Kate Middleton used to play goal defence for her prep school St Andrews.
Photo: Getty Images
SIX THINGS: Half a dozen facts you probably didn't know about one of Australia's most popular women's sports...
1. The nets haven't always been nets
Polished board courts and woven fabric nets were a long way off when English women took up basketball in 1895. Instead, the sport was played on outdoor grass courts, with broomsticks and wet paper bags the materials of choice for the goal posts. Unsurprisingly, women found their attire - gathered long skirts, corsets and billowing sleeves - made running up and down the court rather difficult. The rules of basketball were adapted accordingly to better suit the fashions of the day, and the game of netball was begun.
2. It used to be called 'women's basketball'
Ever get annoyed when older folk get mixed up between netball and basketball? It turns out they have a good reason. The sport that generations of Australians and New Zealanders now know as netball only adopted that name officially in 1970. Previously, it was called women's basketball, in reference to its evolution from the American ball sport.
3. We've always had the wood on the English
In 1945, an Australian team became the first internationals to take on England on their home turf. Despite having to play under English rules that differed from theirs, the Aussies won all but three of their 57 games on tour, including a 14-11 win in the sole Test match in front of a crowd of more than 5000 people. The Poms didn't record their first win against Australia until 1981, after 11 successive losses. They have only won four Tests in total against Australia.
4. Men took 80 years to catch on
Women had been playing netball for almost a century by the time men decided there was something in this caper. Mixed netball teams became popular in the early 1980s among blokes who went along to watch their wives, girlfriends and friends play. National championships have been held for more than 20 years and they now include mixed netball divisions, with Victoria winning nine of the past 10 men's and mixed open titles. The Australian men's and mixed netball teams also take on New Zealand in a three-Test series every two years.
5. It's newly popular among the British royals
While royals of years gone by preferred dressage, showjumping and shooting to more athletic pursuits, the Duchess of Cambridge was a keen netball player in her school days. Long before she met Prince William, Kate Middleton was an avid sportswoman at her prep school St Andrews. Goal defence was her preferred position.
6. Alley-oops are legal
Anyone who has played or watched a bit of men's or mixed netball has seen it - the basketball-trained blokes who love to show off their athleticism with alley-oops and lay-ups. You can't dunk in netball as you're not allowed to touch the ring, but a player can theoretically send a high pass from outside the shooter's circle towards a leaping GS or GA and have them tip the ball into the net. However the sheer unlikelihood of the move coming off, as well as the protection afforded to shooters once they take possession of the ball, makes it a tactic entirely fuelled by ego.
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