At 22, Fran Williams is the youngest of an experienced Vitality Roses squad set to embark on their 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup campaign in Liverpool this month.
A total of seven Vitality Roses have previous with this particular competition or, at the very least, another senior international tournament such as last summer’s Commonwealth Games.
Williams, though, is a relative newcomer at this level with just three senior caps to her name. The Wasps Netball goal defence, however, has spent years forming a reputation at youth level.
“I’m your classic pathway girl”
In fact, Williams has represented her country at every stage from under 17 onwards and was named captain for the 2017 edition of the Netball World Youth Cup.
Her netball career has been one upward curve since she started playing the sport at primary school more than a decade ago.
“I first started playing in my last year of primary school and loved it. Then my coach and teacher told me to go to my local club – Woodley Netball Club – for some taster sessions and I absolutely loved it,” she said.
“I started playing there all the way through my juniors. That’s where I first started getting into county netball to regional to England trials, and then got picked up at England trials.
“I’ve made my way through the age groups ever since. I’ve literally played for England U17, U19, U21 and now senior so I would definitely say I’m your classic pathway girl in terms of doing every step.”
“My personality suits being a defender”
Williams earned her place in Tracey Neville’s side thanks to her consistent performances at goal defence for Wasps Netball in the Vitality Netball Superleague last season. The 22-year-old believes her personality is suited for her current role.
“I’ve always been a defender. You get pulled there when you’re identified as tall but my personality suits being a defender. I enjoy running around a lot and you have to be prepared to put a lot of running in at goal defence. I started as goal keeper, couldn’t jump high enough and could run more so I suited goal defence better,” said Williams.
Due to her tender age, Williams spent her childhood idolising members of the current squad. The current university student cites fellow defender Geva Mentor as an early inspiration.
“When I was growing up, Geva [Mentor] was someone that I’d definitely watch and think ‘she is the all-round best defender’. I just loved her athletic power and strength, but she’s got such good ability and speed around that circle too so I admired that a lot when watching her,” she explained.
“I also looked at other sports for the way they train, their ambition and their competitiveness. I’ve always been someone that is eager to watch sport and learn from it. I enjoy appreciating other sportspeople putting in lots of hard work and achieving things, but my netball idol is Geva.”
“It’s been good having different coaches on my journey”
Since making her club debut in 2018 and being called up to the Vitality Roses, Williams feels that the likes of former Director of Netball at Wasps Netball Tamsin Greenway and current Vitality Roses head coach Tracey Neville took her game to the next level.
“Since hitting the Vitality Netball Superleague, Tamsin [Greenway] has done so much for me. Tamsin changed my game and I think I started getting taken more seriously in the netball world once I started getting some coaching from her.
“I’m loving working with Tracey [Neville] now too. It has been really good because I have learned a lot from different coaches throughout my journey. I’m learning stuff from Tracey now that I would never learn from Tamsin, and Tamsin teaches me things I couldn’t learn elsewhere.
“I think I’m someone that definitely absorbs coaching quite well and I’m a player that definitely needs a lot of coaching. I love it, I lap it up. It’s been good having a lot of different coaches in my journey.”
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