Rules of Netball2020-01-30T20:46:51+00:00
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Rules of Netball

The following is an overview of the rules of the game of netball as outlined in the Official Netball Rules, published by the International Federation of Netball Associations (IFNA).

It’s not possible to include all the rules of the game in this section. There are so many that every netball player learns a new rule every once in a while, no matter how long they’ve been playing! The aim is to provide you with a basic understanding of the rules to be able to play the game safely and enjoyably. Please use this section as a reference to answer any questions you may have about umpiring decisions. If you’re still not sure, please ask!

Copies of the rule book can be obtained from England Netball.

Throw in2015-04-16T10:25:56+01:00

A throw in is taken from the point where the ball went off the court. It is out of court when it contacts anything outside of the court area (except the goalpost).

When taking a throw in, a player places their foot up to, but not touching, the sideline or baseline of the court. The lines are part of the court. If any part of your foot is touching the line, or you step onto the court in the process of taking the throw in, this is deemed to be a foul throw. This includes walking on the court to pass the ball to another player if you decide that they should take the throw in. In this instance, you should leave the ball on the floor outside the court for the player to then pick up.

You have 3 seconds from when you take up your position at the side of the court in which to throw the ball. You must also wait until all players are back on the court before taking the throw in. A player must not step behind any offside area whilst still in possession of the ball.

If any of the above occurs, the opposing team will be awarded a throw in.


Only the GS and GA are able to score goals for your team.  If any other player on your team throws the ball and it goes through the net, play continues!  The GS and GA must be wholly inside the goal circle to shoot.

Obstruction of a player not in possession of the ball2015-04-16T09:56:27+01:00

Your arms may be outstretched when you are a marking a player off the ball if you are trying to:

  • catch, deflect or intercept a pass
  • obtain a rebound from an unsuccessful shot at goal
  • momentarily signal for a pass or indicate the intended direction of movement

Under any other circumstances outstretched arms when marking a player will be classed as obstruction and the offending player will be penalised.


A player is able to receive the ball:

  • With both feet grounded or by jumping to catch the ball and landing on two feet simultaneously. They may then take a step in any direction with one foot (but not both) and pivot on the spot with the other foot. Once one foot is moved, the other is considered to be the landing foot.
  • With one foot grounded or by jumping to catch the ball and landing on one foot. The landing foot cannot be moved, other than to pivot on the spot, whilst the other foot can be moved in any direction. Once the landing foot is lifted, it must not be re-grounded until the ball is released.

A player is not able to hop or to drag the landing foot.
The footwork rule still applies on the centre pass. As soon as the Centre steps into the circle, their leading leg becomes their landing foot and the footwork rule then applies. That is, if they lift or move their landing foot and place it back down again, a free pass will be awarded to the opposing team due to footwork.

Any violations of the footwork rule will lead to a free pass being awarded for the opposing team.

Offside rule2015-04-16T09:43:51+01:00

A player, with or without the ball, cannot move into an area of the court that is not designated for their position.  This will result in a free pass being awarded to the opposing team.

Starting the game – centre pass2015-04-16T09:39:52+01:00

The first centre pass is awarded to the first team ready on court. The centre passes then alternate between the teams, regardless of which team has scored.

Before the whistle on the centre pass, all players must start in the goal thirds except the two Centres. The Centre with the ball must be completely within the centre circle and must obey the footwork rule after the whistle has been blown.

The opposing Centre can stand anywhere within the centre third and is able to move freely.  However the 3 feet rule is still applicable.

After the whistle the centre pass must be caught, or touched, by a player standing in or landing wholly within the centre third.

A player must not break at the centre pass, which is moving either of their feet into the centre third before the whistle is blown for the centre pass.

Players must get onside (in the appropriate part of the court) quickly at the centre pass. The Centre with the ball must hurry back to the centre circle and step-in immediately. If they wait for their players to get back onside, this is called “delaying play”.

Should any of the infringements above occur, a free pass is awarded to the opposing team.


Substitutions can only be made at the end of each quarter. The exception to this is if a player is injured during the game, in which case a replacement can be brought on as soon as there is a stoppage in play. There is no limit to the number of substitutions that a team can make.

If you start a match with less than 7 players and more members of your team arrive after the game has started, they must wait until the next centre pass before being allowed to join the game.

