Everything You Need to Know About Netball’s Fast5 World Series
By Jenny Sinclair
After an epic year, Australian netball is set to unwind with the first Melbourne-based Fast5 tournament. Battle weary players and administrators – think of the double overtime ANZ Championship grand final, a fiercely contested Constellation Cup against New Zealand, and the landmark new pay deal and league – will welcome the light-hearted fun and shortened format of our more traditional game.
1. How is Fast5 Different?
Rules are modified and tactics changed to suit. While just five players take the court at any one time – wing attack and wing defence are omitted – all players see action due to the rolling substitutions. Scoring zones are divided into one, two and three point areas, with each side nominating a “power play” quarter where every goal by that team counts for double. Watching the swish of a long range six pointer is electrifying. Games are just 24 minutes (6 minute quarters) – we said it was fast.
2. Channel 9 Broadcasts Netball for the First Time.
Channel 9 signed a new landmark 5 year deal with Netball Australia to broadcast the new competition on free to air television. For women’s sport, this is a game changer and it all starts at the Fast5. Channel 9 promised to showcase netball like it’s never been done before and be prepared as the broadcaster is set to throw all its new toys at this competition. More cameras than ever before and some innovative ones at that, we can’t wait to see the sideliner camera which will travel up the sideline keeping pace with this incredibly fast sport. All the action will be LIVE on GEM.
3. Why Fans Love the Shooting Zones?
Six points are on offer for each successful long bomb during the powerplay quarter, so an early lead doesn’t guarantee victory. Teams who are brave enough to shoot long can rapidly claw back a deficit – if they are accurate! With greater risk comes greater reward, a strategic change that keeps coaches and players on their toes, and fans on the edge of their seats. As Yogi Berra said, ‘It ain’t over till it’s over!’
As a long range shooting specialist, Erin Bell is perfectly suited to the shortened format. She told Sportette, “If you come with an open mind, and not expecting the traditional game, Fast5 is fresh and exciting. There are some brilliant skills on display, and players are constantly thinking how to outwit their opposition through use of the different shooting zones. It’s a very strategic game.”
4. Why Fans are Hot and Bothered About Shooting Zones?
It changes the tactical face of the game, as defenders push opponents away from their preferred shooting range. In the traditional format, that’s the inner circle for accuracy; in Fast5 it’s the outer circle for maximum points. There’s talk of bringing two point zones into traditional netball matches from 2018, talk that’s divided fans. How it would affect the Diamonds and international rules is another factor to be considered.
5. What the Fans Enjoy.
Watching the six top nations in the world play each other across an action packed weekend. Dazzling skills are on offer as each team tries to outplay, outmuscle and outshoot each other.
Joining the party. Music, costumes, lights and team dances add up to a carnival atmosphere, with the off-court spectacle matching on-court athleticism for sheer entertainment.
6. What the Players Enjoy:
With Australia and New Zealand dominating the traditional game, it gets a tad frustrating for lesser ranked nations. In Fast5, all the lower ranked nations, including Malawi and South Africa, have beaten Australia in the past. They know how to celebrate these mini-victories with style.
8. Players to Watch: Australia
Courtney Bruce: The defender had a break-out 2016, and her elevation and ability to intercept a pass are reminiscent of the great Casey Kopua. Capable of playing all three defensive positions, selectors’ eyes will be on this promising youngster. Ineligible for the Diamonds earlier this year following a minor knee injury, she could potentially be a back-up for Sharni Layton.
Gretel Tippett: Her height, athleticism and basketball skills make her exciting to watch and a tough opponent to match up on. A recently selected Diamond, Gretel’s court craft is a work in progress, but she improves with every outing. Coaches will want her to go to the post more often.
Paige Hadley and Erin Bell: Overlooked for international duties this year, both players will be pushing for a recall ahead of the 2018 Commonwealth Games. With lofty goal attacks trending, fans appreciate watching the verve and flair of shorter players like Erin.
Defenders Jo Weston and Kate Shimmin: are respectively the Diamonds’ newest member and training partner. They will face stiff opposition from Courtney Bruce for the goal keeper’s bib vacated by newly pregnant Laura Geitz.
Players to Watch: New Zealand
Kelly Jury: The Silver Ferns are struggling against Caitlin Bassett, and will be eagerly watching this 192 centimetre defender for signs of youthful promise.
Te Paea Selby-Rickit: Outstanding on debut this month, Te Paea has thrown down the gauntlet to Silver Ferns incumbent goal attack Maria Tutaia. A star on the rise.
Players to Watch: England
Helen Housby: is a brilliant exponent of long range shooting in the English Superleague, but is yet to translate form internationally. Joining the NSW Swifts next year will give her much needed practise against tough Aussie opponents.
Kadeen Corbin: has previously ruffled Australian feathers with her victory-inspired theatrics. Has she toned it down, or will her backflips and cartwheels be on display again?
Players to Watch: Jamaica
Kasey Evering and Althea Byfield: Both defenders were overlooked for the 2015 World Cup, and will be trying to regain their place in the national team. These gritty, uncompromising players will be rugged opponents.
Players to Watch: South Africa
Vanes-Mari du Toit: Another player who has been out of favour, Vanes-Mari unusually plays in attack and defence. Previously scouted by ANZ Championship teams, but remained unsigned by either side of the ditch.
Players to Watch: Malawi
Sindi Simtowe: is Malawi’s answer to Nat Medhurst – a classy goal attack who controls play. Disappointed not to see her called up for the new Australian league, netball diehards will enjoy watching her put up a power of shots.
9. The Final Word
The question on everyone’s lips is, can Australia win Fast5? In six previous outings, the Flyers have never won a tournament, and in 2012 finished a dismal last. Fast5 is the one elusive trophy missing from Australia’s bulging cabinet.
All the action will take place on the 29th and 30th of October at Melbourne’s Hisense Arena. All the action is LIVE on 9GEM across the weekend.