Sharni Layton talks Netball World Cups, 2019's twist and handling the world stage
"When you grow up as a kid and a netballer, for those that don't know netball as well, you're growing up wanting to play in a World Cup."
By Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 03/04/19 6:42pm
Every sport has its icons, the rock stars whose exceptional talent and work ethic lead the way. These individuals set the tone, they inspire a generation after them and in the world of netball, few could argue against Sharni Layton being one.
Her passion and personality has made her one of the most recognised and loved netballers in the world. On top of that, her achievements both domestically and internationally highlight her talent.
On the world stage, those achievements include back-to-back Netball World Cup titles in 2011 and 2015. In between, there was a small matter of the Commonwealth Games gold that the Aussie Diamonds took home from Glasgow in 2014.... domestically she hit the right notes too.
Layton has experienced it all. She always lead from the front and with 100 days to go before the Vitality Netball World Cup in Liverpool, the defender affectionately known as "Sharns" to those that are close to her, speaks exclusively to Sky Sports about the competition, 2019's twist and much more.
Netball World Cup on Sky Sports
Everything that you need to know about the Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 with every match live on Sky Sports from July, 12-21.
"A World Cup is our Olympics in netball," Layton told Sky Sports.
"When you grow up as a kid and a netballer, for those that don't know netball as well, you're growing up wanting to play in a World Cup.
"The Commonwealth Games is fun in regards to the fact that there are other sports there and you get to go as a big country and support one another. But, as far as the best of the best are concerned in netball, the World Cup takes it.
"You just see the best performances. Netball doesn't get drowned out at the Commonwealth Games but there are so many sports going on. In a World Cup, it's standalone and everyone's eyeballs are on it."
"It's such a thrilling ride to be part of because you know how special it is because of the history that it has."
The history that Layton speaks of, and has been instrumental in shaping, has involved considerable dominance by the Australian Diamonds and New Zealand's Silver Ferns.
The last five competition Grand Finals have been Trans-Tasman contests and only one side other than the duo have ever won the tournament.
With England having stepped up, and them winning the Commonwealth Games gold medal, it has put a twist on the World Cup probably for the very first time ever.
Sharni Layton looking ahead to July's World Cup
"You don't know who is going to be there [in the final] but by the looks of how the teams are at this point in time, you would imagine that it's probably going to be England versus Australia in the Grand Final - calling it early!!"
If that is the case then it would be the host nation's first ever tournament-final and one that they would have navigated their way to with the weight of a nation on their shoulders. Home comforts can be both a blessing and a curse, as Layton herself is well-aware of.
"I know from having played in the Sydney World Cup in 2015 when you've got that home crowd behind you it just gives you an energy and a lift that nothing else can," reflected Layton.
"You can look at it [home pressure] in one of two ways... you can look at it as an opportunity or as a fear and a threat.
"If you look at it as a fear or a threat then it's not going to help you out too much but if you look at it as an opportunity then clearly, it will.
At the end of the day anyone can train physically the same but it's the mental training that makes the difference. For me, the thing that differentiates the greatest from the best is 80 per cent above the shoulders.
Sharni Layton's perspective on a key point of difference
Layton's first World Cup experience was four years prior to the Diamonds' triumph in Sydney and took place in Singapore back in 2011.
She was handed her Diamonds debut by Norma Plummer in the build-up, a debut that took place against New Zealand in New Zealand. It was sharp introduction to the international arena, one that she recalls with a chuckle as she remembers how the change of pace scared her!
However, just a short time later the World Cup stage became her home and it was a home that she fell in love with.
"I'll never forget walking out there. I couldn't believe how many Australians had flown to Singapore for it - dressed up in all of their Aussie bling and being so loud," said defender who would become a two-time world champion.
"That's what inspired me to continue playing netball because I thought, 'I feel like a rock star out here'.
"I played a bit against Jamaica and I played Sri Lanka. I definitely didn't play in any of the finals but I was okay with that. I was there to be a good energiser bunny and support network for the girls that had worked hard to be there as well.
"The World Cup crowds are phenomenal and for some reason their different compared to a Commonwealth Games. Everyone gets dressed up from the parents to the friends to people who fly all over the world to be there. It really brings the most passionate netball supporters."
The tournament organisers in Liverpool this year have a vision to create 'the best world cup in female sport'.
Netball World Cup 2019 aims to inspire and empower women and girls across the world and showcase this incredible sport on the world stage.
Although we won't see Layton driving that inspiration by playing for the Diamonds, she'll be gripped like the rest of us as we all watch the most competitive tournament in history play out in July.
Watch every match of the Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 live on Sky Sports. Coverage starts on Friday, July 12 plus keep up to date with all of the latest competition news, results and enjoy in-depth features at SkySports.com/netball