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Why Netball is Underrated

By Kate Geraghty, BA Global Development

Any person who has played netball will be used to the frequent, somewhat patronising, insults that netball ‘isn’t a sport’ or at most is just a lesser version of basketball. After all, if you can’t move with the ball, hold the ball for more than three seconds, contact the opposition players or be within one metre of said opposition players, then what fitness or special skills are even required? 

These common misconceptions have led to a sadly unappreciative attitude to this sport even though over 20 million netballers play across 80 countries, according to Come to Play. I’m here to dispel that belief and prove that netball is a competitive, fast-paced, and intense team sport requiring immense skill and stamina. The 2022-23 SOAS Netball Team is proof of that. 

Firstly, the aim of netball is to score as many goals as possible by getting the ball through a small ring on the opposing team’s three-metre-high post. Differently to basketball, once a player has received the ball and planted their feet, they cannot move. You may only hold onto the ball for a maximum of three seconds and there are specific areas that players can or cannot enter depending on their position. Netball is a non-contact sport (more on that later, and if you are defending a player with the ball, you cannot be within one metre of them. 

“There is no room for mistakes; you must be smart and tactical with every run and pass you make.”

You may be thinking that these rules make netball quite restrictive, but that is exactly what makes it so exciting. There is no room for mistakes; you must be smart and tactical with every run and pass you make. The pressure of a ticking down three seconds means every player must be on their toes, ready to offer. There is constant off-the-ball movement from all players in a netball match, something quite different to other sports. Watch any SOAS BUCS match and you will see our centre, Alina Malik, darting across the court endlessly, never taking a break. 

Now onto the no-contact rule. Technically speaking, netball is a ‘fair contact sport’ meaning that two players may contact each other if both are contesting for the ball and neither is disadvantaged by the other. However, in reality, netball is anything but a non-contact sport. There is constant contact and physicality between players, both when contesting for the ball and off the ball. Players will try to block drives, hold opposition players in a specific place and push them away from their goal in addition to intercepting balls. All this requires a degree of contact. Just ask any SOAS netball player at Sports Night and they will proudly show their share of bruises and cuts from the match. 

The contact rule leads nicely into the obstruction rule. If an opposition player has the ball, you can mark that player and defend the ball. However, before you put your hands up and over the ball, your feet must be one metre away from the opposing player, thus hindering your ability to defend. But you would never think that watching our president, Nabila Williams, whose long stretch and lightning-speed reflexes mean she routinely leaps in the air and intercepts the ball the very moment it leaves the hands of the opposition player. 

These contact and obstruction rules, although making it harder to defend, prove the tactical superiority of Netball over other sports. Our defenders must be constantly aware of their positioning to not give away penalties and work around the contact restrictions to be able to block players and intercept balls. Just watch Ricky Rodenas who whips around players and intercepts the ball without them even knowing, like a lion going in for the attack. Smart stuff.

I hope I have made you more appreciative of this great sport! The SOAS netball society is very special this year and we’re having a phenomenal season. Having been promoted to British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) for the first time since 2019, our BUCS team have gone straight into the season with flying colours, winning against Imperial and UCL. Our London Universities Sport League (LUSL) team is having an equally smashing season, beating LSE in a closely-fought plate match. Off the court, we have also been growing closer as a team with frequent outings after matches to the closest bars as well as an exclusive ((BOUNCE)) trampoline fitness session and an end-of-term celebration meal. 

SOAS Netball is a great community of people who come together to train and play competitively and socially. If you think you’d like to join in, come along to one of our training sessions from 5-7 pm on Mondays and Wednesdays at Highbury Fields Netball Courts or message us on our Instagram: @soasnetball. If you feel like supporting us at matches then look out for news on our socials. Anyone is welcome!

Photo Caption: BUCS team after their win against UCL (Credit: SOAS Netball Team).

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