Sharni Layton reflects on "most exciting" Netball World Cup in the sport's history
"Is this not the most exciting World Cup we have ever seen in the history of netball?"
By Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 16/07/19 8:34pm
From world-leading players to emerging nations, find out exactly what has caught Sharni Layton’s eye as the Vitality Netball World Cup continues to enthral at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool.
From the first whistle on the opening day, the 15th edition of the sport's pinnacle competition has gripped fans and created a wealth of new ones as new standards are set.
Layton, a Netball World Cup winner in 2011 and 2015, is part of Sky Sports' team for the competition and on an Sportswomen special hailed the unique nature of a World Cup.
"There's no other netball competition in the world that goes off like a Netball World Cup," the iconic defender said.
"Is this not the most exciting World Cup we have ever seen in the history of netball? I've just loved it, seeing all of the teams coming in and especially the lower ranked teams.
"Since 2015 they've just improved so much and the likes of Zimbabwe also, who are clearly everyone's favourties, at their first Netball World Cup."
Layton first represented the Australian Diamonds at the Netball World Cup in Singapore back in 2011. On that day she said that she "felt like a rock star" on court and was hugely inspired by the whole experience.
Here in Liverpool, Australia have been efficiently going about their business. Five victories over Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Barbados and Malawi has seen them score an average of 85 goals.
The squad selected by Lisa Alexander isn't as experienced as ones that have competed at, and won, prior World Cup competitions. However, Layton is very much enjoying their work.
"I am loving the style of play that they have," she added. "They have the experience of Caitlin Bassett but then they have the freshness of Sarah Klau, Jamie-Lee Price and let alone Courtney Bruce who is playing out of her skin," noted the former Diamond. "I wouldn't be too worried about the Aussies!!"
The talk of the town on Monday, though, was the home side as Tracey Neville's England Vitality Roses overcame their first considerable test of the tournament - a meeting with Jamaica.
Neville's side repelled the Sunshine Girls, pressing ahead at times in order to record their 56-48 victory, and Layton was incredibly impressed by two of the Roses' most experienced campaigners.
"I would say that Geva [Mentor] is arguably the best GK in the world at the moment," she said. "I didn't think that GKs could be in such great form for so long but she is," Layton said about the 34-year-old who is playing in her fifth World Cup.
"She turns up World Cup after World Cup, getting ball back for her team. That's the experience that she needs in those dying moments, she will turn a game over for you."
Serena Guthrie, the Player of the Match against Jamaica, also captured Layton's eye and is another individual that she knows well from her playing days.
"I think Serena has always had that spark and that flair to get the ball when the team needs her," Layton added. "What I've loved most about her is her controlling those emotions because I used to know that if I came up against Serena I could get under her skin but, players just can't do that now."
The Roses' next match will be against Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday before a clash with South Africa on Thursday evening.
Like all, Layton can't wait to see South Africa and England duel - especially after their recent history at the Quad Series - but it is clear when it comes to her prediction about the encounter.
"I think that England will definitely get the better of South Africa but I think that South Africa are going to give them a fight of their life," she said.
"They're going to give them more of a fight that Jamaica did. I just can't wait to see what South Africa bring against England, who are, probably the team to beat at the moment."
Looking beyond that, how does the former Diamond see the final stages of the competition panning out? Once again, she knows her mind about the potential semi-finalists and finalists.
"I definitely think that South Africa will make the top four which is just so exciting for them. It will be probably be, if all goes well for us on Thursday [Australia against New Zealand], an Australia versus South Africa semi-final and New Zealand versus England semi-final," predicts the two-time World Cup winner.
"Then I believe it will be Australia against England in the final because we really want that Commonwealth Games replay don't we? And, then we want Australia taking the trophy away at the end!
"I think that it is going to be the most competitive final series that we've ever seen at a Netball World Cup."
Watch every match of the 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup live on Sky Sports. Coverage continues on Sunday with the final matches of the first preliminary stage and stay up to date at skysports.com/netball and @SkyNetball