The Netball Umpiring Q&A Page

 These questions and answers are drawn from discussions in the Chat Forum of the AENA Website and the Netball Stuff e-mail exchange. I am grateful to all of those who have submitted questions and contributed answers. As always, I am extremely grateful to Sheelagh Redpath (AENA Umpiring Manager) and Dickon Adams (International Umpire) for their ever helpful comments and insights to the netball rules. Please don't e-mail me with questions, I only post here what has been discussed in an open forum and thus the answers have been subject to peer scrutiny.

 Index of questions:

Q1 - GS "blocking off" the GD during a penalty shot
Q2 - "Breaking" at a centre pass
Q3 - Taking penalties & free passes
Q4 - Going off-side to collect the ball
Q5 - Marking off-court
Q6 - Throw-in
Q7 - Playing the Ball (dropped and re-played ball)
Q8 - Over a third
Q9 - Obstruction
Q10 - Uniform -being sent off for wearing cycle shorts

Q11 - WD causing contact in the shooting circle
Q12 - More on taking a Throw-In
Q13 - Giving and taking a penalty in the shooting circle


 Q1. GA has penalty pass or shot in the circle and GD has to stand by their side. GA takes a diagonal step forward which places her directly in front of the GD. As the GD cannot move until the shot is taken it places the GA in a more advantageous position to shoot and perhaps gain a rebound. Is this a correct interpretation? At a recent tournament when our GA did this she was pulled up for footwork.

A. Broadly "Yes" but this was one of the rules which changed in 2001. Previously this would have been completely within the rules, but this is no longer the case. The relevant rule is 18.1.2 which states that, "The player taking the penalty must take up the position clearly directed and indicated by the umpire, throw the ball within 3 seconds and obey the footwork rule (refer Rules 3.1.6(xi) and 19.2)".

Thus in the example given, the umpire calls for a penalty pass; the GD (being a good player) immediately goes and stands beside the GA. The GA is quite at liberty to move diagonally forward onto her non-landing foot, without breaking the footwork rule, to put herself in front of the GD. Clearly if the GA was already in a prime position for shooting she would not wish to give this up and move forward to a position much too close, or even under, the post. This presents a problem for the umpire. Unless they think that a player is deliberately setting out to waste time, if the penalty pass (or shot) is not taken from the right spot they should stop the game and ask for it to be re-taken and not, in this example call the GA up for footwork; unless it was, such as re-grounding her foot on the ground.

Also from an umpiring point of view the player taking the penalty can feel intimidated by the penalised player. The advice in Rule 18.3.2 MUST be followed. This rule starts off "The penalised player must stand beside and away from the player…"

 Q2 On a centre pass, when is a player "breaking"? Is it only when they are in contact with the ground before the whistle is blown?

A. Well "sort of". "Breaking" is really about trying to beat the umpire's whistle and can be attributed as much to poor umpiring as it can be to poor playing. The key thing to remember is that a player must be "on-side" before they can go "off-side." If the player concerned has a foot in the centre third before the umpire blows their whistle NOT having been on-side, then the umpire should re-start the game with all the players on-side (Rules 11.2 and 11.3). If the player had been on-side and her foot was is in contact with the centre third as the whistle is blown, then that player can be said to be "breaking" and the umpire could call for off-side and award a free pass to the opposing team. The reason for saying "could" is that the rules allow an umpire a degree of judgement. If that players opponent also went off-side at the same time and neither player is in contact with the ball then play should be allowed to continue.

 Q3 When a penalty pass has been awarded and a player arrives on the spot indicating that she will take it, is another player allowed to bring the ball over to her? I did this tonight and was pulled up for footwork because the player waiting to take the pass took the ball from me, Should I have placed it on the ground for her?

A. This is always a very difficult one for an umpire to judge. Having given a decision, it is reasonable to expect the team to get the ball back into play as soon as possible (ie within 3 seconds). Rule 18.1 (iii) refers. There is nothing worse from an umpiring point of view to give a decision when a player, with full control of the ball, in the correct place, decides not to put it into play but to pass it to a team mate. Given that 3 seconds have elapsed, you can possibly call for "Held Ball" or "Footwork" (if the player walks with the ball to give it to another player).

The usual way out of this situation from a coaching point of view, is for the player awarded the penalty, to turn to the umpire and ask, "Is this OK umpire?" Thus making the point that you are the player taking the penalty and you're checking that you are in the right place. It is entirely legitimate therefore to be passed the ball!

