This post was first written for and published by the Roar.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chloe Dalton made the decision to return to Sydney and move back in with her parents.
We’ve all faced challenges during the pandemic, but for Dalton, who first moved out aged 18 years old when she was playing in the WNBL with the Sydney University Flames, it was a bit of a shock.
“The hardest part of moving back home was letting them know whether I would be home for dinner or not,” said Dalton.
“Sometimes I just want to go out and do my own thing and not make a call at 9am whether I will be home for dinner or not. They always just want to know where you are going.”
Despite this initial shock to the system, Dalton is grateful for the extra time she has spent with her family. As a woman that has competed in the WNBL, won a gold medal with the Women’s Aussie 7s team, and also played in the AFLW with Carlton, that has meant plenty of time on the road both overseas and in Australia.
The extra time with family has been a silver lining particularly before Dalton turns her mind to her next challenge: the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games.
But after signing with Carlton in the lead-up to the 2019 AFLW season, Dalton was unsure as to whether she would get the chance to win back-to-back gold.
“When I moved back to Melbourne and started playing for Carlton, the Aussie 7s coach John Manetti got in touch with me and told me the door wasn’t shut to return to the 7s program even after my switch to the AFLW,” said Dalton.
“We stayed in touch and then he gave me the chance to still play the AFLW season and then come back and have a shot at making the team for Tokyo.
“It was tricky because I wanted to feel like I could commit fully to the AFLW because I was learning a new sport. Because there was so much going on, I didn’t want to feel like I was halfway between two sports.”
One of the most refreshing things about women’s sport is the lack of ‘code wars’. Women playing multiple sports is common as is seeing female athletes cheering each other on and lifting each other up.
But for Dalton, what came next was a wonderful example of cross-code collaboration. Manetti and Tom Carter, who is in charge of strength and conditioning for the Sevens program had a meeting with the Carlton high-performance staff to consider what it would look like for Dalton to train for both sports in Melbourne.
What happened next was a surprise.
‘There was a lot more similarity in what both sports wanted out of me as an athlete than we all expected,” said Dalton.
“They are two different sports with different demands but what they wanted in terms of strength, speed and power were all quite similar so it was great to know that we could make it happen.”
So in November, Dalton took time away from her physiotherapy work and started training full time. During the AFLW season, there was real care to manage her load to ensure that she wasn’t working her body too hard. But despite this significant amount of training, it still took Dalton some time to adapt to returning to Sevens, particularly since returning to the program full-time in April.
Despite her disappointment about the postponement of the games, Dalton has been generally pleased with the way that sport has responded to the pandemic.
“When the pandemic first started, my biggest worry was that women’s sport would be the first thing to go,” said Dalton.
But since then, we have seen the NRLW take place, Super Netball, WBBL commence and preparation for the WNBL too. For Dalton, this has been a great result.
“It is uplifting to see that these organisations are prioritising women’s sport,” said Dalton.
“I would like to think that they have seen the value in women’s sport and can see the role it can play for young women and young men and how important it is in creating pathways.”
Since the women’s Aussie 7s team won gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics, those pathways have blossomed in Sevens. But despite some new faces in the squad, Dalton is joined in the squad by veterans Shannon Parry and Sharni Williams.
“There’s a really good core group of us that still remain from Rio,” said Dalton.
“We haven’t had the chance to play much international sevens recently but there’s something really familiar about training alongside them.
“Even when I got to go play club rugby recently, I ran on the outside of Sharni and it’s like we know what the other person is going to do because we have been playing together for so long.”
But training full time isn’t the only thing Dalton has been doing during the pandemic. She has also started a new podcast called The [Female] Athlete Project which is focused on amazing Australian female athletes.
And whilst the pandemic has been a bit of a drag, for Dalton is has meant the launch of this podcast, which has been in the works for some time.
“COVID really gave me the kick up the bum I needed to get it started.”