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Volunteer coach Emma Groundwater was recently honoured for her work with U12 and U16 netball teams.

Until Hannah Bryce, England's rep, wrote to us about netball, I had no idea that netball existed or that it is avidly played by 20 million women around the world.

The game was invented in the United States in 1895 by Clara Gregory Baer, who was inspired by Canadian James Naismith's game of men's basketball. But netball never really took off in the US. (VP nominee Sarah Palin played basketball.)

It was not until netball reached Britain that the game began to grow in popularity. In 1900 the rules, which had been a little vague, were firmed up.

Passing the ball, intercepting it, and firing it into the hoop while moving within the opposition's goal circle are the game's essentials. Teamwork is key.

Netball players must have tremendous skill and energy, particularly if they are good enough to represent their nation at the Commonwealth Games or the World Championships. Australia and New Zealand teams have been powerhouses, but England has not been a slacker, taking bronze at the 2006 Commonwealth Games.


Sue Hawkins (in sunglasses) with players from the Test Series.

Sue Hawkins is the new England captain, which has just announced its Senior England Long Squad for the 2008/09 season. Eighteen players have been selected to work closely with Hawkins in the run up to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and the 2011 World Netball Championships in Singapore.

One of the Long Team's youngest players, Serena Guthrie, who just returned from an Australian tour, said that “Getting into the squad is the easy part, it’s staying in that is difficult. I have been training every day and played matches most weekends."

The game commands a loyal host of volunteers around Britain.

We look forward to hearing more about the players and the game. Since netball became a recognised Olympics sport in 1995, perhaps we can finally see some play in the 2012 Olympics in London?

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