Complete Netball Rules (A-Z) « Quick Overview

Netball is a very fun sport to partake in, but the rules can be extremely confusing for someone who’s never played. There’s no shortage of them, and they can oftentimes seem overwhelming when you’re playing or watching the game unfold.

What are the rules of Netball? The rules of Netball cover:

  • Court Size
  • Ball Type and Weight
  • Play Time of the Match
  • Positions found in Netball
  • The process of starting and restarting plays
  • Stepping (Footwork)
  • Contact
  • Scoring goals.

Below, we’ll break these rules down in-depth to help you gain a better understanding of how the game works if you’re a new player or a ref. 

By the end of the blog post you will be able to see how each rule affects each other, and why they are in place.

Rules Regarding the Court

You are able to play Netball on a hard of soft-bodied court. These will come with hoops or rings for you to score on at both ends. 

It measures out to 30.5 feet, which makes it longer than your standard basketball court and wider with its width being 15 meters. The court is divided into two sections by a transverse line that separates the teams.

The court is also divided into thirds, and it determines the movements of the positions found in them. 

There are three circles on the court, one that is dead center, and the other two acting as the scoring areas for the teams. The goals will be 10ft off the ground, and you won’t find any sort of backboards to aide you in scoring.

Rules of the Ball Size

The ball must be made with either leather or rubber, but other materials that are similar are allowed to be used. The ball has to be anywhere between 27 to 28 inches in circumference, and it can’t weigh any more than 16.0z.

Playtime of the Match

Netball is a game with four quarters, each lasting up to 15 minutes. 3-minute intervals are set between the first and last two-quarters of the game, with a 5-minute interval at halftime.

The timer is stopped anytime an umpire commands it. The timer is only restarted after the game begins again.

There is a 2-minute time slot allocated for injuries that occur in the game. Overtime eliminations are common, and they see two periods of consistent play in a 7-minute timeline. 

If the two teams are tied after the elimination round, then the team who is able to score two points first will win the match.


The positions act as the main confusing topic of the game, with the court set up determining who goes where and how they are able to progress forward. 

There are seven positions in play throughout the game. These include:

  • Goal Shooter– The main purpose of this position is to score points with the aid of the Goal Attacker to maneuver into the shooting circles. They are able to receive help from any players in the middle.
  • Goal Attacker– This position is going to be defended against by the opposing goalie, as will its positional partner, the Goal Shooter. The main focus for this position is to set up the offensive player for the shooter.
  • Centre– This position will help with defensive and offensive plays, and they are responsible for restarting the game after the timer starts up again. This position is quite active and requires the player to be physically fit.
  • Wing Attack– The rival for this position will be the Wing Defense. The Wing Attacker’s focus should be moving the ball from the center and helping the Goal Attacker set up offensive plays. Bounce passing and drop passing are essential techniques for this role to learn.
  • Wing Defense– This position’s primary goal is to deny any offensive plays from the opposing team. They may also be called to defend against the Goal Shooter and Attacker by prohibiting them to enter the attack circle.
  • Goalkeeper– The main responsibility for this position is to deny any last offensive players the ability to score. They will also throw the ball back into the court. Hand-eye coordination is heavily stressed in this position.

Starting & Restarting

The ball is put in play at the center every time a goal is scored. Passes will often alternate between the two teams regardless if they scored the last round, or how many points they have currently. 

The pass can only come from a center player, and they have to have at least one foot in the inner circle before making the play.

Only two center players are allowed in the middle when the game restarts. 

Once the umpire gives the signal by blowing his whistle, both offensive and defensive teams are allowed to move to receive the pass. The ball has to see contact in the third section for the play to be legal. This is the so-called over a third rule.

If a ball goes out of bounds, then a member of the team that didn’t touch it last can retrieve it for the team and throw it in play.

Check out this article to know more about the over a third rule.


This game strategy revolves around passing and using the right one for certain situations. There are quite a bit of passes involved in this game, with the total number adding up to 11 different ways to get the ball from center to center.

  • Two-Handed Pass– This pass is made by holding the ball at chest level and is accurate when throwing to a player that is already in motion in both short and long-range. Because of the height, it is also referred to as the Chest pass.
  • The Bounce Pass– Holding the ball at hip height is ideal for this pass since it will bounce off the floor, and it requires the player to step forward to do it properly. This is mainly used to move the ball around the opponent and is often a wise move for those that are under pressure from the opposing team.
  • The Lob Pass– These passes are often seen high up in the air. The arch of the ball when it falls has to be accurate enough to land near the teammate. The drop pass has similarities with this pass, such as. The problem that arises with this pass is placed on the receiver who will be trying to get away from the defense. Both passes are used to get the ball away from the defensive players and set up offensive strikes.
  • The Side Pass– This pass will be shot straight-forward from the player’s side. It is a two-handed pass that becomes convenient when short and quick solutions have to be made.
  • The Bullet Pass– This is a one-handed pass that is shot straight forward in front of the player. It works well with getting the ball to a nearby teammate that isn’t moving.
  • The Underarm Pass– Another one-handed pass that is mainly used as a last resort when there is too much pressure from the opposing team. This is often seen as surprise pass for the offense.
  • The Overhead Pass– A two-handed pass that is commonly used to get the ball on the opposing teams attacking circle. It can be passed much like a shoulder-pass but is done so overhead.
  • The One-Shoulder Side Pass– The player will shoot the ball forward from their preferred shoulder. It is used to throw the ball at a great distance with a good amount of force behind it.
  • The Center Pass– The only player allowed to do this is the center, and it is used to start and restart the game.
  • Short Pass– This is a style where the player lobs or bounces the ball to another teammate at a short distance.
  • Penalty Pass– This is only used when a penalty has been called into effect and will be passed from the sideline.

