England captaincy honour ‘out of the blue’ to face South Africa – Fran Williams

By Sports Desk December 04, 2023

Fran Williams admitted being asked to be captain of the England team for their upcoming series against South Africa came “a bit out of the blue” as preparations continued for the opening game on Tuesday.

The Loughborough Lightning player will lead the Vitality Roses in their tri-series against the SPAR Proteas, which begins on December 5 in Manchester followed by two games on December 9 and 10 in Nottingham.

Working in a wider leadership group alongside Eleanor Cardwell and Imogen Allison, Williams will lead the team for the first time and revealed that while receiving the captaincy was unexpected, she was looking forward to the opportunity.

“(It was) a bit out of the blue, I was having a catch-up meeting with Jess (Thirlby) our head coach about something completely separate and not relevant to leadership roles and captaincy,” Williams told the PA news agency.

“Then at the end of the meeting she asked if I’d want to be captain, if I’d take on that honour and I said ‘I don’t have to think about it, I’d love to do that opportunity’.

“Then I walked away and thought ‘gosh that’s actually a big deal, maybe I should have thought about this a bit more!’.

“There’s nothing better than being able to represent the team and it’s just such an easy role to take on when you’ve got a group and a squad like we have who are so willing to get stuck in, always seeing the positives, want to jump on board and get involved in as much as possible.”

December’s fixtures will be England’s first games back on home turf since winning silver at the Netball World Cup over the summer, where they fell to a 61-45 defeat against Australia in the final.

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Williams played a pivotal part in the tournament, providing a vital interception in the dying minutes of their semi-final against reigning champions New Zealand and reflected on a “history-making moment” reaching the final.

“I think at the time and in that moment of the final it was obviously devastating,” Williams said.

“To lose against Australia particularly when – bearing in mind it was a tight game – we’d beaten them only a few days before.

“However, when I look back now, I have nothing but pride for the way we performed this summer as a Roses squad. Not just players but all the staff and the journey we’d been on to reaching that historic final and getting our first-ever silver medal at a Netball World Cup, it was still a history-making moment.

“Not just the final result but also the memories I have with that team. Not just in the prep camp before, but the years before leading to us being able to do that is what I’ll take away from the experience the most.

“It’s so exciting to see where we could end up in four years’ time. Now I’ve got that springboard and motivation from being that close in the summer to really want to go for it those next four years.”

There are plenty of new faces in the Roses squad for the South Africa series with five players preparing to make their home international debuts and Williams was looking forward to the “new opportunities ahead”.

She added: “We’ve got a fresh-looking squad, new opportunities lying ahead and whilst it’s so important we carry those stories and lessons learned from the summer and make sure we’re all on the same page and everyone – even if you weren’t there – gets to learn from what worked well in the summer to get to that point and what we could do better to get us over the line in that final in four years’ time.

“There’s also the opportunity to create our own memories and our own history with a new squad.”

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