Netball physicality ramping up as ANZ Premiership evolves

Not long ago, netball and rugby were worlds apart, but the opening round of the ANZ Premiership proved that's not the case anymore.

The physicality was there for all to see, with fends in the face, elbows in the side and players being thrown all over the court.  

And while you probably shouldn't see fends on the netball court, it's an example of the physicality that's present in the game nowadays, and one of the big differences between the ANZ Premiership and the English domestic competition.

"Over here, it's just a whole different level," says Kiwi Chiara Semple, who has played in the UK-based Vitality Super League. "Girls are a bit smarter, it's more physical like you saw on Monday... it's a big step up," 

That step up is reflected in the sport being referred to as 'semi-contact' as opposed to non-contact.

"It looks ferocious," says Chiefs rugby forward Naitoa Ah Kuoi. "We went to a [Waikato-Bay of Plenty] Magic game last year and, man, they're quite tough out there."

Veteran Australian Diamonds star Caitlin Bassett agrees, after making her debut for the Magic on Monday night. 

"I think the fact that Tem [Temalisi Fakahokotau] wears mouthguards tells you about the physicality on the court," Bassett notes. 

"I think it's what makes netball great at the moment. You have the fittest and the fastest and the strongest athletes doing battle week in, week out, and you've got to use your brain and brawn out there."

Bassett doesn't think the brawn is over the top and believes the referees are doing a good job at keeping a lid on things - even though they might not see everything.

"They were really good the other night in our game in particular," says Bassett. "They handed out some cautions early, which - as players - it puts you on notice straight away to pull your head in."

So while there are some similarities between netball and rugby, sticking to high fives and not head highs would be a difference worth preserving.