New Zealand trained teacher Jessie Knapp forms a basket-ball club holding regular competition between the boarders and the day girls at The Girls’ College Wanganui.


By now there were over 60 members of the ‘Basket-ball Club’ playing a very early female variant of the game closely linked to the invention of indoor basketball by James Naismith in 1891. Other variants were played by women and girls throughout New Zealand in isolated pockets over the next decade, particularly in Otago and Southland. There is record of the game being played at Otago Girls High School in 1900 but more as a novelty activity rather than as a regular competition such as that established by Jessie Knapp.


In Auckland, under the guidance of The Reverend J C Jamieson, Travelling Secretary of the Presbyterian Bible Class Union of New Zealand, and his wife Constance, the St Luke’s Remuera Women’s Bible class formed a basketball club. The Hood family from St Luke’s provided a paddock next to their farmhouse in Armadale Road, Remuera, as the home ground for the newly formed club. In June, Mrs Hood, President of the club, declared the inaugural game open, and the auspicious occasion was attended by friends, family and young women from other basketball clubs in Auckland. These teams played a seven-a-side game, with two reserves. A set of rules had been drawn up for this competition, but these have not survived. Evidence suggests that three bounces of the ball were allowed and throws from one end of the field to the other were common. Wicker baskets were used for goals and after each goal, the ball had to be tipped out to restart play.


The Jamieson’s had been introducing their variants of basketball for men and for women in Presbyterian Bible class groups throughout New Zealand since 1905. In early 1907, the Presbyterian National Bible Class Summer Conference was held in Invercargill and featured a basketball competition. A women’s team from Auckland played in the competition with Jamieson being one of the referees.

In Auckland, to mark the close of the 1907 season, a tournament was held at the St Luke’s Armadale Road home ground. It was contested between 10 teams with 300 spectators watching the St Luke’s A team take out the final and be presented with the trophy. A key player in the St Luke’s A team was their captain, Agnes Monro, who went on to become a teacher and a founding member of the Auckland Basketball Association. The other clubs playing at this time besides St Luke’s, were St David’s, St James, Papatoetoe and Devonport who all fielded two teams each.


Connie Jamieson continued to foster the growth of the game throughout the Presbyterian women’s bible class groups as she travelled with her husband in the early years of their marriage. This left her husband free to continue his primary focus on his work within the young men’s Bible class movement. The women’s game rapidly spread via the women’s bible class groups, the YWCA and Teacher’s Training Colleges throughout New Zealand and thereby into primary schools. Auckland Teacher’s College principal Herbert Milnes was an early and enthusiastic advocate of the game following his appointment in 1906. He frequently taught pupils and teachers how to play the game and required his female teacher trainees to learn the rules and take the game out into the schools. In 1909, Milnes became president of the newly formed Auckland Basket Ball Association (ABBA) to help promote the game further.

As more teams were formed, games were played on a field in Brighton Road Parnell, and on Carrie’s paddock where a block of shops now stands, in Sandringham, Auckland. Gradually, more sustained competitions were established in other parts of the Dominion to accommodate the rapidly increasing numbers of schoolgirls and young women wanting to play the game.


With the support of schoolteachers, the game grew steadily, although different sets of rules were played in different Netball Centres. Some played the seven-a-side version of the game and others, nine-a-side, which handicapped competitive matches between centres/provinces/regions for many years. Centres played their own variation of the game to suit their community need and the usually limited facilities available. Travel was difficult so they rarely played outside their local areas.

1916 - 1920

Basketball was increasingly seen as more suitable than hockey as it was a non- contact sport with rules which discouraged aggressive play. Hockey also challenged for a share of male playing space while basketball increasingly moved from the playing fields onto tennis courts in winter which were not required for male sport. By 1916, increasing numbers of girls’ schools dropped hockey in preference to basketball with the latter becoming the dominant female sport in New Zealand by 1920. Basketball had the advantage of cutting across all social divisions of the female population and was by this time played at primary, secondary and tertiary level.