It’s colourful, it’s snappy, it’s dynamic, and it’s back – the Fast5 Netball World Series returns to NZ with the hometown Ferns firm favourites. Merryn Anderson sizes up the competition.
It’s been four years since we’ve seen the shortened version of netball on an international scale, but Fast5 returns to New Zealand this weekend.
The Fast5 Netball World Series first was held in 2009, with the top six ranked nations invited to participate in the lively tournament.
New Zealand are the reigning champions, having won seven of the nine editions, and bring a strong side to Christchurch to defend their 2018 title.
A quick reminder of the rules: Fast5 has six-minute quarters, with five players on court at a time (no wing attack or wing defence) and rolling subs.
Shooters have three options from where to take a shot – the area close to the hoop is worth one point, the outside of the circle two, and any shot sunk from outside the goal circle is rewarded with three points.
In a new rule, the power play has been changed from one full quarter, to the last 90 seconds of each quarter, so both teams will have the chance to double their points – and earn up to six points per goal.
As netball makes a bid to become an Olympic sport at the 2032 Brisbane Games, Fast5 will be under the spotlight as a possible format for the women’s and men’s game.
With no tournaments since 2018, it’s hard to predict who might come out on top. But LockerRoom has done our research to give you a guide.
Easily the most experienced team, half of the Fast5 Ferns have Silver Ferns caps, while three of the team have won a Fast5 tournament before. Coached by Silver Ferns assistant coach Deb Fuller, the Ferns have a lot of firepower and experience with the strategies needed to stay in the game. Playing in front of a home crowd for the first time since 2014 will also give a boost to the reigning champions.
Aliyah Dunn and Kimiora Poi were part of the triumphant 2018 team, and Tiana Metuarau will make her Fast5 debut alongside her long-time shooting partner Dunn. The country’s newest Silver Fern, Elle Temu, will likely lead the defensive end with Kristiana Manu’a, who will be up against some old Australian teammates.
Player to watch: Sam Winders
After missing out on Silver Ferns selection, the midcourt dynamo packed her bags after nine seasons at the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic and moved south to suit up for the Southern Steel next year. With plenty to prove and a never-ending supply of energy and enthusiasm, Winders is sure to stand out for the Ferns.
Australia’s domestic league, Suncorp Super Netball, has often come under fire for their unique set of rules that differ from World Netball’s standard game. However, the rolling subs and ‘super shot’ used in their league will give the Aussies an advantage at Fast5. Australia were runners-up from 2013 to 2016, and dropped to third at the last two tournaments, but with a strong team full of Diamonds and future stars, they look very competitive.
Player to watch: Sophie Dwyer
Diamond #187 Sophie Dwyer makes her debut against the Silver Ferns last month.
Dwyer shot a massive 41 super shots for the Giants in Super Netball this year, which put her in the top five shooters in the league. She recently made her debut for the Diamonds at just 20 years old, and isn’t afraid to put up the long shots.
The only team outside of New Zealand to have won a Fast5 World Series (2011 and 2017), England have also run a yearly domestic Fast5 competition since 2017. For a squad largely lacking international experience, having a team filled with players with knowledge of the game is highly beneficial. Without their iconic long bomb specialists Jo Harten and Helen Housby, their youthful side will have to play to their strengths.
Player to watch: Tash Pavelin
Tash Pavelin is an adept aerial player who thrives on Fast5
A member of the Team Bath squad who won the domestic Fast5 competition in 2021, Pavelin received her first call-up for the Roses this year. The 24-year-old defender can fly across the court for intercepts and with less players and more court space, Fast5 will play to her strengths.
Jamaica came within one point of victory last tournament, with their team bookended with stars Shamera Sterling and Romelda Aiken George. With a lot of their top players missing, the Jamaicans still bring their usual Caribbean flair to Fast5, with their aerial skills and athleticism an asset to the shortened form of the game.
Player to watch: Romelda Aiken George
Aiken George returns to netball after having her first child, daughter Gianna, in August with something to prove. Her Queensland Firebirds team did not renew her a contract for 2023, citing it “too risky” on her recovery from birth. Not known for her long shots, Aiken George will likely be used primarily as a settler under the hoop, and to fish in any rebounds. Though don’t be surprised if she turns up at the other end of the court – she’s played goal keep for Jamaica at past Fast5 tournaments!
Uganda make their Fast5 debut, thanks to their fifth place finish at the Commonwealth Games shooting them up the World Netball rankings to sixth. Nine of Uganda’s squad of 10 competed in Birmingham so the side doesn’t lack experience, but Fast5 is a different challenge.
Player to watch: Mary Cholhok
Mary Cholhok defended by Silver Fern Sulu Fitzpatrick at this year’s Commonwealth Games.
Standing at 2.01m, the goal shooter was the topscorer in the UK’s Netball Superleague in 2019 and 2021, with national teammate Peace Proscovia taking out the title this year. While Fast5 benefits long distance shooting, rebounds are equally important, along with settling teams with one pointers, so Cholhok’s height and accuracy under the hoop will be a danger for opponents’ defenders.
South Africa’s best finish at a Fast5 tournament was third in 2012, and with a largely inexperienced squad at international level, it will be a challenge for their side to compete with the top teams. Only two of their squad competed at the Birmingham Games, where they finished sixth.
Player to watch: Nicola Smith
Nicola Smith is looking forward to playing her netball in the UK
Recently signing a contract to play with Leeds Rhinos in the UK league, the 22-year-old defender made her debut for the Proteas this year, and played all six games for South Africa at the Commonwealth Games.
*The Fast5 Netball World Series will be played at Christchurch Arena on Saturday and Sunday, and screened live on Sky Sport 1 from midday.