Story: Netball

Page 4. Modern netball

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Netball New Zealand

In the 1980s the national association made a concerted effort to raise the profile of netball. In 1989 the first executive director was appointed, and in 1990 the association changed its name to Netball New Zealand. The national team became known as the Silver Ferns. In 2019 Netball New Zealand worked with five zones and 83 centres to administer, promote and develop the game nationwide. About 350,000 New Zealanders played netball.

Fostering the sport

New Zealand has been at the forefront of changes and developments in the international game. Netball New Zealand works to foster the game offshore, particularly in the Oceania region. From 2010 the Pacific Netball Partnership between Netball New Zealand, Netball Australia, the Oceania Netball Federation and the Australian government provided more than $3 million in funding and support over four years to build netball facilities and deliver coaching and development programmes throughout the Pacific.

Too popular

Basketball became extremely popular after the Second World War, and in some places the number of girls wanting to participate in Saturday competitions was overwhelming. In Greymouth in the 1950s there were not enough courts, so until more were built, the main street was blocked off and converted into three outdoor basketball courts on winter Saturday afternoons.


New Zealand children can start playing netball at the age of five, and some people play right through to masters grade. There is strong Māori and Pasifika participation, which has an enduring influence on the style of the game, particularly in terms of fluid movement and sleight of hand. Social netball is popular, as are the more recent incarnations of the game – indoor netball and summer leagues. Both have mixed grades.

Men’s netball

While netball is a predominantly female game, the New Zealand Men’s and Mixed Netball Association continues to grow in strength. It had its origins in the New Zealand Men’s Netball Association, formed in 1984 soon after men began playing the sport in New Zealand. The association amalgamated with Netball New Zealand in 1996.

In 2012 there were 15 teams competing in a national tournament. From 1985 New Zealand and Australia played a trans-Tasman series every second year.

Men’s netball is played in 14 countries, but receives less attention from sponsors and spectators than the women’s version of the sport. Men’s netball has yet to gain membership of the International Netball Federation (INF).

A number of men umpire women’s games at the highest level.

How to cite this page:

Suzanne McFadden, 'Netball - Modern netball', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 16 April 2024)

Story by Suzanne McFadden, published 5 Sep 2013, reviewed & revised 26 Aug 2020, updated 1 Jun 2023