Rachel Dunn is a veteran shooter, England Netball legend and genetic scientist. At 36 she is playing the best netball of her life and has just been named in the Roses squad for this summers World Cup in Liverpool.
She wasnt included in last years Commonwealth Games squad, but she has more than proved her worth to any doubters.
A near faultless performance at the Quad Series in January made Dunn an undeniable option for selection – she scored 25 of 26 shots against South Africa and was named player of the match – her experience, physical strength and unorthodox style mean shes a serious threat for any opposition.
Ive been a part of this sport for, well, a long time, and since I first started out, both domestically and internationally, it has boomed massively, Dunn tells Metro.co.uk.
I remember playing Superleague games in front of a couple of hundred people, and now – well, I just played the Superleague final at the Copper Box, it was a sell-out, the crowd was amazing, and there was full TV coverage. Its a whole different world, and the progress we have made is incredible.
Dunn has played more than 200 Superleague games across her 16-year career, and she first donned the iconic England dress in 2004. She has two Commonwealth bronze medals to her name, so a medal from a home World Cup would top off a stellar career.
Its great to be in netball at this moment. The opportunity to have a home World Cup and build on the momentum of last years gold medal – its really incredible, says Dunn.
I know the crowd are going to deliver. The Quad Series in January was the perfect example, both in the Liverpool and at the Copper Box, the crowd was just electric. I know what its like to have the home crowd behind you – they really are like an eighth player, and that can be really invaluable.
I think the UK, generally, is really good at supporting when we are the home nation – we saw it at the Olympics in 2012 – people just love having something to get behind. When that crowd roars for us it feels like theres another player on court.
This Januarys Quad Series was Dunns calling card, giving her the platform to show England coach Tracey Neville exactly what she can do. But missing out on the win makes it a bittersweet memory for the shooter.
The fact that we beat both New Zealand and Australia, then had a blip against South Africa – it came down to just goal difference, so that was really annoying for me, says Dunn.
But to put in a couple of stellar performance against the top nations – it was a critical time to do that, it was really important.
The England Roses World Cup squad
Helen Housby (GA, GS)
Joanne Harten (GS, GA)
Natalie Haythornthwaite (WA, GA)
Rachel Dunn (GA, GS)
Serena Guthrie (C, WD)
Jade Clarke (C, WD)
Chelsea Pitman (WA)
Natalie Panagarry (C, WD)
Layla Guscoth (GD, WD)
Eboni Usoro-Brown (GK, GD)
Geva Mentor (GK)
Francesca Williams (GD, WD)
She may have missed out on last summers gold medal glory, but consistent performances for her Superleague side, Wasps, have kept Dunn in contention. She knew she had more to give on the international stage.
After the World Cup in 2015 I was kind of on the edge of the England programme, I took a step back from it. But, Im not getting any younger and Im still playing OK, so I decided to come back into the fold again and see what happens.
I had the opportunity against Australia in the Quad Series and I just really, really enjoyed it. The team was playing really well, it all just clicked and we managed to get that result. It still gets to me that a couple more goals would have got the win.
Dunn is a master of the double life. Alongside weekly Superleague matches and now, intensive England training camps, she is also a genetic scientist – in her day job she works on the latest DNA techniques for non-invasive pregnancy screening.
So how on earth does she balance such a demanding career with the schedule of an elite, international athlete?
I have very accommodating employers, and accommodating coaches basically, explains Dunn.
I do think that I skirt along the border of craziness sometimes, depending on how busy it is – but its just something that I have always done.
I came up in an era when there wasnt a full-time programme available. You had to have a job, otherwise you wouldnt survive. And there are still a lot of Superleague players now who are in that situation. We do still need more funding.
Hopefully, as the game progresses, we will be able to get more Superleague players to go part-time – then they will be able to train more and that will increase the standard of the entire league.
But for me – I just got used to doing it. You get used to being tired a lot. My one weakness is that Im not very good at replying to emails – thats the one thing that kind of goes out the window. So Im definitely a bit slacking in some areas.
Its all about early mornings, late nights and just having decent organisational skills – thats whats helped me survive up to this point, and thats what enables me to get my work done and my training done.
It sounds exhausting. You have to be a certain kind of person to take on this challenge and deal with the relentless pressures and responsibilities. For Rachel, she couldnt imagine missing out on the highs she gets from playing.
Youve got to grab the opportunities in life, she says.
I had the opportunity to work in a field that I love, and I decided to do the netball thing as well. I just wanted to make the most of what was available to me at that time. Its not always easy – but I make it work with work and my coaches, so you just carry on.
But taking breaks is so important too! When I have downtime, I really enjoy it. I enjoy getting out in the countryside, trying to switch off.
I do find it actually helps doing both – working and playing elite netballRead More – Source