Whistlestop tour for ref

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North Otago rugby is no stranger to exotic newcomers, but it is not often the man in the middle who has the most interesting back story.
That was the case on Saturday when 21-year-old Canadian referee Robin Kaluzniak whistled the Citizens Shield game of the round between Old Boys and Kurow.
He is spending just 10 days in New Zealand _ his second refereeing gig was the First XV clash between Timaru Boys’ High School and Otago Boys’ High School in Timaru on Wednesday _ and two weeks in Australia before heading home.
Kaluzniak relished his first taste of North Otago (and international) rugby on Saturday.
“It was awesome _ a hell of a lot of fun,” Kaluzniak said.
“It was similar to Canadian rugby, style-wise, but everything was done faster, better and more clinically. Everything here is that next level up.”
Kaluzniak hails from Edmonton, Alberta, where he started playing rugby aged 12 when his father saw a poster advertising the sport.
He enjoyed playing halfback but started to consider a different side of the game when he reached his mid-teens and was the smallest player on the field.
“By 16, I tried refereeing for the first time and pretty quickly realised I might be better at refereeing than playing.
“When it came time for men’s rugby, I saw a whole lot of guys who were bigger and better than me, so I decided to concentrate on refereeing.
“There’s something about it that really agrees with me. You get to control the game somewhat but it’s not about you _ it’s about the guys playing the game.
“I get the best seat in the house without having to do too much.”
Kaluzniak made the Canadian national panel this year, so is considered one of the top 11 referees in his home nation.
He has no set long-term goals in refereeing but hopes to go as far as he can in the sport, and has eyed the international sevens circuit as a potential step.
As part of an exchange, North Otago referee Craig Kingan will head to Canada in August to further his experience.