Is netball too old-fashioned in this aggressive age?
I watch Silver Ferns netball because it is the game played at the top level, particularly significant when New Zealand plays against England or Australia. It is the game played at its best.
But the more I watch it the more I realise what a dysfunctional game it really is. It grew out of a time when young ladies did not trade body blows as their menfolk did in contact sports like rugby and league. If a game were being devised for women in the 21st century I suspect it would more resemble traditional male sports.
Firstly, because it cannot flow, the rules don’t allow it to. The ball holder may not run, neither take multiple steps, nor range over the full length of the court. It must therefore be a jerky, staccato, disjointed game. (What it does to the long term health of knee and ankle joints hardly bears thinking about).
Secondly, while netball is legislated as a non-contact sport, today’s game is the very opposite. It is nothing to hear of 80 to 100 stoppages in a test match, most caused by body contacts resulting in penalties. Penalties are brought about by cheating, i.e. the deliberate breaking of the rules. It has become expected and commonplace.
(In fact, commentators seem to highlight aggressiveness with the same delight as Roman crowds might have enjoyed a lion devouring a Christian!) Further but less frequent penalties are, of course, handed out for offside and obstruction offences, both of which are mostly caused by deliberate cheating.
Netball has become a silly game of rules contravention. To my mind its structure needs a complete overhaul. If the rules are repeatedly going to be broken, then change the rules (as did rugby when it changed the lifting in the line-out rule). The aim should be to increase the fluidity of the game by reviewing running and stepping, and reducing stoppages brought about by penalties.