Farewell to Porirua’s favourite son

Kapi-Mana News - - SALUTE TO JERRY COLLINS - By KRIS DANDO

Jerry Collins was farewelled at a packed Te Rau­paraha Arena last week, sur­rounded by res­i­dents from the city that was so proud of him, and big names from the rugby world.

Speeches at the public fu­neral on Wed­nes­day lasted more than three hours and were a com­bi­na­tion of child­hood tales from fam­ily and be­hind the scenes as a North­ern United, Welling­ton Lions, Hur­ri­canes and All Blacks player.

Com­mon themes were friend­ship, lead­er­ship, re­spect and love, lit­tered with the oc­ca­sional sneaky cig­a­rette the Porirua hard man used to en­joy.

Sto­ries that emerged in­cluded that Collins was an early can­di­date for this year’s Danc­ing with the Stars tele­vi­sion pro­gramme, how he may have shielded his 3-month-old daugh­ter dur­ing the car ac­ci­dent that claimed his and part­ner Alana’s life and left their baby, Ayla, cling­ing to life, that he ir­ri­tated his All Black bosses by not wear­ing cor­rect spon­sors’ kit, and that he shunned the night­clubs in the cities for the ru­ral pubs, where he loved talk­ing to peo­ple.

It was as close to a state fu­neral as you can get in Porirua. Cur­rent and for­mer All Blacks at­tend­ing in­cluded Dan Carter, Richie McCaw, Jonah Lomu, Michael Jones, Tana Umaga and sev­eral Lions and Hur­ri­canes play­ers.

Alana’s fa­ther, Dar­rell, who trav­elled to Porirua from Canada with his daugh­ter, Nora, said Collins was a de­voted and re­spect­ful man who car­ried baby Ayla around when­ever she was awake. He was un­aware of his son-in­law’s sta­tus as a sports hero in New Zealand un­til well af­ter they had met.

‘‘ Alana said, ‘ Don’t ask him about rugby’, so I didn’t. But af­ter they left [from their first en­counter, in Cal­i­for­nia] I thought I bet­ter check him out on the in­ter­net. Wow! In Canada it would be like hav­ing [ice hockey leg­end] Wayne Gret­zky over for supper.’’

All Blacks Chris Ma­soe, Con­rad Smith, Tana Umaga and Ma’a Nonu spoke of a fear­some hard man on the field and a joker off it. Nonu used ad­jec­tives like ruth­less, fear­less, brave, coura­geous and a leader who inspired his peers and set the bench­mark for hard-hit­ting loose for­wards.

‘‘I would see the love he had for P-town,’’ Nonu said. ‘‘He never for­got where he came from. He was a men­tor, a friend and a lov­ing brother.’’

Brenda Collins talked about her ‘‘momma’s boy’’ brother who had no fil­ter, no fear and would worry about con­se­quences to­mor­row.

Af­ter the fu­neral, Porirua mayor Nick Leggett said it was still too early to be talk­ing about the best way to hon­our Collins in the city. The sub­ject would be raised at a coun­cil meet­ing in the near fu­ture, he said, with a re­port to fol­low that would look at dif­fer­ent op­tions, in­clud­ing sug­ges­tions of nam­ing the main stand at Porirua Park af­ter Collins or even the park it­self.

The Collins fam­ily, North­ern United, and Ngati Toa would be con­sulted, Leggett said.

Clock­wise from above: Sonny Bill Wil­liams, in jersey, and Piri Weepu, in woollen hat, were among many All Black stars who at­tended the fu­neral. Collins’ casket is brought into Te Rau­paraha Arena. The arena was over­flow­ing.

Proud of New Zealand and proud of the All Blacks. Jerry Collins’ grave at Whenua Tapu.

Alana Madill’s fa­ther Dar­rell and sis­ter Nora speak at the fu­neral.

Photos: FAIR­FAX

All Black great Tana Umaga was among the pall-bear­ers.

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