 Q4 On a similar theme: A team has just being given penalty/free pass; the ball is on the ground and the person who is going to take the pass would have to go offside to get the ball so the game can continue quickly. Do you pull them up for offside? Technically I know the answer is yes, they are offside, but can discretion be used?

A. Please don't take this literally as being offside - remember the spirit of the game. There is no advantage to any team if a player goes to quickly retrieve a ball that she is going to use to take the next pass. This just means that the game can be re-started more quickly.

 Q5. GK has the ball and is taking a back line pass with GS marking her on court at the required distance. GK throws the ball to her GD but GS intercepts the ball, knocks it back out of court and it hits the GK - before it touches the ground - who is still out of court behind the back line. Whose throw in is it?

A. One of the reasons that there is some doubt in both players and umpire's minds is the ill-fated July 1997 Rule Book where there was a change to the "Playing the Ball" rule. It was suggested that if a player who was out of court, and who did not attempt to play the ball was hit by the ball then they were not deemed to have played the ball so in this example the Throw In would have gone to the GKs team. However this change was excluded from the September 1998 rule book and re-affirmed in the 2001 Rule Book, so the Throw In should go to the GSs team.

 Q6 How about a situation where the ball is out of court in the centre third and the throw-in is awarded to the blue team. As the blue WD is taking up a position close-to the side line, the blue GS goes out of court to go round the back of the post. The red GK (from a position on court before you ask) marks the blue GS to prevent her coming back on court. The blue WD looking round to see if all is ok, does not see that the GS is not on court, steps up to the sideline and puts the ball into play. Was the throw-in taken correctly? If it wasn't, should it be re-taken by the blue team or should it be awarded to the red team? (If it's awarded to the red team do they take it where the blue WD was standing or opposite where the GS was standing?).

A. The throw-in was not correctly taken and in theory a throw-in should be awarded to the Red team where the blue WD was standing. HOWEVER this is rather contrary to the spirit of rule 18.4.2 (i) which was designed to ensure that a player who had gone to retrieve the ball was assured of being back on court before play restarted. So I think an umpire would be justified in turning a blind eye to this. If they are aware of it (possibly because the opposing team have used this tactic before) then they should stop the game and ask the GS to step back on court until the throw-in is taken.

 Q7. Why is it that no two umpires umpire the "playing the ball rule" in the same way? During a recent match one umpire called for either 're-playing the ball' or 'double bounce' seemly every few minutes whilst the other umpire hardly ever did.

A. Firstly there are no "dropped ball" or "Double Bounce" rules, neither is there a "lost control" rule. Its all covered by Rule 13 "Playing the Ball" the crux of the issue is did the player have control of the ball in the first instance rather than merely having contact with it? It only becomes a problem if it was controlled before it was dropped in which case it would be a 'replayed ball'. So how do you decide what is controlled and what isn't? Instead of just looking at the player with the ball and saying "I think she could have done something with that ball" rather, look at it a slightly different way. Ask yourself "How long was that ball in contact with the players hand(s)?" What you are looking for was the length of time that the ball stayed in contact with the hand(s)? If there was clear contact between the hands and the ball and the player then picks the ball up then it is most likely to have been replayed and should be penalised; also look at the path of the ball, was it changed as a result of the contact? If a ball goes straight through a players hands, without seemingly stopping (and there was no change in its path) then there is no way that ball could have been controlled and this should not be penalised. The other factor you need to reflect on is that a player can 'tip' the ball in an uncontrolled manner any number of times.

 Q8. The GD passes the ball from goal third and it is in the air above the centre third. If the GA of the same side jumps from the attacking goal third and catches the ball whilst it is still above the centre third but her feet have not yet made contact in the centre third, is this o.k. or is it deemed over a third?

A. Rule 13.5.2 (i) refers "....touched or caught by a player who, at the time of touching or catching the ball, is standing wholly within that Third or who lands in that Third." Thus in this example it is ok and would not be classed as over a third.

 Q9. if a player ie. GD goes off behind the goal-line to defend the GS who has also gone off behind goal-line, is it a penalty pass/shot in the circle near where infringement occured?? If not, what is the penalty?? (both players went off court freely)

A. Rule 16.6.1 says "A player may defend an opponent who has chosen to go out of court provided that the defending player does not leave the Court or own playing area in order to defend." Thus the PENALTY is a Penalty Pass or Penalty Pass or Shot on Court, "opposite the point where the infringer attempted to defend." Remember, players cannot just go off court "freely" If two players go off court to try and gain a better position, then they cannot interfere with each other until both are back on court.

Q10. Why is wearing black knee length, cycle shorts underneath the 'matching uniform', an offence worthy of sending off, without warning?

