Brian Edwards Media

Why I want to change the rules of netball and what it has to do with Maria Tutaia and the Rugby World Cup.


 In the last couple of weeks I’ve watched three international rugby matches, from the superb choir singing the national anthems, to the final interviews with the winning and losing captains. You may think this is barely worth mentioning. Tens of thousands of Kiwis are doing the same thing. But it’s remarkable for me. And it’s even more remarkable that I found myself shouting abuse at Welsh referee Nigel Owens when he red-carded Samoan fullback Paul Williams. ‘Get some glasses, boyo, and a pair for your half-blind assistant while you’re at it!’  I don’t normally behave like this. Wild horses wouldn’t get me to a rugby match.

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The problem is that I’ve got a low boredom threshold. There’s too much time in rugby spent falling down in a heap and pushing and shoving,  and not enough time spent hurtling diagonally across the paddock towards the opponents’ goal line or landing an impossible kick between the uprights. Though I abhor violence, a bit of biffo can be quite entertaining as well.

No, my  sporting heroes are not Richie McCaw or Dan Carter or Sonny Bill Williams or Ma’a Nonu or Richard Kahui or… well, you get the picture. My sporting heroes are Casey Williams and Temepara George and Laura Langman and Anna Scarlett and Maria Tutaia and Irene van Dyk and Ruth Aitken of course. I’m a netball freak.  

And no, it’s got nothing to do with girls in short skirts jumping up and down and falling over. Generally speaking, netball isn’t all that sexy. What I like so much about the game is that it’s so fast-moving, that it requires such extraordinary levels of skill and accuracy and that it’s a joy to watch. Your heart is constantly in your mouth.

Given my devotion to the Silver Ferns, you’ll understand that I was less than happy to see them beaten by the Aussies in the final of the last Netball World Champs, with a single  goal scored in extra time. And it was that one goal that set me thinking.  

If a soccer team wins a match by scoring the only goal in the last 15 seconds of a match, that seems OK to me. Very few goals are scored in soccer games and it seems quite difficult to score even one goal in 90 minutes of play. Getting a goal in soccer is a considerable achievement.  

But in netball a hundred goals or more may be scored in the allotted hour of play, the tide of winning shots ebbing and flowing in a matter of minutes. A few seconds either way on the clock may therefore be hugely significant to the outcome of a game.

In fast-moving, high-scoring sports a fairer result might therefore be obtained by slightly increasing the required scoring margin that constitutes a win. Tennis provides an example. You can’t win a game of tennis by only one point. 40:30 won’t do it. Nor can you win a set by only one game. 6:5 won’t do it.

A greater scoring margin is therefore required to beat an opponent in tennis than is required to beat an opposing team in netball. And in netball there are no ‘games’ or ‘sets’ which you have to win in order to get within reach of victory.

Nor does the clock play such a vital role in tennis as it does in netball. There is no arbitrary duration for a tennis match which continues until one player leads the other by a margin of one or two sets. That routinely takes hours and on rare occasions can take days.

So maybe we should have a winning margin of two goals in netball rather than one, with the game continuing into extra time if necessary to achieve that margin. Somehow it doesn’t seem right that a high-scoring World Championship Netball Final can be won by a margin of a single goal.  For one thing, I don’t think I could bear watching the lovely Maria Tutaia bursting into tears again.

[ps: The author accepts no responsibility for sporting inaccuracies in this piece.]

[pps: Judy and I went to see the Ferns leave England for dead on Monday night. Go the Ferns!]

[ppps: Is Sky Killing Netball? Have a look at this.]

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  1. A good idea.

    As I’m sure both you and Judy as keen netball fans know, at the Commonwealth Games last year, a two-goal winning margin requirement decided the extra-time final between the Silver Ferns and Australia. On that occasion the the smile of the lovely Maria Tutaia lit up the screen!

    Came about due to the special circumstances of an unfair advantage to the team that had guaranteed possession at the first centre pass when sudden-death applied.

    Was a magnificent game and TV spectacle, even more nail-biting than what usually happens when these two teams contest an epic tight final (as has been happening for 20 years).

    Now if we can just get you debating the merits of the scheduling of RWC games which doesn’t penalise the “minnows” like Samoa, yet also generates maximum revenues from TV for the ultimate financial benefit of those same minnows, you will have solved all the problems of the world that matter!

  2. Each to their own but I have to confess to finding netball as exciting watching a stunned mullet fighting for breath but love watching rugby.

