Dana Johannsen

Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Netball: Fastnet's rules are put to test on courts

The World series in Auckland this November will be a showcase for a new version. Photo / Getty Images
The World series in Auckland this November will be a showcase for a new version. Photo / Getty Images

Netball bosses are revamping the fastnet rules as they look to broaden the appeal of the shortened version of the game.

The reworked rules will be unveiled at the next Fastnet World Series in Auckland this year, where the new form of the game will be effectively relaunched.

Since its introduction in 2009, fastnet has struggled to gain a foothold with fans.

But international netball officials are hoping some radical rule changes and bringing the tournament to the Southern Hemisphere, where the sport has a greater following, will help create a strong platform to grow the game globally.

One of the main criticisms of the fastnet rules is that they don't differ enough from the original game.

The teams that have won the previous tournaments have done so without really embracing the new set of rules, playing a safe, possession-type game.

It is hoped new rules will force teams to rethink their traditional game plan and allow a different type of player to excel.

Netball New Zealand chief executive Raelene Castle said cutting down the number of players on court would lend itself to a new breed of player with less emphasis on height and more on smaller, quicker and more agile athletes.

"It means that actually you have to look at having more multi-functional players. Some of the rule changes and with the constant subbing and style, I think they will force selection changes," said Castle.

"It will provide an opportunity for a different style of player to make their name."

Castle and several other New Zealand netball officials got their first look at the new rules in action this week at a trial match in Waitakere.

Several different rule variations were trialled by members of Baytex club, with some innovations proving more successful than others. One rule that allowed the goal keeps and goal shoots into the centre third was particularly polarising - "I don't like that, it just looks ugly," remarked an onlooker.

The new rules are also being trialled in a similar format in Australia and England, with each country to present their final recommendations at IFNA's June board meeting.

Castle said the international body recognised that if fastnet was to survive, it needed to create a product that was significantly different from the original form of the game and would draw in new fans.

"At the international level we want it to become a commercial product, which players like playing, fans like coming to watch and television likes broadcasting. But it can also translate into a product the club netballer can play and the social netballer can have a chance to get involved in," said Castle.

The 2012 World Fastnet Series will be held at Auckland's Vector Arena from November 9-11.

Key rule changes

* The number of players on court will be reduced to five on each team, doing away with the wing defence and wing attack positions.

* Up to three different scoring zones inside and outside the shooting circle will be created, each carrying different points.

* Teams must nominate their powerplay quarter (where their score for the period is doubled) before the start of each match, with a coin toss deciding who gets first selection.

- NZ Herald

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