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Goal defending
File Photo Credit: VOXSPORTS for SportSG

By Valerie Wong

Now that you know the equipment required in a game of netball, its time to look at how you can improve your game.

If you have watched a game of netball before, you may probably have observed bodies frenetically rushing all over court. You may even have felt intimidated by all what was going on. But there is a very systematic order to the chaos before you. These bodies are usually those of defenders, scuttling around court employing strategies to intercept their opponent's passes. 

In this article we will share 4 netball tips on zonal marking that teach you the right ways to defend the circle and how to be a good goal defender.

1. Start with yourself

The most important thing for a goal defender is to stay focused and keep your eyes on the ball. Ideally, your eyes should be watching the ball with help from your peripheral vision, while your body remains able to deny your opponents from throwing or receiving passes. 

It may take some time getting used to but after much practice, it becomes easier to tail your opponent or intercept a pass even when the ball is moving speedily down the court or at a distance away from you. 

Having good communication with your team mates is important. You should have in place with your team a system that will force your opponent to pass a certain way, or to quickly be able to inform each other of loopholes in the opponent's play. This will make gaining possession of the ball easier.

This is a team game so do not be the weak link. Start with yourself and make sure you are able to focus and communicate with your team well.

2. Mans-on defence

This is a popular type of defence with teams. Basically, one tries her best to stick to opponents wherever they run to deny them a pass. The close proximity cuts off that certain player as an option, limiting the team members that the opponent can pass to. Hence, it may throw the opponent into a state of panic and uncomfortable position or force the ball to be thrown at a particular angle. 

If the ball is forced to this certain receiver, you can go in front of the player and intercept the pass, or force the thrower to over throw. This type of defence works best if the person enforcing it is fast so she will be able to follow the opponent very closely. 

If the defender is not fast enough, this type of defence may not be as effective as there will always be an open space for the opponent to receive the ball, without allowing the defender the chance to cut in front of her or deny a run. This defence is applicable both in and outside of the circle, depending on the type of movement of the opponent.

3. Area defence

This is another popular type of defence. In this system, instead of sticking to the opponent, defenders anticipate passes. They go for interceptions that may be a distance away and deny runs up or down the court at an angle. One should place themselves further away from their opponent and anticipate where their opponent is going to throw or run next. Hence, they would be able to intercept the ball or force a pass out of court. 

A cross-court pass is a pass that goes from one side of the court to the other, which takes a much longer time to reach the receiver. Defenders can try to force their opponents to make cross-court passes, lengthening the distance needed to cover.  In this amount of time, you can cut in front of the receiver and take the ball. Sometimes, this may cause the thrower's pass to be weak, making it even easier to intercept that pass.

4. Anticipate and communicate

Now this is where a bit of strategy comes in. If you play goalkeeper, most of the time you will not be all the way up the transverse line. Hence, you could use this opportunity to read the opponent's game. But whether or not you are playing at the back, there will definitely be opportunities to analyse how attackers of the other team play – whether they utilise a certain system or style of playing. 

Once you find a loophole in that system, your team can make use of it to gain possession of the ball. Another key point, thus, is communication. Nothing will work without communication. A good defender must call out to her team mates in order to alert them to movement of the ball. To ask them to cover an area or simply to tell them that they are going for an interception so as to avoid unnecessary collisions which may cause injury.

There are still many other types of defence systems out there in the netball world, but what's most important is you and your team being able to execute them smoothly. You must take control of the game you are playing and not panic. 

Whether you're playing competitively in the Netball Nations Cup or just for fun, you should always remember to put in your best efforts to enjoy this sport and get the most out of the sport.

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