In the Spotlight: Sharni Layton

Champion Data, Thursday, 17 March 2011.

In Round 1 last season, a young AIS-developed defender made her ANZ Championship on-court debut. Now, only 19 ANZ Championship games later (13 in 2010 and 6 in 2011), she is a Premiership player, current holder of the Best Young Player Award and an established senior member of the Adelaide Thunderbirds. Sharni Layton has taken all before her in a remarkably short period of time. Her enthusiastic, vocal and aggressive style of play has her destined for a long and fruitful ANZ Championship career, along with a potentially illustrious career on the International stage.

To put it simply, Layton's core strength is getting the ball from the opposition. Her ability to intercept or deflect the ball is quickly placing her as one of the best in the league. She is currently ranked No.1 in the competition for intercepts, already amassing 18 in just 6 matches, equating to an astonishing average of three per game. Last year Layton finished the season with 26 intercepts at an average of two per game.

She is also ranked seventh in the competition for deflections, recording 24 so far this season, with only some of the game's best defenders in front of her on the stats table. Last season she made 3.4 deflections per game to finish with a total of 44. Due to her style of play, it is not surprising that Layton sits third for loose ball pickups this year, collecting 15 (average of 2.5 per game) and only one behind the current leader. This has been a significant improvement from last season, where Layton managed only 20 pickups, averaging a modest 1.5 per game.

Layton does have a high penalty count, but that is due to the aggressive style of play that has contributed to her high numbers in both intercepts and deflections. She currently leads the competition in penalties with 82, 61 of them contact penalties. However Layton can lay claim to being the 5th best defensive rebounder, already raking up 14 so far this season.

The 2011 season statistics are a credit to Layton's hard work and her progression as a netballer, as she did not feature at the top of any statistical categories in her first season with the Thunderbirds. One year later she is the leading light, topping all five categories you would expect a defensive player to feature. She has taken 13 more intercepts, produced 15 more deflections, 28 more gains, and has produced the lowest amount of turnovers for a starting player by two.

Sharni Layton is the future of the game. With that in mind, we can all be assured that the future of netball is in safe hands. She is everything a player in the ANZ Championship competition should be, especially the young, up and coming players of the game, which Layton was less than 12 months ago:

1. Enthusiastic - always looking like she is enjoying her time on court which is infectious to her team mates and always a pleasure to watch.

2. Vocal - always supporting her team mates through encouragement.

3. Aggressive - always making it as difficult as possible for opposition shooters to score goals, completing her vital role in the team dynamic.

Layton's statistics generally speak for themselves and if her improvement continues on the current rate is has in the 12 months, she has the potential to be one of the greatest to play in the ANZ Championship.