Broken ankle has not deterred the new captain

SIX weeks after breaking an ankle, somewhat miraculously, Kayleigh Oliver leads out a new-look Raiders Ladies team in London today.

Hugely optimistic: Kayleigh Oliver is the new captain of Raiders Ladies. 
(Picture by Peter Frankland, 30012409)
Hugely optimistic: Kayleigh Oliver is the new captain of Raiders Ladies. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 30012409)

It will be the first of 12 games in NC 1 South East (East) for the Steve Evans-coached side who will be much-changed, more youthful and more inexperienced now the likes of Kristine Vavere, the previous captain, has retired, and Rachel Merrien has moved away.

For all that, though, Oliver is remarkably buoyant and her optimism is at the same level as her rapid recovery.

She may still sport the sign of a limp as she runs about the Footes Lane club pitch, but nothing is going to stop her returning to action as captain.

‘[It happened] five-and-a-half weeks ago in our first friendly game, in the last five minutes.

‘I have had a cast and boot, but they are now off and I have now been signed off to do anything.

‘By sheer willpower I healed my ankle. It’s a miracle.

‘It might cause me some pain [on Sunday] but I am going to do it.

‘I am really excited and as captain I have tried to focus on the positivity side of it and working as a team, because there has been so much change.

‘It seems to be going really well and we keep getting good numbers [at training] every week.’

Oliver reports that in the squad there are eight or nine who have never played a game yet and tomorrow they will have five who have not played before.

The captain is hardly experienced herself, having been involved for just two-and-a-half years.

‘I played the last whole season before lockdown and know what I am doing now,’ she says with an accompanying laugh.

‘I used to be a front row, but now I am going to be a flanker. There has been a lot of changing around.’

Among all the youthful exuberance of the squad, Oliver will be leaning on the remainder of the old guard. Providing some much-needed experience will be the likes of Andrea [Harris], Fiona [Power], Chelsie [Blondel] and Justeen [Baker].

‘We are also looking to have Daisy Travers back, but she has just had a baby,’ said work colleague Oliver.

‘I think we have got a really strong team, a good mix actually, a really fast team and our handling skills are great.

‘I obviously think we can win all the games. I like to be positive.’

Today’s opposition – Streatham and Croydon – are one of the seven sides they play this winter.

The other opposition over the coming months will be provided by Tonbridge Juddian, Blackheath, Cranbrook, Beccehamian, Canterbury and Heathfield & Waldron.

Oliver’s Guernsey team will have to wait until Saturday 23 October for their first home run-out, that game being against Blackheath.

By then the new captain will no doubt to be firing on all cylinders after that pre-season setback.

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