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Chattin with Rubix Krug #333 (Sun State)

By Blockodile Dundee

Kruger: I reffed my first game in November 2009. I wasn’t ready for it; it was NBR vs Sun State, it was the first time they’d played and it was a really big deal. They just went, “Kruger, you can jam ref.”

Blockie: You jam reffed your first game?

K: Yeah.

B: Why?

K: We didn’t have outside pack refs back then. We just used four inside refs; that’s all we had.

B: What do you most like about reffing derby?

K: I like being good at it. That’s why I do most things. I like that I can find little things to make myself better at it.

B: Had you ever reffed another sport?

K: No, never.

B: So why’d you pick derby, then?

K: I used to watch a bunch of games – March 2009 was my first game. First game, I was hooked. I went to the next five games and I didn’t plan to ref, but we went to a training where the refs were doing the rules test. Mick said to me, “Hey, do you want to do the test?” and I passed! He said, “Well, you should probably be a ref.”

B: What’s the biggest challenge when it comes to reffing?

K: When you’re actually reffing, the biggest thing is those borderline calls, the ones where you have to use a lot of judgement. When you look at it, and you can almost imagine it going both ways in your mind. Like judging between no impact, or minor or major impact, it’s hard.

B: Do you ever go home and think about whether you should have called a particular moment differently?

K: Not after I get home. Sometimes in scrimmage I’ll think about it the next jam, but in a game, you’re trained to forget about it straight away. A good skill for refs to have is only remembering things that are useful, and deliberately forgetting things that aren’t. The other big challenge is the mental side of it, staying focussed, recovering from mistakes, dealing with annoying skaters, or loud crowds.

B: It’s funny, because skaters have to do that as well – dealing with annoying skaters and…bad ref calls…

K: BOO! We need to be able to support each other, too, as refs – identifying when other refs are having a tough time and supporting them to get out of that negative spiral.

B: So as head ref, are you kind of like a team captain whose job it is to keep everyone positive and motivated?

K: Yeah, totally. One of the things I tell people who want to become head refs is that it’s your job to get the most out of your crew, and you have to do whatever you need to, to get the most out of them. Knowing whether to bring up a mistake someone made, or recognising if they already know it was a mistake.

B: What’s the most misunderstood rule?

K: I think it’s a combination of failure to reform and destroying the pack. Just pack definition stuff in general. I think about it a lot, but it’s not easy to explain it simply. Half the time skaters don’t even know what they’ve done to destroy, like they might do a little T stop just to scrub off a bit of speed, but if that T stop eventually leads to a destruction of the pack, it’s a penalty. I train refs to never call destruction unless they can identify exactly which action caused it – so you don’t see the pack destroyed and then go, “Oh, why did that happen?” You need to notice when a skater changes what she’s doing and so if the pack does get destroyed, you can say exactly what caused it.

B: Can you describe the most unusual scenario you’ve had to review?

K: The Tropicarnage before last, in the Sun State vs Gold Coast game, Gold Coast did a star pass from in front of the pivot line, to the pivot who was standing on the line. I go back and forth every few months thinking about how we should have called this. She was basically really far behind the jammer line, she passed the panty backwards into the pack and the pivot took off, but which pass was she on? Technically if the jammer joined the pack from in front of the pivot line, she’s on a negative one pass. And since the pivot picks up where the last jammer left off, was she on a negative pass, or did that count as her initial?

B: How do you cope in those high-pressure games when there’s only a few points separating teams, a few jams left in the game, and the crowd is going mental?

K: As refs, we always remind ourselves not to take on the energy of the environment, let’s have our own energy and stay calm. We have to really work sometimes when the crowd is really loud to get our whistles louder – the skaters mightn’t be able to hear our calls, but we could really damage peoples’ hearing with our whistles if we try. So we try to use our whistles as best we can to keep control when things are a bit frantic. The other thing is reminding everyone that they’ve done a really good job until that point. Usually when a game is really tight like that, it’s because we have reffed it really well. We’ll say to each other, “Hey, this is an amazing game, and we’ve done a great job reffing it. It’s not every day you get to ref this kind of game, so let’s keep going and finish strong.”

B: It’s so funny you say that, because that’s exactly what skaters are saying to each other before and during a game, too.

K: The refs are like another team. We have to do the same mental things you do.

B: Wow, I always thought you guys were just robots.

K: Well, that helps, too. Being a robot.

B: Yeah, I go robot when I play. You have to. If you get emotive about it, you can really mess with your own head.

K: We have a thing where if a ref jumps a skater successfully, I’ll buy them a bottle of booze.  I would love to jump a skater and award lead at the same time. That’s why, when I’m warming up I’ll do a bit of jumping, so if in a game the opportunity is there, I’m all over it. A blocker will take out the opposing blocker to let their jammer past, and the blocker will go down and the jammer will take off, and I’ll jump, and whistle and signal lead, and a photographer will catch it, and it’ll be amazing.

B: Can you tell us one of the highlights of your reffing career?

K: Maybe when we had The Big Three and Gotham and VRDL came to our home rink. I remember something Dom told me, he was outside pack reffing and watching Bonnie Thunders jam, and she cut someone on the outside. He went, “Wait, that couldn’t have happened.” Their coach called out to Bonnie that she had cut, just so she’d know, and Dom went, “Hey, yeah, that was a cut!” And from that moment he called every penalty he saw, he just treated them like anyone else and trusted his judgement. That was really cool.

B: What are you most excited about this year?

K: I’m excited for Tropicarnage, TGSS...and seeing what we can do this season with eleven refs.

B: You have eleven refs?

K: Yeah, we have eleven refs!

There you have it, folks. If you have any questions for Kruger, he’d love to hear them, shoot us an email!
 

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