Superleague Grand Final: Wasps' Fran Williams on stepping up, self-talk and development
"I'm under no illusions that this season has been a big step up for me in terms of game time and exposure at Superleague level."
By Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 18/05/19 2:44pm
Fran Williams entered Grand Final week from a new position. Despite being in two winning teams with Wasps, their semi-final victory over Loughborough was her first "proper" appearance, and full game, at the business end of the season, and she tells Sky Sports that she can't wait for more.
The 21-year-old, who made her international debut against Uganda at the end of 2018, has wrestled her way into the starting Goal Defence bib for Wasps and has not let go of it.
Her partnership with captain Hannah Knights has given many a shooting circle cause for concern and the student at the University of Birmingham has recently been combining training and crunch matches with exams.
After an economics module, she took time out to reflect on what has been and what's still to come at the Copper Box Arena this Saturday.
"I'm under no illusions that this season has been a big step up for me in terms of game time and exposure at Superleague level," Williams said.
"I've enjoyed it and think that I've thrived with every extra quarter that I've got. Not only the court time but also playing alongside someone of Hannah's experience has helped me improve.
"The semi-final was my first proper appearance and a full game played at that intense semi-final level. The level where it's take it or leave it and the same would be the case if I played in the final."
I’ve never played in a Grand Final, despite being in two Wasps winning teams. I think that I’ll put pressure on myself with but know, that with what I’ve been able to prove this season, I will be more than capable of standing up to it.
Fran Williams - Wasps Netball
Williams and Wasps produced a wholly impressive performance in their last-four match against Lightning. After losing to Sara Bayman's outfit earlier in the season, a 74-54 victory felt "even sweeter" because everything was on the line.
The side played with freedom at the University of Warwick, particularly in the second half, and finding that feeling again may be one of the keys to unlocking a Grand Final victory. Williams also believes, when it comes to the final, Thunder should be feeling some pressure.
"We'll be playing feeling like we've got a point to prove in terms of the times that we played them, we didn't put up our strongest fight," noted the Goal Defence about their defeats at Thunder's hands.
"We're playing to prove that we're better now, than how we were against them.
"They'll be thinking that they've got nothing to lose and that we're the reigning champions. But if anything, the pressure is on them because they've beaten us twice this year."
In Wasps' defensive circle, Williams and Knights are the anticipated starting partnership and they will have her hands full with Kathryn Turner and Joyce Mvula.
Knights joined Wasps in August 2016 and her thousands of minutes on court show. Although Williams is absorbing information from her like a sponge, the 21-year-old is also driving her own development.
"Within myself I think that I'm good at staying composed. I talk to myself throughout a game, keeping myself in check and making sure that I'm keeping up my standard throughout and my intensity by talking to myself," said Williams.
"I do take a lot from people like Hannah and Jade [Clarke], particularly in the circle with Hannah. After every goal we'll give each other a high-five or a look, she gives me a little shout saying, 'That was good or we were close on that one'."
Williams clearly has a sensible head on her shoulders, and has the type of self-awareness to know what tactics work to ensure that she gives herself the best possible chance of thriving on the largest of stages.
By their very nature, Grand Finals are different beasts and one that Williams will need to conquer in the same manner as the last-four outing. Clarity and control will be needed by if they are to ensure that Mansfield's first season at the helm ends in a title.
Roses rocked by Cobden injury
England have confirmed that the knee injury suffered by Adelaide Thunderbirds' Beth Cobden will keep her out of this summer's Netball World Cup.
Beyond that, the Vitality Roses head coach Tracey Neville will announce her Netball World Cup Squad live on Sky Sports News on Thursday May 23, however Williams isn't thinking about anything but Saturday.
"I've just been focusing on Wasps and making sure that I'm playing and improving within the Wasps squad and doing what I need to do to get a Wasps win," she said.
"If playing well at Wasps and making sure that I'm improving myself, means that I can earn myself a spot in the World Cup squad then that's great.
"But, my focus is on Wasps and if World Cup selection comes as a result of working hard there then I guess that I'd be just a little bit more than chuffed!!"
Watch the Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final live on the Sky Sports YouTube channel and Sky Sports Mix on Saturday, May 18 from 5.15pm. Also, Sky Sports will be showing every game of the 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup in July.