Since making her Senior International debut in 2018, Fran Williams has become an integral part of the Roses defensive line up. At only 21 years old, the talented GD who plays Superleague netball for Wasps has had a quick rise through the ranks and we caught up with Fran to find out more.
You made your Senior England debut in 2018, what has been your Roses highlight so far? It has to be the World Cup in Liverpool. It was my first major competition and I didn’t expect to be involved so soon. A home World Cup was extra special being able to share it with friends and family as well as all the amazing Roses fans was very special.
I’d also say another memorable highlight has to be my first cap against Uganda in 2018. I came into the squad as an injury replacement for Layla Guscoth and I was just so excited to be involved and wasn’t expecting to play at all. To then get my first cap in the second test with my family there as well was amazing. I got my 2nd cap in the third test, I started and played a full game which is pretty incredible opportunity to get really. It was so nice for Tracey to have trusted me at that early stage.
How has the experience of representing the Roses impacted your life? I guess for me it’s been about choices. Choices around education and my social life. When you want to be the best athlete you can be, you have to make sacrifices in your social life, time away from friends and family. But they also don’t feel like sacrifices because you’re getting to have so many amazing experiences. At only 21 I’ve already visited South Africa, Australia and Uganda.
I’ve had to make some choices with education too. I’m actually splitting my second year of my economics degree at Birmingham over 2 years. I want to be the best at everything I do, so it’s about finding a good balance and the scholarship team at Birmingham have been really supportive of that, helping me to balance my training and education. It is a bit of a challenge though as there aren’t many athletes on the economics course but it’s important for me to keep my interests outside of netball. I think it’s good for my well being to have another purpose away from the court so it’s not all consuming.
Being one of the youngest players in the Roses senior squad what has been the best piece of advice you’ve had from another player or coach? Hmmm, that’s difficult. I mean lots of coaches and more experienced players have said this, but also my mum. My mum has always reminded me that you can only control how hard you work and then after that don’t worry about everything out of your control. If you’ve done everything you can and given 100% to something then decisions about other things like selection are out of your control.
You’re currently playing Superleague with Wasps Netball, what makes it such a great club to be a young player at? Wasps is exactly that. I joined after my A levels when I took a gap year before uni. I did some other coaching on the side but when I got the call from Tamsin inviting me to come and be a bench player at Wasps and learn from the others it was a great opportunity.
There is the perfect mix at Wasps of young aspirational players, senior Superleague players and Roses players. The culture and team environment that has been created there is amazing. There is a real winning mentality. I’ve made my way up through from the bench and last season I was playing a full game in the grand final. I think at Wasps we are respected as professional athletes. We have individualised training programmes, we work in big groups, small groups and the support is so much more encompassing. There is a real mix of players as well, some are students like me, some have full time jobs and others are full time athletes. There is always at least one session a week where we all train together but they make it possible for everyone’s individual circumstances.
Is there one player that you have tried to build your game around? I’d have to say Hannah Knights. I learnt from watching her at Surrey Storm and now I play alongside her in the circle at Wasps as well. I’d say we have a certain defensive style at Wasps; Hannah, Josie and Amy Flanagan are all part of the set up. We are a defensive unit.
How does this style transfer into you position with the Roses? Well I think you match up your style with who your playing with in the circle. You chop and change and defensive styles also change based on the opposition and their style of play.
Who has had the biggest impact on your career? I mean when I was younger my mum. I’m only 21 and already in the Roses setup. My mum has always driven me and supported me to be a professional, elite athlete. Always driving me to all the right sessions for my development, with me doing my homework in the car. All that time when I had a brother and sister as well that equally needed supporting at home. My mum has supported me emotionally through selection, non- selection and is always there at all my games.
I’d also say Tamsin (Greenway) has had a major impact on my career. Giving me my first ever Superleague experience. I was really young when she invited me to join Wasps from Surrey Storm and giving me that wildcard to go and learn from the bench. Wasps are a really strong team and there are so many players to learn from.
And also, Tracey (Neville). Last year was my first year on the full time programme. Although I had experience at U21 level, I had limited senior experience and Tracey gave me opportunities and trusted me with not much experience.
So I’d say all 3 of those people have had a pretty major impact on my career, giving me the opportunities and confidence to be the player I am.
You’ve been training hard at Roses camps lately, what has that involved? Yes we have been training hard at Loughborough but we also spent some time in the Yorkshire Dales as part of a pre-season training camp. A bit of a team bonding experience. We had to overcome different things away from the court, and it was also a chance to come together and work on our netball basics.
We are currently in Australia for some training before moving on to New Zealand for some training matches with Australia and New Zealand. They are always great opportunities to learn from each other and see how you match up.
This article was written by Amy Cowd
Photo Credit: Ben Lumley