Gone but not forgotten
Most people in Porirua will remember what they were doing when they heard about Jerry Collins’ death.
When news came through on June 5 that Collins, a famous All Black who had always been proud of his Porirua roots, had died in a car crash in France, there was collective shock.
Collins had reached the very top in his sport, but never forgot where he was from. It wasn’t unusual to see him walking around Porirua during trips back to New Zealand, jandals on, a smile never far away.
His death and that of his partner, Alana Madill, was a sombre note during general positivity around the city celebrating 50 years.
Tributes flowed and glasses were raised for a man who scared opponents on the rugby field from an early age, but who was remembered as a humble and gentle soul. His death galvanised Porirua and emphasised its sense of community.
Once Collins’ body was returned to New Zealand, private and public memorials were held. On June 14, a Walk for Jerry community march was held, from Waitangirua Mall to Porirua Park, in his honour.
On a frosty night at Porirua Park on June 15, the stories and laughter flowed at an inviteonly service, before a public service was held at a packed Te Rauparaha Arena two days later.
There was a who’s who of New Zealand rugby royalty honouring Collins and it matched tributes and recognition for the All Blacks legend held around the world.
A consistent theme was the legacy he left at his beloved Northern United. Captain of Norths at just 18, he is credited with stopping the flow of young rugby talent to Wellington clubs by turning out for his local club. His decision led to the golden period of Norths rugby in the first decade of the 2000s.
In a photo that went viral very quickly, Ma’a Nonu tweeted a picture of Sonny Bill Williams, Liam Messam, Dan Carter, Jerome Kaino and himself visiting Collins’ grave at Whenua Tapu Cemetery with the Webb Ellis Cup last month.
Jerry Collins – gone, but never forgotten.