Umpires are putting the biff into netball

Natalie Medhurst Roar Rookie

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    NSW Swifts' Catherine Cox in action during the 2008 Netball Finals Series between the NSW Swifts and Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic in Sydney, Monday, July 28, 2008. The Swifts won 65-56. AAP Image/Jenny Evans

    NSW Swifts' Catherine Cox in action during the 2008 Netball Finals Series between the NSW Swifts and Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic in Sydney, Monday, July 28, 2008. The Swifts won 65-56. AAP Image/Jenny Evans

    After two weeks of the ANZ Championship, two Australian teams – Melbourne Vixens and the Adelaide Thunderbirds, as well as the New Zealand’s Waikato Magic – remain undefeated and the competition so far has not been disappointing.

    The first two rounds have given new and long time spectators a glimpse of the the skills and speed of the world’s top netballers and the increased level of ball contesting and contact that is allowed in the game.

    Since the beginning, netball has always been known as a ‘non-contact’ sport. Well, in today’s form of the game, that could not be further from the truth.

    Whilst other sports such as AFL and rugby are trying to reduce the level of contact and contest that occurs on the field, much to the dismay of spectators, netball appears to be taking a different approach and allowing more of it.

    Over the past couple of years, netball umpires are allowing for a far greater contest of the ball, even if it does result in a few bodies flying across the floor boards. As a result of the umpires reducing the need to stick their whistles in their mouths every few seconds and stand players “out of play”, the game has become far more appealing, interesting and exciting to watch.

    Whilst many may argue that it is the players who are getting rough and physical, at the end of the day, the players play to the umpires and what they will and will not tolerate on the court.

    However, with this increased physical nature, umpires need to ensure that they continue to keep on top of the player’s safety and that the physicality does not get out of hand. We don’t want netball going down the path of other sporting codes and having players ending up in brawls on court.

    But nor do we want our sport to have a reputation for being soft and weak.

    Whilst a particular football code has their players rolling around on the ground when they get breathed on, all in the name of getting a free kick, this new netball competition should continue to encourage the contests between players that we are currently seeing on court and interest those spectators who like to see a little bit of so-called ‘biff’ on court.

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    The Crowd Says (6)

    • April 18th 2009 @ 12:26pm
      megatron said | April 18th 2009 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

      The more biff the better. Really enjoy watching netball on One. Very skillful and more aggresive than people think.

    • April 18th 2009 @ 1:41pm
      sheek said | April 18th 2009 @ 1:41pm | ! Report


      Very unfair to criticize male players rolling around on the ground after being breathed upon. Probably smells like a sewer!!!

    • April 18th 2009 @ 5:10pm
      Vicki said | April 18th 2009 @ 5:10pm | ! Report

      I watched the game on channel ten last week between NSW and Adelaide one of the NSW players got hit so hard I didn’t think she going to get back up little lone take further part in the game. It makes it more interesting this way. Make it a full contact sport and be done with it it looks like anyway.

    • April 21st 2009 @ 7:04pm
      Simmo said | April 21st 2009 @ 7:04pm | ! Report

      I also enjoywatching the game on One. The intensity the players provide on top of their skill and athleticism makes terrific sport. This was an excellent article Natalie. I agree player safety is important and injuries from reckless play in any sport are not good. I think top level umpires, coaches and players need to keep reviewing where they want their sport to be – hopefully hard and fair- and keep spectators informed so we don’t get frustrated with inconsistencies.

    • May 8th 2009 @ 2:05pm
      davido said | May 8th 2009 @ 2:05pm | ! Report

      I seem to remember it always being pretty rough. Is it just that the refs are not calling it?

    • May 28th 2014 @ 7:56pm
      Sue Meredith said | May 28th 2014 @ 7:56pm | ! Report

      I’ll watch if nothing else on but I used to enjoy playing. There was always a certain amount of physicality but at the moment it is getting out of hand. Some umpires are quick to tone things down but more and more it’s too rough. Who really care if it appears “weak”, to play by the rules and not contact takes great skill, and that’s what I’d like back. My daughter won’t be playing netball anytime soon.

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