Fast five -World Netball Series
Fascinating is the only way to describe the Fast Five World Netball Series played off at Auckland, New Zealand. It was the latest in an attempt to launch the sport of netball into the twenty- first century- in a sense a parallel to the instant character of limited overs cricket. One, though, is left still with the lingering feeling that some long way remains to be gone in order to fully liberate the game from the constrictive features of over – pedantic whistle blowing. The contact law is too excessively anointed by the umpires.
For the benefit of sports lovers not familiar with the fast five aspects of the sport, it is a variation of netball played five aside instead of the regular seven players on court. The playing positions are Goal Keeper (GK), Goal Defense (GD) Centre (C), Goal Attack (GA) and Goal Shooter (GS). Accordingly the positions dispensed with are the Wing Defense (WD) and the Wing Attack (WA).
This is streamlining the playing formation to the real barebones of the team structure, and makes for abundant, intense action in a sport already stressed with the urgency impelled by the fact that players, unlike basketball, must pass or shoot the ball within three seconds of receiving it. This calls for snap movement, snap passing and snap positioning to effect advantageous progress along the line of attack. Accordingly to provide players with some measure of respite from the hectic work rate the playing time is structured to match quarters of six minutes instead of the regular fifteen minutes.
Another variation from regular or traditional netball is the demarcation of the shooting circles to allow the inner zone from which baskets count as one point. Then there is the outer area of the circle from which the shooters can harvest two points per successful shot. A further bonus is borrowed from basketball allowing shots taken from outside the shooting circle to yield three points.
That's not all as far as the scoring goes. One team is assigned the third quarter as a powerplay period while the other has the final quarter for the same purpose. Shots scored in the powerplay count double. Thus it is possible for a team to make two pointers, four pointers and also six pointers during its powerplay.
Final results of the tournament saw New Zealand gaining the gold medal via their edging out Australia 35-31. England took the bronze medal ahead of Jamaica in a tightly contested encounter for third place. South Africa and Namibia ended 5th and 6th respectively.
New Zealand has never lost a fast five international match and this is attributable to their superior size, superb fitness and excellent coordination of progressive play based on high technical skills. They pass very well, catch securely, time their movements with lightning precision and crown it all with very accurate shooting. All this is topped with neat and gritty defense.
England were thought capable of bringing off an upset, having managed to beat the Kiwis in a practice game. But the champions exerted unyielding dominance when it mattered most in the official early rounds.
Fast Five netball is still in its relative infancy and rapid steps are likely to evolve in the matter of technical refinements in execution of skills. However, it may take longer for most teams to show a mastery in overcoming a well applied zonal defense such as the best teams lay on with highly restrictive effect.
Australia threatened to get the better of New Zealand in the final when they led 7-4 in the first quarter. Anyhow, it was the enormous pressure of their renowned opponents that eventually mattered at crunch time.
I listened to a young Jamaican school girl on the SPORTS MAX television programme voicing her ambitions to become a professional netballer. That's to be expected. The top world class netballers play before crowds of six thousand and more. To be considered is the glittering atmosphere of spectators decked in highly attractive apparel with multi- hued hairstyles. Then, too, the pay appears to be quite good. Increasingly more and more very young players will be attracted to this variety of instant netball.
Dominica's former netballers of the late sixties and seventies are likely to feel they were born several decades too early! Would you believe it, they played special five aside competitions for the fun of it and actually resorted to shooting practice from well outside of the shooting circle. That they did quite expertly. Shooters like Jean Dickson- Coleman, Catherine Laronde and some others during their practice sessions were veritable forerunners to what was still to become new and then commonplace as the three pointer in basketball.
One shooter specifically coming to mind is Laronde as far as the augmented scoring from long range now figures. She actually preferred to shoot on the edge of the circle – often stepping back to avoid the attentions of long armed defenders. One's talking here about a shooter who thought much was wrong when she missed as many as two shots in a quarter ! More than likely two shots missed in a game was much cause for concern.
When all is said and done, there is more than likely to be the presence of the right sort of superlative genetic material among our young or budding netballers --- at least latent. But questions remain. Would they be willing to engage in the six mile runs our girls embraced willingly some forty or fifty years ago? Excellence is not bought at a supermarket. It is earned in sweat. Ironically, netball projected as a sport linked to the fairer sex, is assessed as a soft endeavour--- to the uninitiative Yet, the extremes of physical exertion associated with netball outstrip anything imagined for basketball in the relative sense.