Dana Johannsen

Dana Johannsen is a NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Netball: World Series puts Fast5 to the test

Short form of netball needs to win fans.

Netballers Mwai Kumwenda (Malawi), Laura Langman (NZ), Joanne Harten (UK), Nadine Bryan (Jamaica), Alissa Macleod (Aust), Simi Mdaka (SA), Eboni Beckford-Chambers (UK) and Joanna Kachilika (Malawi).  Photo / Dean Purcell
Netballers Mwai Kumwenda (Malawi), Laura Langman (NZ), Joanne Harten (UK), Nadine Bryan (Jamaica), Alissa Macleod (Aust), Simi Mdaka (SA), Eboni Beckford-Chambers (UK) and Joanna Kachilika (Malawi). Photo / Dean Purcell

The future of netball's Fast5 concept may rest on the success of this weekend's World Series in Auckland.

Version 2.0 of the shortened form of the game, now rebranded "Fast5", will be unveiled on Friday, the tournament's opening day.

The coaches and captains from the six competing teams - New Zealand, Australia, England, Jamaica, Malawi and South Africa - appeared yesterday to sell the new format at a media launch. But it will be the action on court that will really do the talking.

Introduced in 2009, Fastnet, as it was originally known, has struggled to take off with fans in its first three years. But the International Netball Federation (INF) hopes radical rule changes and bringing the tournament to New Zealand, where the sport has a greater following, will help create a strong platform for global growth.

Netball New Zealand (NNZ) is throwing all its resources at creating an exciting entertainment package. Given the sport's profile in this country and the greater commercial support, there is a sense that if NNZ can't make a go of it, nobody can.

Chief executive Raelene Castle admits there is a lot of pressure on NNZ to succeed.

"We desperately want this event to be successful because we want New Zealand to adopt it - we've got a chance to own it, really," she said.

With the sport's bigwigs in town for the inaugural Fast5 event, the board of the INF will be meeting in Auckland this week. Among the key points on the agenda will be the future of the shortened version of the game.

The original vision was for it to eventually grow into a series of tournaments - much like the rugby sevens circuit. But while this may be achievable for bigger countries such as Australia, New Zealand and England, the less-developed netball nations lack the depth and resources to run separate programmes.

"It's about making sure we get that balance right so we don't cannibalise our traditional product, but we attract new players, new age-groups, new fans and potentially new commercial dollars," said Castle.

It is hoped new Fast5 rules will force teams to rethink their traditional game plan. As the name suggests, teams have been cut down to five, doing away with the wing attack and wing defence positions.

New scoring zones have been introduced, with one point awarded for the inner circle, two for long-range shots inside the circle, and three points for shots taken from outside the circle.

Fast5 World Series

Friday-Sunday
Vector Arena, Auckland
Competing teams:
New Zealand, Australia, England, Jamaica, Malawi, South Africa.

- NZ Herald

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