Is this the world’s toughest woman?

How Sharni Layton put the baller in netballer to become the world’s best. 

Photo: Swisse Wellness; Photo: Instagram

When Australian Diamonds captain Sharni Layton was a young netballer she threatened to quit the sport if her coach continued to make her play goal keeper.

“I said to my coach ‘I don’t want to play goal keeper anymore, if I don’t play somewhere else I’m going to quit’ and then he put me in centre and I ran around and said ‘put me back as goal keeper, I never want to run around again,’” she told myBody+Soul. Fast forward to 2017 and Layton, still cutting up the court as a GK, has just been voted the best netball player IN THE WORLD, a testament to her exceptional skill at the often overlooked and unpopular position on the court.

As legendary netballer Liz Ellis once said, being a goal keeper is tough. With little room to move and the goal of making a nuisance of yourself, it’s hardly a glamorous position. But the Pure Warrior powdered by Swisse ambassador credits the “mongrel” attitude of being a defender for bringing out the best in her, and ultimately getting her to the very top of her game.

One rough and resilient Diamond

“I like that mongrel shut-down game and it is cool, it’s fun and to work on the defensive unit is really rewarding. Just because you’re stuck back there doesn’t mean that you can’t run around and try and get the ball back and try and make it fun for yourself.”

While so many little girls grow up dreaming of playing netball for their country one day, Layton wasn’t one of them. She just wanted to ride horses. She had her sights set on a showjumping career and a spot on the Olympic equestrian team, and it wasn’t until her late teens that she realised her netball hobby could become a career.

“I was in and out of squads and went to an Australian netball game and I thought ‘oh my god, that’s what I want to do, how do I get there?’” she said. “But I was like ‘holy crap there’s only twelve girls in the team and how million netballers are there in Australia?’ I don’t think I actually believed that I could get there. I didn’t think I was good enough.” Layton planned to work towards landing a spot on the World Youth Cup team, after which she would quit netball at 21 and return to riding horses. But netball had other plans for Layton. The ponies would have to wait. She was too darn good. The world’s best, officially

Last year, six out of ten judges including a team (including four members of the international netball media, Liz Ellis, Sue Gaudion, Dana Johannsen and Anita Navin) voted Layton as the best netball player in the world. Layton could hardly believe it.

Even thought she says she was “never the most skillful player” growing up. She knew what hard work looked like and she wasn’t afraid of it.

“Growing up because I wasn’t the best netballer I had to put my life on hold to be the best netballer rather than going and studying or pursuing a career outside of it.,” Layton, 29, says. “For a long time I just worked a job that supported my netball because I thought ‘if I want to be the best then I have to put more time and effort in that anyone else’ so I’m only where I am today because of that.” So with her entire life constantly focused on being the best possible netballer she possibly could be, does it feel as good as she thought it would now she’s finally there?

It’s funny because you still feel like the same person, so when it comes it’s not that it’s not rewarding, but what it does give you is through those years where you’re like ‘why am I doing this?’. if you’ve been dropped or injured or you’re struggling off the netball court wondering if you’ve made the right decision, it does make it all worthwhile which is really cool and makes you realise you’re glad you had the faith and the support networks to get you to where you are.”

Tough woman rules to live by

Layton says for anyone who wants to get better at their game, there are three key thing to work on – don’t compare yourself to anyone else’s journey, strive for what you want and keep finding a way to get better.

“If you’re missing out on teams find out why,” she adds. “Never point the finger always think about what you can be doing better to help your team, the earlier you learn self-reflection the better, try harder next time and work out what you could improve on because no matter what you want in life whether it’s on the court or off the court, there will always be obstacles and you have to keep finding different ways around them and making your skills better.”

Layton adds that it’s all about doing the little things well and what separates world class netballers and the next step down is their attitude above anything else.

“Your passes need to be faster and stronger, your foot work needs to be quicker so don’t try and do anything too speccy. Plus have a really great attitude because that’s what coaches pick as well. I was never the most skillful player but I had a really great attitude and that always got me into teams. I had a really great work ethic and put the team first so coaches put the time and effort into me and the skill set came later.”

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