We are all very familiar with basketball. But how well do you know about netball? The origin of this sport can be traced back to the US over a century ago, when a female PE teacher misinterpreted the rules for basketball, mistakenly believing that the court should be divided into thirds and each player was not allowed to leave his or her designated area. Such game rules somehow reached the UK, and eventually evolved into netball.
It is interesting to note that netball, a fast-paced and exciting sport, actually originated from such a wonderful misinterpretation. A netball association was established locally by netball enthusiasts in Hong Kong, in the hope of exchanging ideas and experience with like-minded people in promotion of netball for wider community participation.
Netball is a very competitive sport. Each team is made up of no more than 12 players: only seven of whom may take the court and have possession of the ball. Players attempt to score by getting the ball into the Goal Circle for shooting by running, jumping, passing and catching the ball on the court. Opposing players adopt various strategies to stop the attacking players from scoring and to seize possession of the ball. The team that scored higher points will be declared as the winner.
In addition, players will be assigned to their specific positions, with the English abbreviations of which printed on the front and back of their bibs. The main goal of the game is to score by shooting from a designated area. Only two players, the goal attack (GA) and the goal shooter (GS), from each side are allowed to score goals. Players holding the ball are not allowed to walk, and must pass or shoot within three seconds. Defending players can neither intercept the ball with hands nor snatch it from others, while staying at least 0.9 metres away from those attacking players in possession of the ball.
In 1979, the Hong Kong Netball Association (HKNA) was established by expatriate netball enthusiasts in Hong Kong. It was not until 1990 that netball players became localised, replacing most foreign players, most of whom being expatriates or international school students in the town. In view of the scarcity of Chinese players, the HKNA decided to promote netball to local schools and to play an active role in spurring the development of netball in Hong Kong and the Asia-Pacific region. According to the HKNA’s own estimates, there are currently about 2 000 people playing netball in Hong Kong, ranging from primary school to tertiary students, as well as other players from sports clubs and independent teams composed of locals and foreigners, epitomising the increasing popularity of the sport. Today, there are a total of 16 executive committee members in the HKNA. The Hong Kong men’s and women’s netball teams consist of 65 members in total, while the regional squads have 78 members. Representing Hong Kong to compete in international competitions, they have achieved notable successes, such as winning the second runner-up in the Asian Youth Netball Championships 2017 and the third runner-up in the Asian Netball Championships 2018.
The HKNA has spared no effort in promoting netball over the years, despite the challenges such as a shortage of netball venues. It is hoped that the Government can build more venues and devote more resources for promoting the sport. In recent years, local sports venues have been temporarily closed from time to time due to the epidemic, making the sport less accessible to members of the public. As part of the effort to further promote netball, the HKNA utilises use of its website and social media to release information on netball, in a bid to ensure its effective interaction with the public.
The HKNA has indicated its continued and unwavering commitment to promoting netball, with the aim of spurring its development in district levels. Meanwhile, it would be delighted to see that the Government can build more netball venues to facilitate the public’s participation in this super exciting sport.