2012 Fast5 Auckland - Let the Party Begin!

Fast, furious and with a new kind of flair – Fast5, netball’s latest innovation, is making its public debut. New Zealand hosts the very first International Netball Federation Fast5 Netball World Series at Vector Arena, Auckland, from 9th to 11th November 2012. There the world’s top six netballing nations come together to compete in the thrilling high speed, action packed, shortform version of the traditional game.

Raising public awareness of the new game is top priority for Netball New Zealand Operations Director Kate Agnew: “Fast5 is a fantastic opportunity and a great second step for netball,” Agnew says. “But it’s also got its challenges because we’re doing something that’s new to the sporting landscape.

“We are creating new footage and pictures to show people, so we find lots of ways to explain the game, showing the public the aspects that are different. Pulling all those things together so people are intrigued enough to come and have a look at Fast5.”

Auckland sees a number of changes from Fast Net short-form netball, as played at the previous World Netball Series hosted in the UK – the most obvious being the number of players on court. Fast5 teams are made up of 10 players, but only five will take the court at a time – a goal shooter, goal attack, centre, goal defence and goal keeper.

The other major change is the look of the court – which has an additional semi-circle marked inside the goal circle. The area inside this semi-circle is the ‘inner circle’, and goals netted in here are worth one Goal Point while goals scored from the area between the semi-circle and the edge of the goal circle, the ‘outer circle’, are worth two Goal Points. A goal netted from outside the shooting circle – known as a ‘super shot’ – is worth three Goal Points, rewarding players with the skill and confidence to try for crowd-pleasing, but risky, long shots.

Umpires controlling the Fast5 matches also face changes, with a number of new signals, mainly around the different shooting scores, coming into play. Matches consist of four six-minute quarters, with a half-time interval of four minutes, and two minutes at the other breaks. Coaches can give instruction to players from the sidelines during play, and the competition retains winning features from the previous World Netball Series, including rolling substitutions and no limit to the number of changes which can be made.

Another unique feature is the popular goal-doubling Power Play, which is somewhat similar to powerplays in Twenty20 cricket. At the start of the game teams elect which quarter they want to use the Power Play and double their score. Good tactics – or sheer good luck – can turn a match on its head, adding to the thrills of Fast5 netball.

High intensity, high speed, high risk, Fast5 Netball World Series play is at its absolute best when the crowd really gets behind the players. Game awareness is key to ensuring stands are full when Auckland’s Vector Arena hosts netball’s latest innovation and Kate Agnew says Netball New Zealand has taken steps to get the “game out there” by inviting centres from around the country to adopt the Fast5 game over the summer months. Eight centres have come on board to test the new model: “While those competitions won’t be up and running until later this year, the idea behind it is that we have the Netball World Series for three years and we want to build up the awareness.”

Agnew believes there is plenty of appeal for the changes to the game, including the rolling substitutions and having fewer players on court. But she says they will be taking a careful approach to any more possible changes to the Fast5 style: “There are definitely opportunities for us to grow, but it’s about making sure that everything is focused on the event itself this year.”

For INF President, Molly Rhone, the selection of Auckland to host the Netball World Series is part of a continuing process of development in world netball: “The World Netball Series hosted by England Netball in 2009, 2010 and 2011 really showed there was an appetite for a crowd-friendly, TV-friendly, international netball tournament designed to provide maximum entertainment,” says Rhone. “The event has raised the media profile of netball, and attracted new players, supporters and commercial partners.

The International Netball Federation is tremendously grateful for what was achieved in the UK, and we are looking to New Zealand to build on that, and ensure Netball World Series and Fast5 netball reach their full potential as ways of winning new friends for the sport.” Kate Agnew believes that New Zealand can bring a wealth of experience to NWS: “I think New Zealand is one of the international leaders in sport – definitely in netball we are,” she says. “I think we do have a maturity in netball marketing and we are well positioned to be able to put forward and lead the introduction of an alternate of the game.”

New Zealand’s leading players are certainly keen to test their hand at the new version of the game and Silver Fern midcourter, Camilla Lees, says they are looking forward to the Netball World Series in Auckland: “It’s going to be exciting with the new changes, especially with just five players on court now – it could make it a tough workout for the midcourters,” she laughs.

Netball’s highest profile events, such as the World Championships, World Youth Championships, and the Commonwealth Games, are eagerly sought by the various netballing nations. For Kate Agnew the Fast5 Netball World Series is the opportunity to put the international netball flair in front of the public – and it’s going to be time to party: “I think off the back of the 2007 and 2011 World Championships, there was a real adoption of dressing up and supporting your country. There was a real party flavour to go with the netball, and I think there is that appetite to embrace it.”

Article sourced from netballworld - The official magazine of the International Netball federation. Article initially sourced in November 2012.