Power plays and three-point bombs aren’t the only quirks that distinguish Fast5 netball from the game’s traditional format.
Powerhouse nation Australia’s failure to capture an international title is perhaps the greatest oddity and talking point ahead of the Fast5 Netball World Series which returns to Melbourne from October 27 to 28.
Defending champion, and Commonwealth title holder England, alongside New Zealand, Jamaica, South Africa, Malawi and Australia will meet again in the Victorian capital to contest the high-octane version that illuminates netball’s quickest feet and fastest hands.
World number three New Zealand has been the dominant force in Fast5, winning six of the eight tournaments played since the competition emerged in Manchester as FastNet back in 2009.
England captured the other two titles, leaving world number one-ranked Australia without a trophy in the abbreviated model of the game.
While always competitive, the Australians have not yet mastered the five-a-side game despite fielding world class players including Clare Ferguson (nee McMeniman), Susan Pettitt, Courtney Bruce and Gretel Tippett in recent years.
Fast5’s nuances are worth noting. Leaving off the wing attack and wing defence are just the beginning.
The six-minute quarters – less than half that of traditional netball – mean players have no time to feel their way into a game.
Shooters and defenders must instantly be on alert to play to the scoring system.
Three scoring zones – one point for the inner circle, two for the outer circle and three for speculators launched from outside 4.9 metres – make for gripping strategic battles between attackers and defenders.
Team power plays – doubling the goal points scored for a nominated quarter – and rolling substitutions add to the excitement.
The law changes encourage the most adventurous players and coaches.
While it has yet to feature in a final, Malawi has been one of the most popular combatants.
The Malawi Queens’ fast ball movement and opportunism helped them to third place in 2016. This year they will be without injured star Mwai Kumwenda but the heartbeat of the team is their athletic mid-courter.
It is also a format to test the international credentials of players with ambition to make an impact at next year’s World Cup.
Australia’s Jess Anstiss has an opportunity to build her growing resume while England goaler Eleanor Cardwell is a two-time Superleague premiership winner with a chance to take the next step.
South Africa’s Sigrid Burger, a sharpshooting star after being called up as a replacement for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, is a personality player who should revel in Melbourne.
And the series is not without star power with New Zealand Test stalwart Bailey Mes will set a high standard for shooting.
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