On both the football field, or where she is better known, the netball court, Sharni Layton was a fierce competitor, driven by determination to succeed.
As a netball fan, and a black and white eyed Collingwood supporter – I, like many others, spent many hours watching Norton play for the Diamonds, and pull on the Magpies colours in at first the Super Netball League, before making the transition to the Australian Women’s Football League.
Despite her game face once crossing that line, no matter the sport, you could sense Layton was a bit of a larrikin away from competition.
And when I chatted to her last week ahead of her visit to Coomealla next Wednesday, June 30 – it was a case of what you see is what I got.
Layton captained the Australian Diamonds in 2017.
In 2016 she was the Australian ANZ Championship Player of the Year.
In 2015 she assisted the Diamonds in winning the World Cup, the year before that she was an integral part of the side that won gold at the Commonwealth Games.
That’s just on the netball court, and the list goes on.
When asked what her biggest achievement was in netball, Layton said she would put an umbrella over representing her country.
“When you first get handed your Australian dress, with your name on it, and that is all you have ever worked towards, that is so rewarding,” Layton said.
She noted playing against New Zealand was also one of her favourite memories – especially on their home turf where their crowds were so loud and passionate and the rivalry between the two countries, she said, was really brought to life.
Her biggest achievement on the football field was just being able to play at an elite level, she said.
“My goals and mindset changed when I went to football,” she said.
“Netball all I wanted to do was win, win, win but football for me was all about the experience.
“To be a part of the Collingwood AWFL team was probably the best sporting team out of my whole career.
“I loved the culture, I loved the girls, it was the most fun I have had playing sport and I got so much out of myself around having to learn a new sport, new skills.”
Layton made the change to football after playing netball for 15 years.
“I did everything I wanted to do except play in a final in the Commonwealth Games or World Cup,” she said.
“And I reflected on everything else and thought: ‘you know what, if I don’t do it, it’s not the end of the world.”
“I didn’t have the drive or passion left to play, I was done.
“I believe in living by my values in life and one of my main values is variety.
“I wanted to challenge myself, I wanted something different.
“I had seen the netball girls around the club and thought: ‘they look really fun, I want to play sport with them.”
Layton said the transition from netball to football was “ridiculous”.
“There was nothing easy about it, right through to my last game – there was nothing easy about football,” she said.
“Going from a 10 metre square to running 10 kilometres a game, and then being able to execute new skills under max fatigue that I had never experienced before, was so hard.
“Every game, every training was so hard.
“I had a lot of fun, but it was hard and that is an elite Australian athlete saying that.”
Layton won the VFLW grand final in her first year of football, and said it was pretty cool to swap over to a new sport and win a premiership.
“Making the preliminary final against Brisbane at the GABBA this year was amazing,” she said.
“It gave me insight as to where female football is heading.”
Layton announced her retirement from the sport after this game and she was farewelled by her teammates in spectacular fashion.
“The girls had a ‘dress up as Sharni day’,” she laughed.
“We had a Mad Monday and I was told it was ‘s*it shirt Monday’ so I went out and found the worst shirt I could find and then the rest of the girls dressed up as me.
“The girls were so creative.”
Layton will be in Coomealla next week to celebrate the release of her book “No Apologies”.
She’ll also be running two clinics for netballers and will host a dinner.
“I have always felt the need to write a book,” Layton said.
“I don’t know why.
“Anyone who knows me knows that I am a sharer, and I have shared my experiences my whole life.
“I believe everyone has experiences that we can learn from one another, and I’m never ashamed or embarrassed of things I have done through because I know someone else has gone through it too.
“I wanted to share my experiences so people know they are not alone, but I also wanted to show people it’s not perfect and pretty on the top, you have to work bloody hard to get somewhere.
“Things don’t just happen, you need to not give up and work hard at things if that is what you really want.”
Tickets for the netball clinics and the dinner, to be held at the Coomealla Club, are available at https://www.stickytickets.com.au/rirdv/a_night_with_sharni_layton.aspx