In 2019, Zussman became the first Canadian Test player to referee at international level on the HSBC Sevens Series. This week, she will be walking out at Tokyo Stadium as an Olympic official.
“I can’t wait to be back in the tunnel, do the coin toss and feel the energy of the teams, run out onto the field and blow my whistle and just have a run around and have a good time,” Zussman told BC Rugby ahead of leaving for Tokyo.
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Rugby has taken Zussman all over the world since she first picked up a ball in Grade 9 at high school in Ottawa. The McGill University graduate admitted she had no idea what kind of journey she was starting when she first experienced the sport.
“I was just happy to be on a team with my best friends,” Zussman said. “I had no idea that rugby was going to take me all around the world, or that I would get to play in some incredible stadiums and meet some amazing people and have those life changing experiences.
“I remember the first time I threw a dummy in a two versus one, that feeling of breaking the line was the greatest feeling in the world at that age. That was in Grade 9 in high school in Ottawa. I loved the sense of belonging that came with being part of a team. It really is the ultimate team sport.
“It combined all the different parts of being an athlete that I loved. You had to be smart, fast, strong. You needed to be a good team-mate. I thought I’d finally found the game that I was meant to play.”
After relocating to BC, Zussman played for Castaway Wanderers and Westshore FC (formerly Velox Valhallians RFC) on Vancouver Island. Now an assistant coach of the Victoria Vikings women’s rugby team at the University of Victoria, Zussman knows the importance of Rugby to the communities of BC.
“We’re so lucky in BC that we get to play Rugby all year around. It’s a natural home for Rugby in Canada, where people just gravitate to. As a result, we have access to an incredible number of resources.” Julianne Zussman
Zussman added: “The community is really behind the game, so even people who don’t necessarily know rugby – they know that it has a home in BC. With that, we get a ton of support from the community and a really long and fruitful season.”