Netball: Innovations sure to raise eyebrows

By Dana Johannsen

The new rules for the World Netball Series in England later this year have finally been revealed with a number of innovations likely to raise eyebrows.

The tournament, which has been billed as netball's version of Twenty20 cricket, will be in Manchester from October 9-11, and will feature the top six nations in the world: Australia, New Zealand, England, Jamaica, Samoa and Malawi.

Among the raft of new rules introduced for the series are rolling substitutions, shooting from outside the circle and "power plays".

The new rules are likely to draw the ire of netball purists, and Netball New Zealand chief executive Raelene Castle admits the format may not be for everyone, but she believes the series will also attract new fans.

"Some people may not like the changes to the rules, but I think like Twenty20, what will happen is we will attract new audiences, so different people who have less time in their day to sit down and be engaged or get involved and want to just see a short, sharp version of the game," she said.

Australian netball coach Norma Plummer has already expressed reservations over some of the changes when the proposed rules were made public late last year.

Castle said she had discussed the rules with Silver Ferns coach Ruth Aitken and likewise there were some innovations they did not agree with.

"In the main we're comfortable with the rules, there's probably only one rule we're less comfortable with, which is the two-point shooting outside of the circle, but that will also bring a level of excitement to the game that we haven't seen before."

The new rules and format were trialled in England netball using their junior and senior squads for 12 months, and a DVD was sent out to all the competing nations for consultations.

There are plans to make the World Netball Series an annual event, but Castle said that would depend on being able to continue to secure funding. The Manchester City Council and UK Sport have stumped up the money for this year's tournament.

"Basically their underwriting of the tournament has turned the dream into reality."

New rules

* Matches will be 4 x 6 minutes with 3 x 2 minute breaks.
* Seven players on court, five on the bench.
* Rolling substitutions i.e. no stoppages with an unlimited number of substitutions per team allowed per quarter.
* After a goal is scored, the game restarts from the centre in favour of the team conceding.
* Alternative centre passes at the beginning of the second, third and fourth quarter.
* There is no whistle after a goal is scored.
* Coaches will be allowed to coach from the sideline, but only in front of their bench.
* Each team will elect one quarter as a power play when any goals they score will be doubled.
* Shooters may shoot from outside of the circle, all successful goals will be worth double. In a power play this could escalate to four goals.
* The umpire will signal by raising one hand for one goal and two hands for two goals.

- NZ Herald

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