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Netball Rules

!!When playing netball, keeping to the rules can be difficult; the players are busy running around trying to score for their team when suddenly a whistle blows and calls offside or an obstruction. Knowing the rules of the game will make a big difference to the score of the game and how much fun everyone is having while playing it.The following rules are regulated and published by the internal federation of netball associations.

Object of the Netball game

This probably seems very simple, but we will start from scratch. The objective of netball is to score more goals than the opposing team, goals are scored when the ball is passed to a team member that is inside the goal circle who then shoots and gets the ball into the goal ring. The Goal circle is the D shape located around each netball post.

The Netball Court

A netball court is split into three sections, the two goal thirds and the centre third this should be visible on the court as three rectangles. You then have two goal circles, these are the D shapes on either side of the court. Finally you have the centre circle which is the circle located in the centre of the centre third.

diagram of a netball court

The Netball Team

Netball teams consist of 7 players, for a game to be official there must be at least 5 players, one of whom must play centre of the court.

scrable letters spelling teamwork

Netball Player Positions

Each netball player has a role to play, the following roles are:

Goal Keeper - this person must work with the goal defender and their job is to prevent the opposing team from scoring goals.

Goal Defender - the goal defenders role is to win the ball off the attackers when possible while also reducing the effectiveness of their movement possibilities.

Wing Defender - their job is to look out for interception possibilities and prevent the opposing team from getting the ball into the goal circle to their attacker and shooter.

Centre - this person will connect the attacking and defending sides of the team, feeding the ball between both and providing support when needed.

Wing Attacker - their role is to feed the ball into the goal shooter and attacker giving them the best possible shooting opportunities.

Goal Attacker - this persons role is to work with the goal shooter feeding the ball into them and providing support when needed.

Goal Shooter - the objective of the goal shooter is to work in and around the goal circle. Their main objecting is to score goals against the opposing team.

To find out more about the playing positions click here.

Starting the Game

The game is started with the centre pass , before the centre pass takes place all the team players must start in their goal thirds, except the two centres. The centre starting with the ball must remain within the centre circle, after the whistle is blown this person must pass the ball and the game can begin.

fence around the netball court

Defending and Obstruction

When a player is guarding the net and playing in the defensive part they are called a defender. There is one wing defence, one goal defence and one goal keeper for each team.If a player is to try and intercept or defend the ball they must be at least 3ft away from the other player. They may then jump to intercept or defend the ball once the player takes a shot but still has to stay arms length away from the player with the ball.
In netball players have to steal the ball from the opposite player without obstructing them as that is against the rules and the ball will get given away. If they are trying to get the ball from a player they have to stay an arm’s length away from them and can’t physically push or touch them. Players can’t trip, push, shove or foul other members as this could result in injury and will have a punishment against them.

Offside Rule

The offside rule is used across the entire court and is only used if a player with or without the ball moves into a position of the court that is not designated to their position.The players in specific positions have to stick to their place on their court. If a particular player steps out of their area and over the line whether they are holding the ball or not, the opposite team claims the ball. This netball rule also applies if a player steps off the court completely but only if they are holding the ball.

trainers on a netball court


When a player has the ball they aren’t allowed to move, so how can they turn to pass without breaking the rules? The answer: pivoting. They can simply keep the foot they landed with on the ground, and twist their other foot around, so they are facing the other way with only one of the players feet moving off the ground.The footwork rule decides whether or not a player can receive a pass of the ball.


Substituting players can only be done at half time or when a player is injured. There is also no limit to the amount of player substitutions made in a game. You may start the match with 5 or 6 players however you can only add more players into the game until the next centre pass occurs.


The penalised player cannot stand near the player taking the penalty or move or attempt to take part in play until the ball has left the hands of the thrower. They player taking the penalty then has 3 seconds to take the penalty they are not allowed to perform a short pass and must follow the footwork rule.

netball hoop ring for shooting


There are quite a few rules involved with shooting so it can be pretty confusing but once people get the hang of it they win the game for their team. One of the most important rules is if a player takes a shot and it doesn’t hit the rim of the post they cannot retake that shot even if the ball falls back into their hands; however if it bounces off the post and they catch it they can shoot again and hopefully score! If a player has been awarded a penalty they have to stand at the penalty spot and have one chance to get the ball through the net. If they step forward from the spot then the penalty becomes invalid and doesn’t get to be taken again.Only the goal shooter and goal attacker are allowed to take part in shooting and scoring goals and these players must be inside the goal circle when they do so.

The three second rule

Once someone has passed the ball to a player, they have a certain amount of time to figure out which way to pass it. The player will need to pass the ball to a teammate. If a player is holding the ball for more than three seconds a throw into the opposite team is given.

netball coach checking time for practising netball tactics

Safety rules for equipment

While it’s important to have fun it’s also necessary to be safe, there are lots of things that can result in injury whilst playing netball so it’s important to follow the rules which will help everyone have a fun safe game! One of the first things people can do to ensure safety on the court is tie long hair up. It can get caught in anything and is in danger of getting ripped out. Girls should also take any jewellery off especially rings as a finger could swell and the ring would have to be cut off and any earrings could get ripped out which would be very painful. Another helpful thing is to wear the correct footwear! You can easily trip over so need to be wearing comfortable trainers with good grip.

