Rules of Netball


aMost of us have been introduced to netball in school, as its simple yet fun to play premise is easy to both learn and play. The rules of netball are easy to follow and understand, which makes it a game which can be played or watched by any group of people, with any level of understanding of the sport. 

Netball is a sport made up of two teams of seven players, with the objective of passing the ball into the opposition’s net. 

History of Netball

Netball is very similar to basketball in its premise. The first known record of netball was written in the 1890’s, which suggests that the game was derived from an early version of basketball. 

Netball grew in popularity during the early 20th century, with relaxed rules and regulations to go with it. There were two forms of netball at the time, a five-a-side version and a nine-a-side version. 

The netball rules we follow today were enforced in 1957, and is now overseen professionally by the International Netball Federation (INF). The INF were recognised officially by Olympic committees in 1995, but netball is yet to be played in the summer Olympics. 

Instead, netball is played in the Commonwealth Games, and its first such instance was in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur.

Positions in Netball

In total, there are seven positions for players in netball. They are the following:

  • Goal Shooter – Scores goals and stays in the circle with the Goal Attack.
  • Goal Attack – Works with the Goal Shooter and passes the ball to them.
  • Wing Attack – Helps the circle players by passing the ball to them for shooting opportunities.
  • Center – Links the defense and attack whilst also taking the center pass.
  • Wing Defense – Prevents the Wing Attack from feeding the circle
  • Goal Defense – Tried to keep the ball from the Goal Attack and win the ball back.
  • Goal Keeper – Works with the Goal Defense to ensure that Goal Attack and Goal Shooter are as ineffective as possible. 


Each of these positions have limited and specific jobs to do during a game. Netball is a game of teamwork, forward thinking and trust, so it is important for each player to understand their place and how they can work as effectively together as they can. 

Rules of Netball

How to Play Netball

For a game of netball, a team of up to 12 people are permitted, but only seven people per team are allowed on the pitch at any one time during the match. Some games of netball are also permitted to be played five a side, but seven is ideal. 

The aim of the game is to pass the ball into the goal hoop without having the ball stolen by the opposing team. The winning team is the one with the most goals when the time is up. 

The main difficulty in netball comes from the fact that players cannot take more than 1.5 steps with the ball and cannot hold the ball for more than three seconds. 

The only players that are allowed to attempt to score are players who are marked as Goal Shooters. These players are situated either end of the pitch, in the semicircle that acts as a goal area. Along with the goal shooters, the other players allowed in the circle are the Goal Attack, Goal Defense and Goal Keeper. 


A netball court is slightly larger than a basketball court, with a length of 100ft long and 50ft wide. The court itself is split into three sections by lines called transverse lines, this is to restrict and mark where players can and can’t move. At each end of the court is a semicircle – known bluntly as the circle, which is where the goals are located. 

Center Pass

A game of netball can begin once the center pass has taken place. The first pass is decided by the two captains and the toss of a coin. This order will alternate with each goal scored, regardless of what time scores the goal. 

Offside Rule

The offside rule in netball refers to when a player is in an area that their position isn’t permitted to be in. 

In the case of an offside, the ball is given to the opposition for a throw. 


There are two types of obstruction in netball. One is obstructing a player who has possession of the ball, whilst the other one is obstructing a player who doesn’t have possession of the ball.
The latter has more rules surrounding it. For instance, if you’re obstructing a player who doesn’t have possession of the ball, you can: 

  • Catch, deflect or intercept a pass.
  • Rebound from an unsuccessful attempt at goal.
  • Signal for a pass or indicate the movement you intend the ball to be directed to.

These actions can be performed with arms outstretched to mark a player off.

Marking a player off below the net waiting for a rebound is forbidden. 

The other type of obstruction involves obstructing a player who has possession of the ball. 

The opponent must be at least three feet away from the player with the ball, and is allowed to jump in an attempt to intercept the ball. When landing, however, they must remain three feet away from the player they are obstructing. Failure to adhere to this rule will result in the ball being thrown back to the opposition. 


Footwork is important to keep in mind when playing netball. Given the rules surrounding movement with the ball, it’s imperative that footwork is a big part of the game. 

When a player is given the ball, they aren’t allowed to take more than 1.5 steps in any direction with it. They are, however, allowed to pivot with the ball providing they are staying in the same place. 

The player is allowed to catch the ball if they are jumping or have one foot landed. The foot they land on is considered the landing foot and they cannot move that foot. 

Breaking the footwork rule will result in the ball being given to the opposition. 

Rule of Thirds

In netball, the ball can’t be thrown more than a third over the court without coming into contact with another player, which means it can’t pass over two transverse lines without being touched. A free pass is awarded if this happens during a match. A netball court is split into three thirds, known as the two goal thirds and center (or middle) third.