Each of these passing styles offers different advantages and disadvantages over the others depending on the situation that the player finds themselves in. 

Certain positions should master certain passing styles to be able to play their roles as effectively as possible (i.e, a center must be skilled with center passes for the ball to land in the teammate’s hands).

Stepping and Footwork

Stepping can be a very hard topic to understand in this game. The rules are extremely strict when dealing with any form of movement, and this includes the passes we mentioned above. 

If you set a foot down in this game, then the landing foot is not able to be lifted again if you have possession of the ball. However, pivoting does not count as a step.

If the landing foot is lifted, then players are encouraged to balance on the other foot. When a player breaks this rule, it is known as travelling. 

The only legal way to move the ball forward is to pass it along to a teammate, and it cannot be held for more than three seconds at a time.

Another common error with stepping is a term known as a “Replay” ball. This is when the ball is caught and dropped to the ground before being picked up again. 

The person who decides the duration of the replay ball is the umpire, who is also responsible for making sure the players are constantly in motion throughout the game.


Contact is typically allowed in this game unless it is prohibiting the opposing player from making any sort of play. 

Contact isn’t that common, seeing how the players have to be at least three feet away from each other at all times. A penalty will follow after any contact made that is not between the player and the ball.

When a penalty pass is called, the player who was fouled will be able to throw the ball back into the court for play. 

The player who initiated the contact will be forced to stay on the sidelines for the remainder of the penalty pass.

Rules Regarding Scoring

There are only two positions on both teams that are allowed to score directly. These are the Goal Shooters and Goal Attackers. 

The offensive shot must be made from within the semicircle that designates the scoring areas for both teams. The three-foot separation rule can see many obstruction penalties if the defensive team gets too close to the offensive.

In the case of an Obstruction penalty, the Goal Defender or Keeper is forced to stand to the side of the obstructed player, and they are not allowed back into play until the ball has been thrown. 

It does not matter if the ball has gone through any of the hoops when this pass is made. If it is not a shot made from the designated offense players, then the shot is not valid.

This is where the rules of scoring become a bit tricky, as there are many technicalities that can qualify as a penalty shot. These can include

  • Interacting with the scoring post
  • Illegal stepping
  • Being offsides

To make things a notch more difficult, the Goal Attacker nor the Goal Shooter is allowed to participate in a free pass if it is placed for any of the three penalties above. 

This helps lessen the offensive player’s advantages against those who are unable to score as easily.

It is not uncommon at all for a player to miss a shot, whether it is one they made or one they are planning to receive. 

If it is missed, it still qualifies as a replay ball which gives the opposing team a free pass to further the ball down the court.

This also covers how the goal defense and keepers can act. If the ball is deflected into the goal after hitting them, then the goal is seen as invalid, and the current play will continue.

By now, the rules of the game should start to fit in similar to a puzzle piece. You know the penalty shots and what will cause them, as well as how the positions are allowed to move and how they are required to for the passes and shots to be valid.

Where Did the Rules Come From?

Netball has seen its fair share of rule revisions in its lifetime, and they all happen decades after each other. 

This means that the rules enforced in netball today are drastically different than the rules it had when it was first created.

Where did these rules come from? Martina Bergman-Orsterberg originally designed the game in 1893 as a basketball variated game geared more towards females. This version was introduced at the college of Hampstead Physical Training in London.

The rules she set were later modified by the college over the years, with them being popular among the students. 

In this article we explain the origin of netball, which is directly related to basketball.

In 1897, another set of revisions were created by an American teacher known as Miss Porter. Porter was the first to integrate more basketball rules into the game.

She made changes regarding the court structure and where the line placements should be, as well as finding ways to make the game suitable for outdoors. 

It took until 1960 for the rules of the game to see a more internationally standardized structure, where a committee was placed to oversee the game and any new changes.

The committee is now known as the International Netball Federation or INF. The ball company recommended by this federation is Gilbert, who has since provided the federation with balls to compete with across all levels of the sport.

Hi, I'm Simon, and I am passionate about "other sports".

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