The team2015-04-15T18:58:10+01:00

Each team consists of 7 players.  There must be at least 5 players, including one as Centre, to allow the fixture to go ahead.

There are seven playing positions in a team:

  1. Goal Shooter (GS):     To score goals and to work in and around the circle with the GA
  2. Goal Attack (GA):       To feed the GS and also be a secondary scoring option
  3. Wing Attack (WA):     To feed the circle attackers and give them shooting opportunities
  4. Centre (C):                    To take the centre pass and to link the defence and the attack
  5. Wing Defence (WD):  To look for interceptions and prevent the WA from feeding the circle
  6. Goal Defence (GD):    To win the ball and reduce the effectiveness of the GA/GS
  7. Goal Keeper (GK):      To work with the GD in preventing the GA/GS from scoring
Replayed ball2015-04-16T10:36:27+01:00

A player may not replay the ball, which means they are not able to:

  • lose control of the ball and pick it up again if it has not been touched by another player
  • catch a rebound from their own shot on goal if the ball has not touched the goalpost or another player
  • toss the ball into the air and catch it again without it being touched by another player.
Over a Third2015-04-16T10:43:29+01:00

The ball cannot be thrown over a complete third of the court without being touched or caught by a player on either team (i.e. it cannot cross two transverse lines).

A free pass will be awarded and taken from the area where the ball crossed the second transverse line, should this infringement occur (i.e. where the ball shouldn’t have been).

Short Pass2015-04-16T10:49:36+01:00

At the moment the ball is passed there must be room for a third player to move between the hands of the thrower and those of the receiver.  This rule also applies when taking a throw in.


“No player may contact an opponent, either accidentally or deliberately, in such a way that interferes with the play of that opponent or causes contact to occur.”

Therefore players are not able to:

  • Move into the path of an opponent who’s committed to a particular landing space
  • Position so closely to an opponent that the player is unable to move without contacting (this refers to when a player is being double marked, usually a shooter).
  • Push, trip, hold or lean on an opponent or use other forms of physical contact.
  • Place a hand or hands on a ball held by an opponent or knock or remove the ball from possession of an opponent
  • While holding the ball, push it into the hands of an opponent.


The umpire’s role is to watch the game and determine which player is “causing contact to occur”. The umpire is there to judge whether it’s the attacker or defender who is committed to a particular space on court and therefore which player is causing contact to occur.

The umpire will inform the teams who the penalty was against and that a penalty pass/shot has been awarded.

The umpire swill stand at the position at the side of the court where they want the penalty to be taken from. If you’re ever unsure where to take the penalty from, you need to look at the positioning of the umpire for guidance. Failure to set the penalty correctly in this way will result in a reversal of the penalty and a free pass to the opposing team.

A lot of contact disrupts the flow of the game. It also puts your team at a tactical disadvantage because when a player is taken out of play on a penalty, they are not able to contribute to the team’s defence, either physically or verbally. It’s far better to pull out of a challenge if you think you’re going to contact the player and concentrate on defending the next pass instead.

Taking free passes and penalties2015-04-16T11:06:12+01:00

You have 3 seconds from setting the free pass/penalty in which to take it. If you decide that you would prefer another player to take the free pass/penalty, you must place the ball back on the floor.

Do not walk towards a team-mate to pass it to them, as you will be penalised for footwork. Similarly, if you hand it to them, you will be penalised for a short pass.

Any player on the team the penalty was awarded to may take the free pass/penalty, as long as the offside rule is still observed.

Penalties against a player2015-04-16T11:07:07+01:00

“The penalised player must stand beside and away from the player taking the penalty so as not to impede this player in any way.

The penalised player may not move or attempt to take part in play either physically or verbally until the ball has left the hands of the thrower.”


A player attempting to intercept or defend the ball must be at least 3ft (0.9m) away from the landing foot of the player with the ball. The defender may jump to intercept or defend the ball from this 0.9m (3ft) feet distance, but they must ensure that they don’t shorten that distance, either by jumping and landing within 3ft and then continuing to defend the ball, or by moving their foot within 3ft of the opposing player, whilst continuing to defend the ball.

Should a player be obstructed as described above, a penalty pass will be awarded against the offending player.

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