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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

in 2006.

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