team which did not touch the ball last.

Ball rules

The player who receives the ball has restricted movement when landing after catching the ball. The foot that the player lands on may be used a pivot or can be lifted, but cannot be put back on the ground until after the ball has been released.

If the player lands on both feet, then one foot may be moved and the other used as a pivot, or lifted, but cannot be put back on the ground until after the ball has been released.

The players are allowed to take only one step when they have the ball, and they must release the ball within three seconds.

Netball is essentially a passing game, and running and dribbling with the ball is not permitted. The ball must be passed between players, and must be handled in each third of the court.

When the ball is passed, there must be at least space for a player to move between the hands of the thrower and the hands of the catcher. This ensures that the ball spends time in the air, and is not just 'given' from one player to another. This is known as a short pass.

Netball is a non-contact sport. When a player has possession of the ball, the opposing players can only get the ball when it is in the air. Physical contact with other players is not allowed.

When a player has the ball, the opponent must be at least 0.9 metres (3 feet) away. This is called a recovery step. Failure to do this is an obstruction.

Playing positions

netball playing positions
Playing positions

Key to players

GS - goal shooter
The player who makes the shots on goal.

GA - goal attack
Secondary goal shooter who assists in centre court.

WA - wing attack
Passes the ball from centre court across to the shooters.

C - centre
General workhorse who co-ordinates both side of the team.

WD - wing defence
Defends the top of goal area, and attacks in mid-court.

GD - goal defence
Defends the back third, and blocks attacks.

GK - goal keeper
Counters goal shooters and stops shots, gets rebounds.

Out of court

The ball is out of court when

- it touches the ground outside court
- it is caught by or touches a player who has any contact with the ground, an object, or person, outside the court
- it touches an object or person that has contact with the ground outside the court

When the ball goes out of court, play is restarted by a throw in by the team who did not touch the ball last before it went out of court.

This is taken from behind the line at the point where the ball went out of court. Any player taking the throw in has to be standing behind the line in their own part of the court.

Players can, however, leave the court during a game, as long as they are not in possession of the ball. They cannot take part in play until they are fully back on court.

Fouls and misconduct

There are rules to describe what players cannot do:

After having possession of the ball, a player cannot

- throw, bounce, or drop the ball and regain possession unless the ball has been touched by another player
- roll the ball to another player

A player cannot touch the ball if

- they have batted or bounced the ball twice
- batted and bounced the ball
- tipped the ball up in the air and then batted or bounced it

A player cannot

- play the ball while lying, sitting, or kneeling on the ground
- deliberately kick or punch the ball
- lean on the goalposts

Almost all technical infringements in netball result in a free pass. This is taken at the spot where the incident happened, and is taken by any eligible member of the non-offending team. The player who infringed can take part in play.

If the rules regarding personal contact, contact with the ball, obstruction and moving the goalposts are infringed upon, a penalty pass will be given. If the incident took place inside the goal circle, a penalty shot is awarded.

For both cases, the offending player is taken out of play and stands next to the player taking the penalty until the ball has been released.

This amounts to a free shot, taken without any hindrance from opposing players.

If any two players catch the ball at the same time (this is called simultaneous contact), infringe a rule at the same time, or the umpire is unsure of what happened, the toss up is used to restart play.

The two players involved are the ones who take part in the toss up, unless, of course, one or both players have been injured during the foul.

The players face each other, and their own shooting ends (opponent ends of the court) 0.9 metres (3 feet) apart. The umpire stands in between the players, and flicks the ball up, blowing the whistle at the same time.

The ball is released from a point below the shoulder level of the shorter player, and is flicked up no more than 2 feet in the air. Both players must then try and get the ball. The taller player does not have an advantage when the throw is measured as it is.

The other players cannot move until the whistle has been blown.


In any one game a team can make up to three substitutions. A player who has been substituted can return to play, but this of course counts as one substitution.

Players can only be substituted during intervals between play, or in a stoppage due to illness or injury.


An official scorer keeps a record of the scores, and a timekeeper keeps a record of the duration of play.

In addition to the scorer and timekeeper, the game is presided over by an official known as an umpire, whose job it is to ensure that the rules of the game are followed.

Players who commit serious fouls, for example, causing danger to other players, may be sent off the court for the remainder of the game. The team must then continue with one less player.


The court

The court is flat and has a hard surface. Either tarmac or an artificial non-slip hard surface is used. The court measures 30.5 metres (100 feet) long, 15.25 metres (50 feet) wide.

The goal circle has a radius of 4.9 metres (16 feet). The centre circle is 0.9 metres (3 feet) in diameter. All the lines on the court are part of the court, and are no more than 50 millimetres (2 inches) wide.

Younger players often play on smaller courts.


The goalposts stand 3.05 metres (10 feet) high, and are placed at the centre of each goal line (the line along the two shorter edges of the court). There is a metal ring at the top of the posts which has a diameter of 380 millimetres (15 inches). There is a small bar that joins the ring to the post, which is 150 millimetres (6 inches) long.

There is a net attached to the ring which should be clearly visible. It is open at both ends. The post itself can be tubular or square-edged, and should be between 65 and 100 millimetres (2.5 to 4 inches) in diameter or square.

The post can be free-standing, it can have a base, as long as the base is not on any part of the court, or it can be placed into a post in the ground. This is what is done for international matches.

Younger junior players often play with a post height of either 2.7 metres (9 feet), or 2.4 metres (8 feet).

The ball

The ball used is similar in size to a standard football (soccer), size 5 ball. The ball made of leather, rubber, or a similar material. They are 690 to 710 millimetres (27 to 28 inches) in circumference, and weighs 400 to 450 grams (14 to 16 ounces).

Younger players often play with a size 4 ball, with a softer cover material.


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