NSL Player Focus: Fran Williams (Loughborough Lightning)

AFTER a week off, the Loughborough Lightning returned to the Netball Super League (NSL) action over the weekend looking as fresh as a daisy and comfortably disposing of the Celtic Dragons.

One huge key cog in that Lightning victory was defender Fran Williams, who had a particularly impressive performance. She finished with a whopping eight intercepts and four deflections as well as a rebound in a performance fitting of a Roses regular like her.

This Player Focus is going to take a closer look at her game, and what makes her such a good defender.

Williams is not always a body on body defender. Perhaps because of the eight to 10 centimetre difference between her and her direct opponent, Williams prefers to stretch her body out and get big and intimidating in her opponent’s face, and use her height advantage to try and put off her opponent.

Also when in the defensive circle, if Williams’ direct opponent is not in the circle Williams will often stay back in the circle and guard space. This is because she is experienced enough to know that her opponent is not a threat outside the circle as much as she is in it, and Williams can use her tall stature to her advantage to try and ensure the ball does not even get into the circle in the first place.

When her side had the centre pass, Williams was less picky about which player she defended, swapping with Jas Odeogberin on occasion to defend the Dragons’ wing attack.

Williams is also a strong reader of the ball in the air. She is able to track back, not fully facing either the ball or her opponent and still intercept the ball with a smooth ease.

Another key positive to Williams’ game was how seamlessly she worked with defensive partner Alice Harvey. The pair seemed to be communicating really well, never getting in each other’s way and switched seamlessly which shooter they were defending.

She did not have quite the same connection with Zanele Vimbela, who replaced Harvey in the last term, but this could be due to the fact that Williams has played more with Harvey than Vimbela.

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