Jerry Collins re­mem­bered

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

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.

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