Jerry Collins remembered
The stories have flowed since Jerry Collins died on June 5, aged just 34. Kapi-Mana News has been the recipient of some pearlers.
Some are unprintable, told in confidence, but they all add to the picture of the colourful life Collins led.
The man mountain was larger than life and, tellingly, he loved Porirua.
People from Northern United are emphatic he stopped the flight of rugby players into Wellington and set the club on its way for that golden era from 2003 till 2010.
His friends tell us he was a leader, even before his teens. He was a tough player on the field and earned respect. He was taken into the homes and became a de facto family member of dozens of rugby-loving parents.
Collins had big shoulders and a soft handshake, some said. He’d give you the shirt off his back, and he’d pick you up after he put you on your backside on the field, many recalled.
The story of Collins turning out for North City Vikings in 2008 – which features on our back page – speaks volumes for the sort of sportsman he was.
That lower- grade league match was played in terrible weather in Wainuiomata and Collins didn’t try too hard.
It’s not surprising to hear he shouted drinks and gave his boots away after the match.
The Wainui boys, rather than being fearful of facing the All Black hard man, were delighted to be on the same field as him.
The wet bus ticket fine given to North City for fielding an unregistered player was happily paid by Wainuiomata.
Collins just wanted an oval ball under his arm, and the chance to lace up his boots and play with his family and mates before jetting off to pursue professional rugby in Toulon.
It’s a story that cannot fail to bring a smile to your face.
It might sound impossible, but expect Collins’ public funeral on Wednesday at Te Rauparaha Arena to be both sombre and noisy.
The tales will flow, but laughter will light up the atmosphere.
Porirua City Council must be congratulated for coming to the party quickly and making the arena available – the facility is often booked months in advance.
Mayor Nick Leggett and councillor and Collins family friend Izzy Ford have been prominent in the last week and have handled persistent media inquiries with aplomb.
Collins’ shocking death has thrown a strong spotlight on Porirua and the city has handled it well, offering sombre reflection, humour and compassion.
The campaign that has taken off to rename Porirua Park in honour of Collins could fade once the dust has settled, so we will watch with interest how the council handles that issue.
Will there be an appetite among councillors to change the name of Porirua’s main ground in Collins’ memory?
By way of a caveat to this story, it is timely to mention Michael Campbell’s stunning win in the US Open at Pinehurst in 2005.
The US Open golf championship is one of the major events in world sport, yet nowhere in Porirua is Campbell’s victory acknowledged.
There was a call in 2005 to name Titahi Bay Rd after him, but that quickly fell away. Something should be done to remember Cambo’s amazing feat.