New Blue trades Olympic gold for AFLW
OLYMPIC rugby gold medallist Chloe Dalton will play VFLW for Carlton this season with a view to joining the Blues' AFLW side for 2019.
The 24-year-old claimed gold with the Australian rugby sevens side in Rio in 2016 and was named player's player of the year last season.
The multi-skilled Dalton - she also played WNBL for the Sydney Flames from 2012 to 2014 - took a break from rugby at the end of last season and, while she was watching the AFLW, former Carlton recruiter Graham Burgen invited her to trial at Ikon Park.
She will be joined at the Blues by her former rugby sevens teammate Brooke Walker, who was a travelling emergency at the Rio Games.
"I was tossing up between a couple of different clubs, but decided to go with Carlton after seeing what a great club it was," Dalton said.
"I just loved watching (AFLW) ... I thought it would be an awesome opportunity just to have a crack and get out there and give it a go.
"After getting advice from a few different people about learning the game, they said it'd be a really good environment to play in the VFL because of the standard of the competition.
"I've got a background in basketball and, combined with rugby, a couple of people had made the comment, 'I think you might go OK in AFL if you were ever to give it a crack.'
"It was always a bit of a running joke and I never thought I'd actually do it.
"When the opportunity came for a trial and I knew Carlton was interested, it all fell into place. It's been an awesome few months.
"My goal is to play AFLW, to learn the game this VFL season and work really hard there and try to earn my spot into the AFLW list, hopefully as a rookie."
NSW immigrant Dalton, standing at 180cm and weighing 72kg, was a conversion specialist in rugby and had a brilliant drop kick.
"It's quite a different technique that I've been trying to learn with the AFL kick," she said.
"Obviously it doesn't have the ball dropping to bounce before you kick it, so I've got to get myself out of that habit."
Dalton will miss this weekend's opening round of VFLW but is expected to make her debut in round two.
Having graduated with her physiotherapy degree after six years, she will combine work and playing football in Melbourne.
Dalton gave up the base average wage for an Australian contracted rugby sevens player, about $44,500, to chase her AFLW dream.
"That was something that I definitely had to consider. It was a real privilege to be a full-time professional athlete," she said.
"Looking at the AFLW, the way it's going, it's just going to continue to progress ... it's just going to build."
With the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, Dalton said she hadn't ruled out a return to rugby.
"I know the doors still open for going back to rugby sevens so I haven't really made my mind up," she said.
"My main focus is on the AFL at the moment and we will see how that goes but I won't shut off that option for Tokyo 2020."
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