The 12-member Canadian netball team was selected for the 2002 Commonwealth Games following trials in Burnaby, B.C.

Leading the squad are Joanne Burns Millar and Shelley Sung of Vancouver, Maria Hodgins of North Vancouver and Shirley Anne McKenzie of Toronto - four returnees from the 1998 Commonwealth Games team.

"Our objective at the Games this year is to make the top three in our pool and go from there," said Canadian team manager Mary Webb of Vancouver. "All the powerhouses in the sport are at the Commonwealth Games. Australia and New Zealand are where Canada use to be in hockey. Much more superior than the rest."

Centre-court player Sharon Butler of Toronto, a member of Canada's most successful team, which placed sixth at the 1991 world championships, returns after a near 10-year hiatus. She also played basketball for four seasons for the University of Toronto Blues, winning three provincial titles and playing in four national championships.

"Netball is a wonderful sport," said Butler, a recreational co-ordinator for the City of Toronto. "It?s because of netball I was able to play basketball since it demands similar skills. I certainly want to help to make it better known so that one day people stop asking me what netball is. Certainly the Commonwealth Games are going to play a big role in that."

Also on the team are Zoe Baldwin and Maralyn Hope of Vancouver, Emma O?Donnell, Dulcina Wind and Sheryl Thorpe of Toronto, Patricia Carlson of Kamloops, B.C. and Dana Graf of Richmond, B.C.

At both the 1998 Commonwealth Games and 1999 world championships, Australia won the gold, New Zealand was second and England third. Canada has played in world tournaments since 1979 and was 13th at the 1999 worlds out of 28 countries.

Netball was invented by Dr. James Naismith of Almonte, Ont. - best known for inventing basketball - after being asked by the Boston YMCA to develop a women's version of basketball. However, more and more men are picking up the sport, particularly in Australia.

Played by two teams of seven players, netball is a sport based around throwing and catching. Only two designated players can score goals, there is no backboard for the net, dribbling is not permitted, and defenders must stay three feet away from the player with the ball.

"The Commonwealth Games are a unique mix of development and profile," said Marg McGregor, Chef de Mission for the Canada?s 2002 Commonwealth Games team. "They provide the opportunity to follow athletics, swimming, cycling as well as to discover sports like netball that may not be well known in Canada, even thought it has been played here for over 20 years. Netball World Championships are held every four years. This is also a sport that enjoys incredible popularity in other parts of the Commonwealth, like the Caribbean for example."

Courtesy of Canadian Sport News