When Jerry tried league

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORTS FEATURE - By KRIS DANDO

The day All Blacks strongman Jerry Collins turned out for the North City Vik­ings rugby league team in the wind and rain in Wainuiomata will never be forgotten by those who were there.

It’s one of the tales be­ing re­told in the wake of Collins’s tragic death in France.

North City Vik­ings – Porirua Vik­ings to­day – se­nior first coach Solo Luapo re­calls the win­ter’s day in 2008 fondly.

He said Collins, who had signed a big con­tract with French club Toulon, wanted to play a game of league with two of his cousins be­fore he left New Zealand.

‘‘I had no idea he wanted to, but I came into the chang­ing room [at Wise Park in Wainuiomata] and he was stand­ing there,’’ Luapo said.

‘‘I just said, ‘Sweet’ – this is a fa­mous All Black, af­ter all. I went to the Wainui chang­ing room to check with them and they said, ‘Let him play’. They were ex­cited to be play­ing against one of their idols.’’

Luapo said the game, played in ter­ri­ble con­di­tions, drew a paltry crowd, but word of Collins’s ap­pear­ance spread and the side­line num­bers swelled con­sid­er­ably as the match went on.

The Vik­ings lost 34-30, and one of the Wainuiomata play­ers was sent off for at­tempt­ing a huge hit on the All Blacks leg­end, who played in the sec­ond row.

‘‘Jerry just laughed about it, and the other guy ended up on his back­side,’’ Luapo re­called.

‘‘He played at half-pace for 80 min­utes and was just out there, en­joy­ing a run with his cousins and his mates.

‘‘I think he de­lib­er­ately didn’t want to score a try.’’

Af­ter the match, Collins shouted both chang­ing rooms bour­bon and co­las and gave his boots to one of Luapo’s sons.

Welling­ton Rugby League fined the Vik­ings $250 for field­ing an un­reg­is­tered player, but Luapo said Wainuiomata hap­pily paid the fine.

The Vik­ings went on to win the se­nior first grade that sea­son.

Luapo said he grew up in the same street as Collins and re­mem­bered him go­ing run­ning, with a heavy back­pack on, while the rest of the neigh­bour­hood young­sters were hors­ing about.

Photo: FAIR­FAX

Jerry Collins con­grat­u­lates North City player Adrian Saolele af­ter the Welling­ton rugby league pre­mier grand fi­nal be­tween Norths and Wainuiomata in 2008, the year Collins played a lower-grade game for Norths.

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