Staff Writers, Friday, 9 July 2010.

22 year old Sharni Layton of the Adelaide Thunderbirds was today announced as the winner of the ANZ Championship’s inaugural MARS Red Best Young Player Award.

An ecstatic Layton was presented with a giant cheque for $5,000 at ETSA Park, home of the Thunderbirds, in a surprise announcement for the tall Thunderbirds defender.

Layton arrived at ETSA Park expecting to be interviewed as a preview to Sunday’s ANZ Championship Grand Final.  Her mother was in on the secret, and stood by proudly as Sharni was named winner of the new award, designed to recognise the most outstanding emerging talent from the world’s premier netball league.

After being short-listed along with four other rising young stars of the competition, Layton was unanimously voted as the Best Young Player by the judging panel, which comprised national selectors and former players from both sides of the Tasman.

“Awesome!  Thank you so much…my very own giant cheque, I feel like Happy Gilmore!” she exclaimed when presented with the Award. 

“I would like to thank MARS Red and ANZ Championship for recognising young players”, said Layton.

When asked how she feels in the build-up to her first Grand Final appearance, she said “This is so exciting.  It’s going to be a fantastic game.  It will be great to have a home crowd with everyone behind us.

“We’ve had big crowds before, but generally they’ve been going for the opposition”, Layton continued.

“It’s been really exciting getting out there on court with such a great bunch of girls.  They’ve been really supportive of me in a new position.

“I couldn’t have done it without the whole team”.

Layton also paid tribute to her coach, Jane Woodlands-Thompson, for giving her the opportunity to flourish as a key contributor to the Thunderbirds’ defence this season.

After a season-ending injury to starting wing defence Jo Sutton in Round 1, Layton took her opportunities to make the position her own, with the agile Victorian making the transition from a circle defender to wing defence.

Teaming with seasoned defenders centre Natalie von Bertouch, goal keeper Geva Mentor and goal defence Mo’onia Gerrard, Layton has been a key member of the Thunderbirds defensive line-up.

After making the move to the Australian Institute of Sport in 2009, Layton made an instant impact in Adelaide with the 22 year-old being named in the Thunderbirds leadership group in the 2010 pre-season.

Layton will look to continue her good form in her first ANZ Championship Grand Final on Sunday when the Adelaide Thunderbirds take on the First Windows Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre.

Sharni Layton

DOB: 01/06/1988
Height: 1.88m
Positions: WD, GK, GD
2010 ANZ Championship Team: Adelaide Thunderbirds
National Squads: 17/U 2004/05; 21/U Squad 2006
21/U Team: 2007-09 (World Youth Netball Championship 2009)