A. The following is based on a reply drafted by Brenda Hayter: 'Registered' uniform should be the same for everyone in the team. If cycle shorts are to be worn, players can wear them under their regulation skirts/shorts, but they must adopt them as their uniform, in which case all the team must wear them i.e. if a team decides to wear both skirts and cycle shorts then all members should wear them and they should reflect the clubs colours. However the spirit of the uniform rule is clear and it is AENA's intention that we should adhere to it. There is no intention to debar players from wearing tracksuits or other suitable clothing that reflect club uniform. Umpires should act responsibly and sensitively in checking players uniform, while at the same time recognising that players need protection from cold weather etc. Umpires should use their commonsense when dealing with lower leagues. It must be noted that at International level players have the luxury of playing indoors. We want people to play enjoy the game at whatever level of performance so lets not be too hard on them if they are only trying to keep warm and free from injury."

If this is an issue that has been actually been contentious for some time in the league concerned it might be better if the league committee are approached and asked to give an explanation of how they see Rule 1.4.2 applied in their league.

As far as junior players are concerned, the Duty of Care Guidelines require that the well being of the players is paramount and NOT the strict application of Rule 1.4.2

Q11. During a recent game the WD kept going off-side into 'her' shooting circle. I did not penalise this since I felt it was going to rob the GS of a 'good' shot at goal. However on one occasion she actually contacted the GA in the circle. I gave a penalty pass against the WD for contact and had it taken at the edge of the shooting circle. After the match the other umpire was of the opinion that I should have given a penalty pass or shot in the circle. Was she right?

 A. Generally yes, the other umpire was correct. You need to read the advice to umpires given following Rule17.2. The penalty awarded against the WD should be given where the infringer was standing; in normal circumstances this would need to be just outside the shooting circle. But the rule goes on to say, "unless this places the non-offending team at a disadvantage, when the penalty shall be taken where the contacted player was standing". Thus you should have allowed the GA to take a pass or shot in the circle where she was contacted by the WD but the WD should stand outside the shooting circle.

Q12. When I went to take a sideline pass last night the umpire blew her whistle and gave the throw-in to our opponents on the grounds that my foot wasn't close to the sideline. Isn't this taking the rules to the extreme?

 A. Well it all depends on whether your league has agreed to implement the new 1991 (Red) Rule Book or is still playing to the old 'blue' version. Based on the new 1991 Rule Book, this decision is not in keeping with the guidance given in Rule 18.1.2. Which makes it clear that the penalty (be it a pass, pass or shot, throw-in or free pass) must be taken from the position "clearly directed and indicated by the umpire." So although Rule 18.4.2 (ii) says "…immediately behind the point where the ball crossed the line" if the umpire was unhappy at where you'd taken the throw-in she should have stopped the game and had it re-taken. Clearly if your foot had broken the line or you were in position for a full 3 seconds without putting the ball into play then the umpire would have been quite correct in awarding a free pass to your opponents

Q13. The other night, I was playing GD and the umpire gave my GA a pass or shot against me for obstruction, having has a perfectly good shot at goal. When the ball was passed to her, she immediately batted the ball to the GS who shot and scored. My question is was the umpire right in the first instance to award a penalty pass or shot if the GA had a good shot at goal and (b) was the penalty pass or shot correctly taken just be batting the ball to another player?

 A. The new 1991 (Red) Rule Book (Rule 16.2 (I)) sets out quite clearly that provided you had started any jump to intercept the ball from 3 feet and you landed after the pass had been passed (or shot) then no obstruction occurred. On the face of it, it does sound rather brutal (and can indeed be intimidating) but the intent is clear - did the player get in a 'good' pass or shot? If they did, and on the basis of your brief description it appears so, then you should not have been penalised. However the umpire may well have had a different view and believed that the GA did not get a 'good' shot and felt justified in awarding a penalty against you for obstruction! The second part of your question invoked much discussion on the AENA Website - the overwhelming view being that the GA had not taken the penalty pass/shot and the umpire should have stopped the game and had it re-taken.

Finally a thought expressed by Brenda Hayter. "It is easy to criticise umpires but I wonder how many players have pretended to be disadvantaged by an opponent in order to gain a penalty which was not rightfully theirs? Come on players, most umpires do their best in thankless and un-rewarded conditions. It is only a few umpires who might let the side down --- just like players. More umpires are needed everywhere so why not see if you can do better?'

If you have an interesting umpiring question please feel free to join the "netball stuff" e-mail exchange and see what others think.

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This page last updated on 26th June 2002