Officials of the International Netball Federation (INF) have decided to amend the rules of netball in a congress meeting conducted in Sydney in August 2015. These new rules took effect in January 2016.

The new netball rules (2016) cover different facets of the games and affect league and event organisers, clubs, players, coaches, umpires, and team managers. These rule changes are considered by many to be among the most advanced progression in the sport’s history.

For players, these rules do not only mean that games are played faster. Apart from that, a good portion of these rule changes cover discipline rules that are more extreme compared to the previous rules. These changes have been designed primarily because netball is a physical contact sport, and to encourage good sportsmanship and behaviour.

What are the notable changes that players can expect?

  • Prior to these changes, when incidences of injuries, illnesses, or blood on a player occurred, the first stoppage in every quarter lasted up to two minutes. The affected player may then join the game play at the restart of the match. Additional stoppages in the same quarter lasted for 30 seconds while blood stoppages are allowed to last for two minutes.
  • In the updated rules of netball, all these stoppages are allowed for only 30 seconds. The injured player is then asked to leave the court. The affected player may join the game again if a position is left vacant.
  • In the current rules, a centre should have at least one foot wholly inside the centre circle to make a centre pass. Before the update of game rules, the centre can be penalised if a part of either of his or her foot was planted on the ground outside of the centre circle.
  • The new netball rules do not allow a defender to deflect a shot to a goal when the ball is on a downward path. Previous rules did not touch on this matter.
  • Now, when a player is taking a throw in, he or she must have at least one foot within six inches or 15cm of the line. Before the rule changes, a player had to have both of his or her feet immediately behind the line.
  • In the updated rules of the game, a player taking a penalty pass who is in the correct position can either play immediately or wait until an infringer stands out to play. Before the rule changes, that player needed to wait until an infringer was standing out of play. If the player did not wait, he or she would be penalised.
  • In today’s rules, each team should have an on court captain. If the captain leaves the court, the umpires should be informed of the replacement. Furthermore, the umpires can stop the game and speak with the captain if there are concerns about the behaviour of players. The captain will then need to speak with his or her team.
  • Before that, the captain was listed as a team official who helped manage the game. Umpires can also request for an on-court captain.
  • For a foul play, the umpires can talk with the player and either apply a normal sanction or follow different actions. These include cautioning the player, making an official warning, suspending the player for two minutes of playing time, sending the player off the court for the remainder of the game, or advancing a penalty. Before that, the umpire decided how long the suspension of the player would be.
  • Netball players are now required to have their hair tied back with hair accessories that do not pose a risk to other players. Previous rules did not touch on this subject.
  • The new rules now state that a player cannot deliberately throw or bat the ball at another player. It is up to the umpires to decide whether such actions were deliberate or accidental.
  • Before making a pass, a player must ensure that there is enough space for a player of the opposing team to intercept the ball as it moves from the thrower to the receiver. Prior to that, the game rules stated that at the moment the ball is passed, there should be room for a player of the opposing team to move between the hands of the thrower and receiver.
  • The updated rules now count delaying of play, whether intentional or accidental, as a foul play. A penalty pass may be awarded and a sanction is advanced. Previously, advancing was based on what the umpire determined to be appropriate and not just a free pass.
  • Finally, when players strive for the ball, they are allowed to come into physical contact. If the physical contact does not intervene with the play or if the players do not gain an unfair advantage, these actions are deemed to be contest and the game continues.

You can better understand the above by watching an actual netball game in your location. See what goes on for yourself by attending a match, usually held at one of the following Melbourne Social Netball venues: Riverside Golf and Tennis Centre, Melbourne High School, Richmond Recreation Centre, Flagstaff Gardens, and Ryan’s Reserve.

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