Dunn expecting noisy reception on Invercargill return

Aliyah Dunn (right) will return to Invercargill with the Central Pulse this weekend. Photo: Getty...
Aliyah Dunn (right) will return to Invercargill with the Central Pulse this weekend. Photo: Getty Images
The Pulse's Aliyah Dunn hasn't been back home for some time but knows it will be a noisy reception when she finally gets to Invercargill this weekend to play netball.

The 20-year-old shooter has been a dominant figure in the Pulse's shooting circle, with the defending champions on the cusp of qualifying for this year's ANZ Netball Premiership grand final.

Dunn was born and raised in Invercargill but hasn't been back at all this year. Covid-19 meant she was in lockdown in the capital and since then she's been busy training and playing mostly in Auckland with the Pulse.

This weekend her side takes on the Southern Steel on the court that has become a fortress for the southerners.

The Steel haven't been beaten in Invercargill in the history of the ANZ Premiership and will be desperate to reward their patient fans.

After eight rounds, the Steel finally get to play at ILT Stadium Southland, when they host the Mystics tomorrow night, then the Pulse on Saturday.

Despite the Steel struggling this year with injuries, Dunn knows they will be dangerous at home.

"It's going to be a tough game, they've always been a really good team to play against because they're a really smart team who know how to retain ball and the defenders can get ball when they need to so we're expecting a tough game," Dunn said.

The 190cm shooter says the Pulse also have a point to prove this weekend after suffering their first loss of the season against the Mystics in the last round.

"Definitely, our team needed a good wake-up call, it'll be good to get a win down in Invercargill because their crowd are very supportive and a win there would be great."

The visitors will have some support with Dunn expecting up to 15 of her extended family to be in the stands yelling for them.

Dunn said she was looking forward to seeing her family this weekend.

"It has been tough not being able to see my family. I've missed them because I usually get to see them when we play down there or they might make their way up here for a couple of games or go to Christchurch."

Dunn normally spends her out of season back in Southland, but was happy to remain in Wellington during lockdown so she could train with her flatmates.

Dunn first made an impression on the netball court during her time at Verdon College, she also played basketball and made the Junior Tall Ferns in 2016.

But it was the netball scouts that persuaded her to specialize in their game.

She made the local rep side and then the New Zealand Maori Secondary Schools team before making the victorious 2017 New Zealand team at the Youth World Cup in Botswana.

Dunn was in the South Beko League team by then and made one appearance for the Steel as injury cover.

It was during that time she was noticed by Yvette McCausland-Durie who had taken over as Pulse coach and was keen to bring her north.

Dunn said she wasn't nervous about heading to Wellington.

"I already knew Tiana Metuarau and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan who were playing at the Pulse at the time, from under-21's tour and I'd become really good friends with them so was quite happy to come here.

"I also had family up here and I like Wellington so that made it easy."

Dunn made her debut for the Silver Ferns against South Africa in 2018 and has played another three Tests since then.

She missed out on last year's World Cup squad but with a 92% shooting success rate, the highest in the Premiership, she's likely to gain more time with the New Zealand team in the near future.

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