Netball is one of our most popular sports, and as a mainstay in New Zealand schools, netball is an easy sport for children to get involved in.

What is Netball?

Netball is regarded as New Zealand’s premier sport for girls and women. It is one of the country’s top sports, with more than 120,000 registered members and many more players who are involved socially. Over the last ten years netball — especially indoor netball – has become increasingly popular with men who have found it to be an exciting and competitive sport, with social advantages. Spectators enjoy the fact that it is an action-packed, fast and exciting game.

Netball originally evolved as an offshoot of basketball during the late 1800s. It was called “outdoor basketball” and was played on a paddock with 9 players aside. In 1958 it was unanimously decided that New Zealand Netball should adopt the International Rules, which meant that we changed to a game of seven players instead of nine. The first netball season began in 1961 with NZ becoming world champions in 1967 at the second world championship tournament. International netball is now played in approximately 50 countries.

Today, Netball is a non-contact ball sport played predominantly by females in two teams of 7 players.

It is played on a court made up of three zones (or thirds). The two end zones have a goal circle with a goal post on each baseline, with the centre third zone having a small circle in the middle. Each player is allocated zones or areas that determine where they can, or can’t, move.

The aim of the game is to pass a ball between team members and score a goal, while the opposition attempts to prevent this from happening and aims to gain possession of the ball. When a player is in possession of the ball they cannot run with it. Players have three seconds in which to pass the ball or shoot for goal. Only Goal Shoot and Goal Attack can shoot, and they must be within the goal circle.

There are a range of positions on court and each has its particular requirements, such as Centre (C), Goal Shoot (GS) and Goal Defense (GD). This means that netball can cater for players with different skill sets and body types.

Netball is an excellent game for developing teamwork as no one player can “win” a game – it requires the whole team to work together. It is a fast game requiring stamina, speed, agility and good hand-eye co-ordination.

Where do you play Netball?

You can play Netball at school or in clubs. Player numbers indicate that Netball is the most popular sport in secondary schools. It is also played at primary schools and at Netball clubs located throughout New Zealand.

What age can your child start Netball?

The youngest age to start playing is five, although in some rural areas players have begun earlier to ensure there are enough players for a team to take the court!

Many players begin at about eight years of age. However, it is possible to start playing netball at any age: the oldest players are often well into their 50s with some participating in regular competitions or Masters’ games.

How do you progress over time?

Netball NZ has developed a strong, coordinated programme for junior netball.

Youngsters of 5 -7 years begin as Fun Ferns, while Future Ferns caters for eight to 10 year olds initially, then for Years 7 & 8, and on through to secondary school. Teenagers can then progress to club play.

Netball is great, in that it allows both girls and boys to take part at the junior level. Fun Ferns provides the opportunity to learn movement and ball skills, whilst Future Ferns enables players to fine tune their skills before moving into the competitive game environment.

At representative level teams often start at the age of 10, and are followed by U15, U17, U19 and U21 age group teams. Following this are regional teams and then franchise teams in competitions like The National Bank Cup. At NZ level there is a NZ secondary school team, Under 21, NZ “A” and ultimately the Silver Ferns to aspire to.

What gear do you need to play Netball?

To play the game you need a netball (size 4 or 5), a court, two sets of goal posts, and two sets of bibs to identify playing positions. Each player needs a pair of good sports shoes for court play – running shoes are not recommended as they are not designed for side-to-side movement.

Teams usually play in skirts and tops or dresses and this depends on team preference. Clubs and schools usually provide at least the skirt and sometimes the top or dress. A tracksuit and additional clothing is sometimes provided as well.

How much does Netball cost?

Each club or school sets its own subs so the amount varies across the country. In addition, the amount of clothing and equipment that is being provided is a determining factor on fees. However, as a guideline: it will cost about $30 per player at primary school level; $50 to $60 for secondary school players; and up to $150 or more for senior club players.

How much time does Netball take to learn?

At primary level, teams usually practice once a week and play once a week. At higher levels it is normal to practice twice a week – these teams may also play two games a week.

The games are between 40 and 60 minutes long, so allow at least 75 minutes including a warm-up and cooling down period. Practices can be between one and two hours at a time.

Netball is traditionally a winter sport. The netball season usually starts at the beginning of term 2 and finishes by the end of term 3.

One of the great advantages for kids playing netball is that most NZ families have a mum, nanna, aunty or sister who have played it before, and are happy to provide advice and encouragement!

Great Netball Websites

This is the website for Netball New Zealand and is the best place to find information on this sport. It covers rules, news, history, and follows the fortunes of the Silver Ferns. You will also find links to other useful netball sites, as well as resources for young players.


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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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