What are the 7 netball positions?
There are seven positions in the game of Netball - these are listed below. Click on each one to find out exactly what they do and how they position themselves in the game.
Goal Keeper (GK) Goal Shooter (GS) Goal Attack (GA) Goal Defence (GD) Wing Attack (WA) Wing Defence (WD) Centre (C)

Where are the netball positions allowed to go?

Each position has a particular area of the court they are allowed to play in. This can be flexible, allowing for more fluid play, however some players cannot go into the 'Goal Circle' (the D shaped marking at either end of the court). The two Wings and the Centre are the three players not allowed in the goal circle. For more detailed information for each player - click the links above to be taken to that particular section.

group of netball players on a court

What is the most important position in netball?

Where Netball is a team sport, arguably each player is key to the game as a whole. Without the Goal Shooter or Goal Attack you would be unable to score any points. Without the Goal Defence the opposition could have a free run on the goal, and without the Centre and Wing players, there wuld be no connection or back up to pass the ball around the court.

The Goal Keeper
Plays in the last goal third of the court - they are mainly responsible for preventing the opposing teams Goal Shooter from scoring. They must catch any rebounds off the post to pass out to their team - usually the Centre, Goal or Wing Denfence. They are also responsible for taking throw-ins from the goal line

The Goal Shooter
Playing in their teams goal third - their main aim being to get the goal into the net to score points. Remaining in the attacking third, they must be able to react quickly and have accurate shooting skils. They are often the tallest player on the team.

Goal Attack
Just like the Goal Shooter, they play mainly in the attacking third of the court. They are there to set up goals for the Goal Shooter - or even score themselves. They can play across the centre third as well but aren't allowed in the defensive third. They must have keen passing skills as well as shooting skills, in situations where the Goal Shooter is being marked and can't get a clear shot on the goal.

Goal Defence
They are allowed in the centre third, the defensive third and oppositions goal circle 'D'. The defensive title says it all - they must prevent the opposition from scoring and pass the ball away out of a threatening position. The Goal Defense is tasked with marking teh other teams Goal Attack - being good at anticipating situations to prevent the ball from coming into play near their own goal.

Wing Attack
Wing Attack can play anywhere on court apart from their defensive third and goal circle. Their main job is the create opportunities for goals by passing the ball to the appropriate players in their goal third. They need to be fast on their feet to open up space and create opprtunities for passes to the players ready to score for their team.

Wing Defence
Playing in a defensive position, the Wing Defence needs to prevent the ball from entering the opposing teams goal third. They are not allowed into their goal third or circle and are there to prevent the other team from scoring. They need to stay close to the other teams Wing Attack - to stop them from making opportunities for their players to score goals. They must intercept any opposing teams attack moves and pass back to their own attacking players.

The Centre ha sthe run of the whole court. They only have to avoid the goal circles. They are there to help both attacking and denfensive sides - creating passes and intercepts to keep the ball travelling towards their own goal. The Centre is always repsonsible for starting play each time a goal is scored. They have to be very quick and alert, making sure the pass the ball quickly setting up a strong connection between all players on the court.

netball team having fun

What's the hardest position in netball?
Many would argue that the Centre will exert the most energy throughout a game. It is the key to moving the ball around the court. There has been extensive reserach into the roles on the court and you can see the finds of this below.

Deakin Universty carried out detailed research into the involvement of each player on the netball court and how each one uses energy throughout a game. esearcher Dr Dan Dwyer, from Deakin's School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences lead the research into the sport. He states that although the centre is traditionally seen as the one who will use the most energy and effort throught a game, their finding suggest it is not as simple as this. The goal-based positions were measured as, "uniquely demanding, with players expending a lot of energy without moving very far, through defending, guarding, jumping and passing."

The detailed research tracked an elite team; the Melbourne Vixens. This was during their premiership-winning Netball season. Accelerometers were attached to a pouch on each players waist. These were used to track their movements - side to side, up and down as well as backwards and forwards. These trackers were used in all games and one training session each week. You can see the findings in the table below:

Playing intensity Time spent in high intensity zone Time spent in low intensity zone
Goal Keeper 190 1% 69.6%
Goal Shooter 202 3.7% 69.1%
Goal Attack 262 2.7% 53.7%
Goal Defence 188 0% 68.4%
Wing Attack 282 4.6% 52.3%
Wing Defence 308 4.7% 45.9%
Centre 326 3.9% 41.6%

Overall game rules

Netball rules can be hard to remember but they ensure safety and result in lots of fun. Player’s positions determine where they play so rules differ depending on which position you are playing in. Knowing all these rules will help everyone enjoy playing netball.