Netball: New player safety rules to be introduced for Silver Ferns' upcoming Nations Cup

Netball's Nations Cup may be a bit less physical than expected.  

World Netball is cracking down on contact in an attempt to increase player safety and decrease the rising amount of head injuries.  

The Silver Ferns are getting used to the initiative before the January tournament, with just a few weeks to get used to the new regulations.

"It's probably a great opportunity for us to have the umpires here at trials to help us get used to the rules," said Silver Ferns defender Phoenix Karaka.

Grace Nweke snares a pass during Silver Ferns trials.
Grace Nweke snares a pass during Silver Ferns trials. Photo credit: Photosport

The sport's governing body is placing a big emphasis on player safety, so from January 1, there'll be no more warnings for physical contact. Instead, players will be sent for an immediate spell on the sidelines.

 "With more serious dangerous play like contact to the head, where there might be a risk of head injury or concussion, that's a minimum of a two-minute suspension," said NZ international umpire Gareth Fowler.

"We don't want people being taken out head high," added NZ assistant coach Debbie Fuller. "That's not netball - we aren't a collision sport."

Defensive players may need to be more careful, although Fuller insists that won't be a problem for the Ferns, suggesting the new rule will be more of an adjustment for others.

"Maybe I'm biased, but I think our girls are pretty good," she said. "Internationally, I think I might have a few questions."

The other major rule change sees teams allowed to make positional changes and substitutions during play, rather than having to wait until a quarter break or fake an injury, which means more players will get game-time.  

"It will be good for the youth in the team to get that exposure and experience out on court," said Karaka. 

There'll be plenty of court time on offer, with January's series including games against England, Australia and Uganda.