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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 7 Hansard (4 June) . . Page.. 1818 ..

MRS CROSS (11.51): Mr Speaker, despite better funding and more media attention, women's sport continues to be the poor relation in terms of general exposure. Just why this is so is not entirely clear, as Australia has over the years produced women of world calibre in a variety of sports-women like Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong, Dawn Fraser, Shane Gould, Heather McKay, Cathy Freeman, Lisa Curry Kenny and many more. Each time they have dominated the news there has been a resurgence of interest by the general public, but it has seldom been sustained.

If anyone doubts women's commitment to sport, they just have to go to the netball courts at Deakin on a Saturday to see the several hundred girls and women in competition cheered on by hundreds of keen spectators and supporters. When Norm goes to see his daughter Mairead play netball or Dave and Bev head out to see Amy blitz the field in a triathlon, they need assurance that the event will be well managed and accessible to grassroots Canberrans.

There are over half a million registered netball players in Australia, so netball is by far the most popular women's sport. Netball has come a long way since it arrived in Australia with English schoolteachers in the early 1900s and was introduced to primary school children as women's basketball. It appears to have been derived from the men's game of basketball, which was invented in America in 1871. The game of basketball was introduced into England in 1890, but at that time it made little impression in men's sporting circles, where the more traditional games or soccer, rugby and cricket were firmly entrenched.

Women liked the game, despite the fact that their long skirts, bustle backs, nipped waists and button-up shoes impeded running on the court and their leg-of-mutton sleeves restricted arm movement and made dribbles and long passes difficult to execute. To overcome this, the ladies decided to adapt the game to suit their circumstances. They divided the court into thirds and introduced a rule that the ball must be caught or touched at least once in each third, and no-one was allowed to run with the ball, which established restricted playing areas for each position.

More players were added, making nine players in each team (later reduced to seven). They got rid of the unsightly backboard by allowing five seconds (later reduced to three) to shoot for goal, and they modified the goal ring to suit the smaller sized soccer ball. In other words, they created netball.

Although the first set of rules was not published until 1901, the Chambers Encyclopaedia of Sports Records showed that the first game of netball was played in England in 1892, on grass with clothes props for goalposts and paper bags for baskets.

As far as Netball Australia can tell, the game was brought to Australia by English schoolteachers in the early 1900s. Netball Australia is proud of the following achievements. The game is the most popular women's sport in Australia. Netball Australia has a national membership of over 350,000 and 541 affiliated associations. Including the registered numbers of Netball Australia, there are an estimated 1.2 million netball players in Australia. Internationally, netball is played in approximately 50 countries, 45 of which are affiliated with the International Federation of Netball Associations, otherwise known as IFNA.

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