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Korfball, A comparison to Netball (and Basketball)

Of the popular sports played in Australia, Netball is the most similar in style and rules (although some rules are closer to those in Basketball). Despite the similarity however, there are dramatic differences between the two sports, many of which are set out below (apologies for any mis-interpretations of the rules of Netball, my understanding is good but not comprehensive).

Court Size & Shape

The Netball court, 30.5m x 15.25m, is split into three zones designed to restrict court movement, ball movement and player function. 
The Korfball court, 40m x 20m, is split in halves to somewhat restrict court movement, but ball movement and player function are not restricted (more on player roles later).


Goal Height & Construction

The baskets in Netball look similar to those of Basketball; a metal ring with a net positioned 10 feet above the ground, but without a backboard. 
Korfball rings were originally bottomless cane baskets positioned 12 feet above the ground without backboards. In 2006 the International Korfball Federation approved a new, more durable synthetic korf (basket) for use instead of the traditional cane basket, both are still in common use, but at high levels and in all internationals, synthetic korfs are used exclusively.


Goal Position

Netball and Basketball rings are positioned at the centre of either end of the playing area. 
Korfball baskets are situated inside the boundaries of each half, the baskets are situated 1/3rd of the half inside the end of the court as show below. Play is allowed in 360 degrees around the basket.

Diagram of a Korfball court illustrating the position of the goals top

Player Roles

All seven players in Netball have a fixed function and court restriction displayed on their playing uniform.

  • Goal Shooter (GS) - Attacking Third and Goal Circle

  • Goal Attack (GA) - Attacking Third, Centre Third and Goal Circle

  • Wing Attack(WA) - Attacking Third and Centre Third

  • Centre (C) - Entire court except Goal Circles

  • Wing Defence (WD) - Defensive Third and Centre Third

  • Goal Defence (GD) - Defensive Third, Centre Third and Goal Circle

  • Goal Keeper (GK) - Defensive Third and Goal Circle

In Korfball, a player is either an attacker or a defender. Apart from that, the basic functions of shooter, assister and rebounder can be fulfilled by any player without restriction.
Also, whenever two goals are scored in Korfball, all players swap divisions and roles, thus defenders become attackers and attackers become defenders.


Offensive Restrictions

In Netball you are only allowed to shoot if you are within the Goal Circle. In Korfball, any player can shoot from anywhere within the attacking zone.


Defensive Restrictions

In Netball, a defending player may only attempt to prevent a pass or shot from outside a circle of 3 feet around the player in possession of the ball. In Korfball, a defending player can stand at any distance provided they do not contact the player or ball in the opposing player's possession. Also, provided the defensive player is within arms length of an offensive player attempting to shoot and is attempting to block the ball, the offensive player cannot shoot.


Playing Time & Periods

The playing time in Netball is divided into 15 minute quarters. For a total game time of 60 minutes. The playing time in Korfball is divided only into two 30 minute halves, for a total game time of 60 minutes.


Basic rules

Contact & Obstruction

Two main rules in Netball are "Contact" and "Obstruction", infringements result in a penalty pass or a penalty shot. The infringing player must stand out of the game until the free pass is taken. These rules are similar to the rules of Korfball and make both non-contact sports which rely on skill rather than force. However, an infringing player remains in the game before the free pass is taken, an advantage of a 2.5 metre exclusion zone is given to the infringed player.


Netball has a footwork rule that implies that you are not allowed to walk with the ball at all. Korfball, also has a footwork rule but it is more complex, it allows for a stopping step if the player is moving and allows free movement of the feet to a stationary player provided no advantage is gained (thus ideally a player may run on the spot whilst in possession of the ball).

Timed Possession

In Netball there is a time limit on possession of the ball, it can be held for only three seconds by any player at any stage. In Korfball, in normal play, the ball can be held for an unlimited time (at the referees discretion that the player is not time wasting). In a free pass, the player has 4 seconds after a referee's whistle to pass the ball.


Mixed Sport

Netball is most commonly played with teams of women. Mixed, modified rules Netball is becoming more common, but despite the modifications the rules tend to favour the (on average) taller, stronger and more athletic men. Korfball was and is the only sport originally developed as a mixed sport, the differences in natural physical attributes between men and women are overcome by the standard rules.