Aussie Sevens mums put ink to skin for love of 'family'

by Jill Scanlon

Meet the Ink Sisters - three women who went out on the first morning of the 2017 Sydney Sevens tournament and got tattoos.

What makes this notable is that this trio are all mothers of players in the Australian Women’s Rugby Sevens team.

Rhonda Tonegato, Penny Dalton and Laurie Cherry are members of the collective which has become known as the Aussie ‘Sevens Family’.

The story of the tattoos is based around an idea borne out of the excitement surrounding the Aussie success at the Rio Olympics.

According to Rhonda Tonegato, the inking symbolises their support for the incredible effort put in by all their daughters in achieving their goals and the spirit within which that achievement has been forged.

The tattoos simply read ‘Family’.

The tattoos simply read 'family'. Photo: SuppliedThe women travel the world when possible to watch their children following their dreams.

But this is not a story about parents who are simply watching their kids’ games pitch-side.

This is about families and wider support groups who have evolved into an extended ‘family’ with a common passion over the past four years.

Relationships off the field have developed and friendships formed, creating a culture which has inadvertently become one of the key ingredients in the success of Australia’s elite women’s sevens team.

The team prides itself on the bonds formed between the players through common circumstance and a common goal.

The bonds which have formed between their families have become an extension of that.

“I think it’s a growth of their own culture so they love it. All the parents know each other, we talk regularly and we are Facebook friends. So when we get together it’s like a big party which is fitting for the sevens environment – and they just love it,” - Laurie Cherry.

Cherry is the mother of Emilee – 2013/2014 IRB Women’s Player of the Year, Australia’s current all-time top try scorer and successful Olympian.

“It’s been amazing. She is very fortunate to have been on this journey and as a family we’ve been on that journey with her,” said Cherry.

For Penny Dalton the experience has been about sharing the team’s Olympic journey and the common bond of being parents of sporting children.

Dalton, mother of the Aussie team’s main kicker Chloe, underlines the effect of the extended family remembering her experience of Rio.

“I just went over expecting it to be about the girls and I had no idea how much fun we’d have as supporters. We sang and we all came together and we felt like we all gave them a really positive energy,” - Penny Dalton.

“When we all first met we could chat about the girls growing up and all the different sports they played. Just to see where they all came from and what amazing athletes they all are, it was amazing to share all that,” she added.

The experience of having her daughter play rugby was not always a positive one for Penny Dalton who admits to reservations when Chloe moved her sporting dreams from basketball to rugby.

“Her brothers both played rugby, so we’d grown up as a rugby family totally supporting them, but Chloe playing rugby was a different matter,” she said.

Chloe Dalton’s rugby road over the past two years has been bumpy to say the least.

She has broken her arm – the same arm – three times. The final break happened in the 2015 Dubai tournament, just nine months out from the Olympics.

Some serious medical decisions had to be made by Chloe – not an easy process for any parent to watch.

“She (Chloe) had to decide if she was going to have surgery again to see if she could still reach her dream of playing in the Olympics,” said Penny Dalton.

“It’s a testament to her strength that she’s pushed through because it was her having to make all the decisions about pins and plates and surgery,” she said.

The determination of her daughter to make it to the Olympics made the winning of the gold medal that much more special. Tears flowed both on and off the field and Dalton admits it was a special moment for all.

“To be there with the ‘Sevens Family’ – we’re such a cohesive group - it was so beautiful to share,” she said.

Every time Chloe Dalton now runs out on the field, she is sporting an arm guard as a permanent feature.


Rhonda Tonegato also enjoys the close connection shared by the group, finding not only friendship but a reassurance of the culture which is now a major part of Emma’s world.

“It’s a load off your mind when you know Emma’s being looked after by her ‘family’ and then we’ve got our part of the family,” she said.

“It’s an amazing feeling to belong to the ‘Sevens Family’. I can’t believe such a large group can connect so well.”