Fast5: The Future of Netball?

Many Girls playing netball

Posted: 30. 01. 2017

by energetic

In an attempt to make the game of netball more global and easily viewable all across the world, the IFNA (International Federation of Netball Associations) decided to develop a new game with altered rules.  This game would be easier to watch because it was shorter in length and more points could be scored due to the fact that scoring was more similar to basketball.  One of the ultimate goals of this was to try and get netball into the Olympics.  There was also some hope that this version of the game would catch on in the United States, which would have helped increase interest in a huge way – unfortunately it hasn’t yet.


The new version of netball became known as “fastnet” by many, but the official name would end up morphing into “Fast5.”  The first Fast5 competition invited the top six teams in the world rankings to play in the new format.  The games would be played over the course of three days, as the new format would make it possible to play much more frequently than in the past.  Each team played one another once in the group stage in a round-robin style format, and the top four advanced to have a chance in a straight knockout playoff.  The remaining sides continued to play off for third and fifth respectively. This format continues today, and is one of the most anticipated events on the world netball calendar.


To go further, the game’s rules are also completely different to traditional netball.  Each team only has five players (instead of seven) on the court at a time.  Each quarter is six minutes long, which is 60% shorter than normal quarters, which are fifteen minutes long.  One of the things that makes some people a little concerned is the “power play” quarter.  Each team can choose a quarter in which they will receive double points for each basket scored.  Another difference is that goals can be scored from outside the shooting circle.  Depending on the location, a team can receive two or three points for a shot from outside the circle.  In your power play quarter, you could receive six points for one basket!  And lastly, tied matches are determined with a penalty shootout type of system which is similar to soccer.


One of the comparisons that the new game got straight away was to rugby.  Rugby has done a similar thing very successfully with their new Rugby Sevens game.  In fact, Rugby Sevens is now included in the Olympics.  The first time this occurred was just last year in the 2016 games in Rio.  What rugby sevens has done is bring a much faster style to the game that people knew and loved all around the globe.  Netball is hoping to do the same, and they are hoping to have the same results that rugby has had.


So, is the new version the right way to go?  For many people the answer is a resounding no.  Some players, coaches, and fans alike believe the game is too close to basketball.  This is something that is a concern for many because it’s just never going to be basketball.  If it was, then what would be the point of playing netball?  That is the exact argument being made by many, but others believe that the game has to do anything it can to become more popular.


Another concern is the fact that the power play quarter exists.  This idea is something that is not seen in most parts of the world.  The idea of scoring goals or points and making them worth double their intended score for one certain period just seems contrived.  Is it truly determining the best team if they are allowed to go down and score two six point baskets to erase a large deficit in no time?  While it would no doubt take some skill to make the baskets, it just seems like an easy way out that doesn’t really result in the best team always winning.


The only example of something like this working is in America with the three-point shot in basketball.  Basketball has done very well with this addition since the 1980s, but they don’t allow you to stack up double points in a certain quarter.  It all just seems like it is being done to try and force the world into loving netball.


In reality, netball is never likely to catch on in the rest of the world.  There may be parts of the world where it does gain popularity, but generally it is going to be a sport played in the places that it always has been – the Commonwealth nations.  The argument should be – and really has to be – that the game must be preserved for those nations.  If it becomes too dissimilar to what it originally was, then it will essentially be benefiting no one.  If it doesn’t catch on elsewhere, but alienates the people who enjoy it now, then it will be in a far worse way than it currently is!