NRLW takes back seat as superstar hits Olympic trail
She hasn't ruled out an NRLW return, but Australian Sevens star Charlotte Caslick is certain about one thing - defending Olympic Gold is her top priority for 2021.
Caslick committed to Rugby Australia's Sevens program on Thursday, one month after her exciting NRLW stint with the Sydney Roosters ended.
"Rugby league was a great freshener for me but I'm excited to be back," Caslick said.
"At this stage, I'm just trying to get to Tokyo and work really hard with this group … I know the NRLW season's starting earlier next year, so whether it aligns or if it doesn't, Tokyo is my goal now. Once I get through that I'll reassess.
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"I'm just focused on that. It's not fair on the girls if I'm looking elsewhere, trying to organise a way to leave them straight away."
Caslick signed with the Chooks to get some footy in this year, after COVID-19 cancelled the World Rugby Sevens Series.
The 25-year-old dazzled in two games for the club, before two lumbar spine fractures cut her season short.
"I got kneed in the back while I was lying on the ground," Caslick said.
"(Rehab) is good, I've started training with the group again. I'm not doing contact yet, but I'm going to start on Saturday. Hopefully it will be a quick progression and I'll hopefully get to play some games internally before Christmas."
Aussie Women's Sevens Coach John Manenti said Caslick has done nothing but improve since Rio 2016 and that she is critical to Australia's Olympic gold medal defence.
"She runs our attack, she's a leader in the group and she's important on and off the field," Manenti said.
"Her speed and power has probably increased significantly since those days. And her interest and knowledge of the game, knowledge of opposition."
Manenti said he was happy that Caslick and teammates Ellia Green and Evania Pelite were able to play some form of rugby in 2020 through the NRLW.
"I expected them to do well, and they did. I think all three of the girls, Evan, Ellia and Charlotte stood out significantly. Given they'd had no time to prepare or practice. They're footballers, they got the gist of the speed of the game, they handled that quite easily," Manenti said.
Caslick admitted that 2020 has been especially tough.
The playmaker returned from injury for the Sydney Sevens tournament just before the pandemic brought the international series to a halt.
"It's been really hard, it's probably been my worst injury run, over the last 12-18 months. I feel good, then something happens," Caslick said.
"In a way it's been okay, I've focused on myself and training. I found my love for 7s again."
Waiting for the Sevens Series to start back up, while other codes resume around the world has also been difficult, but Caslick and the Aussies have kept positive.
"We are one of the only sports that's purely international, we rely on being able to travel for what we do. It's been hard to watch, Super Rugby got back up, the NRL and AFL finals, they looked awesome and so much fun, and we are just here training," Caslick said.
"But it will be worth it, when we get to Tokyo and win a gold medal, it's going to be worth the wait and we'll look back on this time having learnt a lot."
Originally published as NRLW takes back seat as superstar hits Olympic trail