Southern shooter courting success

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Winning form: Central Pulse goal shoot Aliyah Dunn in action during the ANZ premiership final at ILT Stadium Southland in Invercargill on Sunday. Photo: Dianne Manson/Michael Bradley Photography

THERE is an ease in watching Aliyah Dunn take the ball, turn and shoot.

The Invercargill-born, Central Pulse shooter looks like it is automatic pilot; there is a very good reason for that. She practises and practises and practises – spending hours crafting her trade.

Despite being nervous heading into the ANZ premiership final against Mainland Tactix on Sunday, Dunn said the repetition helped.

“I guess not having to think about what part of the shot’s not working.

“I just remember to turn and shoot and it goes in.”

The shots indeed went in on Sunday – Dunn potted 28 of the 30 shots she put up.

Pulse captain Katrina Rore hinted at Dunn’s and Ameliaranne Ekenasio’s dedication to ensuring, come game day, they didn’t have to worry about the one part of their playing ammunition which was going to win the team the game.

“I also don’t think you realise how much they (shooters) do behind the scenes,” Rore said.

“They’ll be at training 45 minutes before everybody else. Meils (Ekenasio) will constantly be with her husband doing extras. They are always at the post, they are workaholics and they can’t help themselves. That’s why they are the best and why they do so well.”

For Ekenasio, hard work had paid off to create a dynamic shooting circle. That includes Dunn stepping up.

“Aliyah is pretty much a sponge and she has been really happy to take on whatever we have asked of her this year and I think she’s grown phenomenally and still has so much more to give.”

Dunn has spent the past three years playing for the Pulse.

Aliyah Dunn with her mum Erena and dad Terrence after winning the ANZ premiership on Sunday. Photo: Supplied

The franchise must be thrilled with their investment; throughout those years she has shot 90.8% (2018), 92% (2019) and this year clocked up 91% with a staggering 93% success rate in the final to help her team to its 43-31 victory.

Despite what looks like an unflappable presence on court, Dunn admits she perhaps isn’t quite ready for the black dress

On Monday, she had already received the phone call to tell her she had been selected for the New Zealand development squad.

“It’s all good, I’m pretty happy with that.”

“I guess (Silver Ferns) is a long-term goal but I have my other goals at the moment that are outside of netball.

“Working and study. I’ve just picked up a job at a kura (school) up there as a teacher aide. I start that next Monday and I’ve just been studying part-time in education and te reo (Maori language).

In 2019 she missed selection for the team as a result of not meeting fitness requirements. On paper you would think she would be top pick for the squad but given the fact she is still only 20, she knows she still has time to make the cut.

“It’s still the fitness standards – I think it’s more mental for me.

“Just breaking the next step. I still haven’t quite made the break but I think it will come.

“I’ve got a bit more time but I need to get cracking.”

The game on Sunday in Invercargill was a chance for her family to also enjoy her success.

There were about 25 Dunn supporters including her grandmother, mother, father, four siblings and cousins and aunts in the crowd to cheer her on.

Despite being Invercargill born and bred, attending Verdon College during her high school years, Dunn’s ANZ allegiance, up until now, has been with Pulse.

However, this is the time of year netball franchises scramble to enlist the top players.

For Dunn, there are a few knocking at the door.

“I’m weighing up a few options, not too sure what yet – just waiting to see.”

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