New Fast5 format expected to be a hit
Eastern Southland umpire Jono Bredin predicts that netball's new Fast5 format will be a free-flowing, entertaining spectacle, with less whistle.
The revamped shortened form of the game will be played for the first time at the World Series international tournament in Auckland, over the next three days.
Fast5 is slightly different to the previous Fastnet version with two fewer players in a team and the introduction of the three point goal supershot.
As per normal netball rules, only the goal shoot and goal attack are allowed to shoot goals.
The Fast5 Ferns and the other five teams at the tournament - Australia, Jamaica, England, South Africa and Malawi - have spent the past couple of days getting accustomed to the new rules during practice games.
It is not just the players, who have had to adjust but also the umpires.
Bredin and fellow Eastern Southland umpire Kristie Simpson will be the two New Zealand representatives at the tournament and both predicted the game would be popular with fans.
"It's all new for everyone. The players, coaching teams, and umpires are all very aware, we want to make this product as successful as we can," Bredin said.
"It's fast, it's furious and I think it's going to be a really good spectacle."
Simpson gained her first international umpiring experience at the South Pacific Cup Series this year and is excited to be a part of the inaugural Fast5 World Series.
"It's going to be fast. That's pretty much what it comes down to," she said.
"With the different points in the (shooting) circle, it's going to be quite interesting to watch. It's definitely a really good spectator sport."
With no wing attack and wing defence, teams will have to come up with fresh strategies and adapt to the greater space out on court.
Bredin expected the Fast5 game to be played at a lightning-quick pace, which meant umpires would have less time to react than usual.
A key focus for the umpires would be to rely on hand signals when officiating and keep the amount of whistle down to a minimum.
"There's a lot more emphasis on working together and from a fan point of view, not having too much whistle," he said.
One of the biggest challenges for umpires with the new game was around the application of the advantage rule.
Bredin said with two fewer players in a team and the opportunity to shoot from different areas of the court, it was more complicated to administer than in traditional seven-a-side netball.
The umpiring panel had warmed up for the tournament with several practice games and Bredin said it had not taken long for them to get up to speed with the new concept.
"You've got different dynamics in terms of how fast the ball is coming through. Fundamentally, it's netball with a twist," she said.
"I'm really looking forward to seeing it in action."
The tournament begins at 5pm today with Jamaica playing South Africa in the opening clash.
The shortened form of netball was originally launched in England in 2009 as FastNet.
TONIGHT: 6.30pm: v Jamaica; 9.30pm: v Australia
TOMORROW: 5pm: v Malawi 7.15pm: v South Africa; 9.30pm: v England SUNDAY: Finals
The Southland Times