    The one thing in the game’s favour though is that the particpants are not generally caught on camera with their noses down someone’s cleavage.

  3. Modifying existing sports ?

    I recently invented an entirely new hybridised sport out of Soccer and Rugby. It’s quite brilliant when you think about it:

    (1) Imagine, first, an ordinary rugby field going from, say, north to south. And imagine a game of rugby taking place between a green team and an orange team.

    (2) Now, imagine a soccer pitch (east to west) placed directly across this rugby field – so that from the air it’s in the form of a cross (+) and they share the same middle ground.

    (3) And let’s imagine a soccer game between a red and blue team.

    (4) Now then, this is where it gets crafty. Any player from any team can defect to the other sport whenever their in the common middle square. But orange rugby players can only defect to the red soccer team (and vice versa) and green rugby players can only defect to the blue soccer team (and vice versa). They can defect back and forth between rugby and soccer as often as they want, so long as they’re in the middle square when they do it.

    (5) Just imagine how brilliantly unpredictable the sport would be. The orange rugby team, with its talented backline (capable of destroying any defence on their day) is playing truly extravagant football and heading for a certain try. The backs are all lined up, the centre receives the ball with only one man to beat and deftly passes to the team’s brilliant winger – who has, only seconds before, defected to the red soccer team, and is now in the process of setting-up a stunner of a goal !

    The possibilities are endless. Definitely a great spectator sport….. Well, OK, I’m not saying you have to instantly love the idea, but at least have a bit of a think about it.

    The English would probably call the sport ‘Sockby’, while I suspect the Americans would refer to it as ‘Rocker’.

    (Kimbo: 1987’s on its way – in two or three days – assuming you haven’t entirely lost interest)

    BE: And think of the video game possibilities. Patent if fast, you’ll be a millionaire.

  4. Hey markus.

    Yes I am looking forward to it. On reflection your ideas do have some merit. Not sure I buy the story, but it is not without insight. Despite my, at times, cavalier dismissal of your analysis, I thank you for the effort. I am genuinely intrigued to see how your final instalment showing the 1987 election result wasn’t an endorsement Rogernomics pans out. Will be something to behold if you can pull it off!

    Glad you posted. I hit the link on Brian’s 2009 comment re his lack of love for the national game – typical immigrant leftist malcontent :). I noticed you posted about your great-grand father
    being a top try scorer for the All Blacks. Who was that? Duncan McGregor? Jimmy Hunter? Billy Wallace? George Smith?

    Sounds like your political journey may be similar to that of the Jackson clan – dad jumped ship/was banished from the 1908 Anglo-Welsh tourists when he signed with League,

    …and then his son, All Black Everard was the patriarch from whom Moana, Sid, and Willie ultimately stem!

  5. I find it somewhat strange why any guy would fancy watching a game of netball. Really strange. He must have an effete bent, esp if he’s in the stadium, adding to the ruckus by banging those childish long rubber things and cheering. (Betcha he sits cross-legged too0. Just downright embarrassing. Besides, there’s no sporting real competition when its only between Australia and NZ.

  6. And the acclaim for Irene playing her 200th! yes 200th Test tonight. Did you hear the huge applause from the sporting crowd? Oh well.

  7. Brian, you might enjoy reading this.

  8. “…superb choir singing the national anthems …”

    Amen to that. However, we can all safely assume that some grandstanding screamer will be re-employed by the NZRU next year; tone deaf, flat and full of their own self-belief in their impending immortality as the next big thing and that re-writing the tunes of whoever’s anthem will help them along their doomed career pathway. God save us.

  9. I was raised in the “Christchurch slums” and as a male New Zealander have never played rugby in my life! The most inteligent comment I have heard on the game was made either on Chris or Kim’s show to the effect that Rugby is principally a sport for players! The French should win the cup because their magnificent, violent and bloody anthem has been emasculated by the choir in New Zealand.

  10. I have another reason for disliking rugger At the risk of betraying my roots I have to say the reason is class based. For me rugger is about toffs wallowing in mud on a Saturday afternoon followed by excessive alcohol Intake. It’s been a hard fight to avoid learning the rules what with the constant bombardment from the media, but I remain happy in my prejudice and my ignorance.

    BE: There used to be a saying along the lines: Rugby is a moron’s game played by gentlemen; soccer is a gentlemen’s game played by morons. I’m not so silly as to express an opinion on its validity.