FOND MEMORIES OF A CHAMPION BLOKE
Robert Head gathered with family and friends on Saturday night to remember the Porirua boy with the big tackle and even bigger heart.
Jerry Collins and his wife Alana Madill were killed in a car accident in France on Friday. Their 3-month-old daughter Ayla is in hospital in intensive care.
Head coached Collins for the Porirua Rugby Club from under-9 to under-13. He recalls a rugby player not huge for his age, but a ‘‘ vigorous’’ tackler and born leader, with the right attitude for every training and every game.
‘‘ On some of those freezing mornings, when he was 10, he would say to the team before the game, ‘I did not get out of bed for nothing. Let’s get out there and win this’. He was a real tough nut, even at that age,’’ Head said.
‘‘ He definitely toughened up some of his team-mates. All the parents would watch him in awe.’’
He said his young teams from that era were among the fittest he’d coached, and Collins drove that desire to be fit.
Collins attended Corinna School and Waitangirua Intermediate. His Mana primary schools team coach, John Wright, said Collins always played in rugby teams ahead of his age.
‘‘You could see, early on, this was a kid who was going to be inspirational, as well as a cheeky one,’’ he said.
‘‘Jerry was a one in a million guy who would dump someone on their backside, and then pick him up. He was smarter than people think, would give you the shirt off his back and he never, ever forgot where he came from.’’
Collins captained Northern United premiers at 18, and was pivotal in turning the tide of Porirua talent playing for the big city clubs, Wright said.
He said when Collins broke his leg in 2000, he would turn up for Norths training as part of his rehab, and his running laps of the field on his own spurred the Norths players to train harder.
Northern United president Ron Wood said players and club members gathered at their clubrooms on Saturday night for a beer and to watch the Warriors, ‘‘because that’s exactly what Jerry would want us to do’’.
It was too early to talk about what Norths would do to honour Collins, but they began with retiring the premier team’s No 6 jersey for the rest of this season.
‘‘This was a guy whose loyalty to Norths and Porirua cannot be questioned,’’ he said.
‘‘He was a pioneer and helped this club become so successful.
‘‘You look at the players who stopped going to play in Wellington after he declared he wouldn’t – the Ellisons, Frueans, Schwalgers, it just goes on.’’
There is a move now to name Porirua Park after Collins. A Facebook page has been set up to gather support.
Porirua mayor Nick Leggett said speaking to people over the weekend made him keenly aware of the deep loss felt in Porirua.
‘‘What Jerry signified was that you can have talent and dedication and be an international success because you come from Porirua,’’ Leggett said.
He said an appropriate way to remember Collins in Porirua would be discussed soon.
Proud Norths player Jerry
Collins celebrates his team’s win in the Jubilee Cup