Issue 2, Semester 2
If you’ll indulge me, I don’t want to talk about law for a bit. Controversial, I know! However, I recently learnt a new word—ultracrepidarian. Although it sounds like a dinosaur, it actually refers to a person who criticizes or gives their opinion on an area that is outside of their expertise. Nifty, huh? Soon after I learned it, I was presented with a great opportunity to use it.
I’d never heard of Nick Ferrari before the other day, but he said something that struck a nerve with me on his London-based, phone-in radio talk show that perhaps makes him the most ‘ultra’ of the ultracrepidarians.
He began by saying he ‘kind of’ gets women’s soccer, and likes women’s tennis because the ball moves slower. Then, he valiantly declared that “netball is not a real sport.” Yes. He actually said that, live on air, in London, on the same day the Netball World Cup kicked off in Liverpool, England. You can listen to it online, but be warned, if you are a netball fan or just a human being with half a brain, it will probably make your blood boil.
If you’ve ever spent more than five minutes with me, you’ll know I love everything netball, having played it for the last fourteen years. So, when this sixty-year-old man who probably couldn’t tell a Wing Defence from a Wing Attack gave his hot take on the topic, I just about lost it. While he does appear to have some questionable opinions on women’s sport in general, the truth is, I’ve come up against a lot of people who think netball is a trivial pastime. This could be because it is traditionally played by women and so has not been given the same godlike status as AFL and cricket. However, I suspect it’s because it is misunderstood. So, even if Ferrari was just saying this to turn shock-jock his average radio show, desperate for better ratings, I thought I’d take this moment to wax lyrical about one of my favourite things. Who knows, maybe you’ll learn something too!
Yes, netball has a lot of rules. You may have heard that it’s a non-contact sport, but as the three girls I once body-slammed (accidentally, albeit quite forcibly) will tell you, this simply isn’t the case. Ferrari took issue with the fact that it’s against the rules to tackle other players (interestingly, he made no mention of non-contact sports like cricket and tennis which he still thinks are deserving of our attention, do I hear double-standard?). But in reality, netball is a fair contact sport, meaning players can physically contest the ball, but if one is more physical than the other, they will be penalised. How you position yourself physically in comparison to your opponent can decide who wins the individual contests and who gains possession of the ball, so contact is key. Sure, it’s not a footy tackle, but it’s not supposed to be, because there is skill in gaining possession when you can’t take players to the ground, but rather have to be standing in the exact right spot even before the ball is thrown.
Ferrari also scoffed at the fact that players cannot run with the ball. Once a player catches the ball, they cannot re-ground the first foot they landed on, meaning the player has to be almost stationary to pass the ball. However, another rule stipulates that the ball cannot be held for longer than three seconds, meaning teams move at breakneck speed as they try to convert their possession to a goal without forfeiting the ball to the tough and scary defenders who exist purely to stop this exact thing from happening. If you don’t believe me, watch a quarter of professional netball. All of the World Cup games can be found on 9Now (not an ad), as can the Suncorp Super Netball League games—an Australian league which is considered to be the most competitive competition in the world. Netball requires intense dedication, high levels of fitness and endurance, a great understanding of strategy, and the ability to work effectively in teams in high-pressure situations.
The best parts of the game arise because of the rules Ferrari finds so absurd, as it requires players to be creative, fast and strong to trick their opponents—and to think three steps ahead. If netball isn’t a sport, I am at a loss to tell you what is. Rant over.
Emily is a Second Year JD Student.