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Off The Court podcast: Sharni Norder on success, exhaustion and depression in her Australia netball career

Sharni Norder on Sky's Off The Court podcast: "I ended up with depression because I was so hard on myself for so long and nothing was good enough. It wasn't until I got therapy that I am really proud of being a part of those [Australia] teams. At the time, I couldn't see that"

during the second International Netball Series match between England and Australia at Copper Box Arena on January 22, 2016 in London, England.
Image: Former Australia netball international Sharni Norder speaks candidly to Sky Sports' Off The Court podcast about her struggles with depression

In this week's Off The Court podcast, Tamsin Greenway is joined by Australian netball legend Sharni Norder (nee Layton) to chat through her career success, and her experience of exhaustion and depression.

The ex-Aussie Diamond won gold at the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and the Netball World Cup in both 2011 and 2015.

In 2016 she was announced as the Australian ANZ Championship Player of the Year and then in 2017, Norder captained the Aussie Diamonds.

To many netball fans across the globe, Norder is an idol both on and off the court due to her infectious positive energy. Greenway, who previously played against Norder during her England Roses career, refers to her as "a proper leader, a game-changer", someone who "burst onto this scene as this player, [of a type] I'd never seen playing for Australia before".

From the outside Norder has a golden track record given her successful career in the Aussie Diamonds squad and when playing in the Suncorp Super Netball League in Australia. However, in 2017 Norder announced she would take an indefinite break from the sport due to severe exhaustion. She confirmed her complete retirement from netball in 2018.

In the podcast, Norder explained the background to her decision:

"I ended up with depression because I was so hard on myself for so long and nothing was good enough," she said.

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"I never played in a gold-medal match, ever. So, World Cup, Commonwealth Games, never played. I played up to semi-finals, but I never graced the court in a final, so I felt like a failure because I didn't achieve, whilst I got the medals to show I was there, for me I was a failure.

during the International Test match between the Australian Diamonds and England at Adelaide Entertainment Centre on August 31, 2016 in Adelaide, Australia.
Image: Norder reveals she suffered with depression towards the end of her career and after retiring

"It wasn't until I took time off and had depression and got therapy, that I am really proud of being a part of those teams and I know what I contributed to the teams. But at the time when I had depression, I couldn't see that, all I could see was that I haven't played, and I am not good enough."

Also in the episode, Greenway explores themes of resilience and discusses with Norder how she dealt with the pressure of the sport and what it took for her to become the athlete she is today.

"I was so fixated about being the best I could be, that I compared myself to a version of myself that didn't exist. I know I can be better, and I want to be better, and I want to keep comparing myself to that person," she added.

"What people didn't see when I was away from the court, was that I was doing two, three extra gym sessions a week, that I was doing an extra footwork session a week to make sure I was faster than everyone else. That I was doing extra video analysis every week and when I retired, everyone was like, 'Sharni Why are you retiring?'

"I was like, 'I just can't keep doing this'. I took six months off for the depression and I never got back to as good as what I was, but I also knew how hard it was to get there and I wasn't willing to do the work because I wasn't in a good place when I pushed myself that hard to get there.

"So it was between life and sport, and I chose life because of the position I was in. I also wasn't okay with not becoming the player I used to be, so for me the easiest thing and the healthiest thing to do was to walk away.

"Would I have been the player I was if I didn't push myself as hard as I did? It's that dilemma of you can never really have regrets and whilst I would change my perspective and not be as hard on myself to a certain degree, I still would want to be that player that I became because of what I believed I could do."

 Sharni Norder
Image: The Aussie says the level of hard work she put into her career left her exhausted

In 2021, Norder released her book 'No Apologies' which reveals in detail her battle with anxiety and depression, which Norder is more open to discussing and shares with Greenway how her life has changed since moving away from the court.

"I've actually taken my foot off the pedal and I'm trying to live a quieter lifestyle," she said.

"I feel like my life is dull but I'm happy with that, like I'm really happy with that. People from the outside look in and they're like 'you're doing so much' and I'm like 'yeah, but that's less than what I would usually do'.

"I'm always going to be active, I'm always going to be moving and doing a million different things, you know it's the ADHD in me, it keeps me happy being on the move."

Norder is still involved with netball, keeping herself busy with running training camps and sessions for younger and more grassroots players.

"I love grassroots, like for me grassroots is where it's at in netball, like the passion and the amount of people that play it, boys and girls and they just play it because they love it. You don't have the pressure and seriousness of professional netball."

She has now returned to a professional netball environment, as a defence coach with Suncorp Super Netball side Melbourne Vixens. Norder explains her gratitude to head coach Simone McKinnis for reaching out for the opportunity.

"They're already the best at what they do. It's not about coaching them, it's about making them feel good about themselves and giving them the belief so that their pure skills can come to form each and every game."

 Sharni Norder
Image: Norder is now back working in professional netball as a coach

At the end of the podcast, Norder reflects on the future of the Netball Super League here in the UK and shares how she believes it could become the number one league in the world.

"I just want to say that I'm really excited for the UK league, and what I would love is for the UK to push so hard that it challenges the Super Netball League to be the number one.

"I think if you can get that up and running and if you can get commercial partners in that will push it, you could be the number one league in the world."

Norder continues to be an idol to many netball fans across the world and the infectious energy she still has for the sport is inspiring to a whole new generation. She reveals that, as long as she is "contributing to a better Earth" then she will continue her positive outlook for Netball.

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