27 Jerry Collins [2001-2007] CAPS 48
Anyone who was ever tackled by Jerry Collins remembered it. Collins had a way of making his presence felt. He was brutal. He was lethal at times in the way he could destroy the hardest ballcarriers by lining them up and knocking them down.
Collins established without ambiguity what being an enforcer looked like. For five years he played alongside Richie McCaw and Rodney So’oialo in the All Blacks back row and he brought relentless intimidation with him.
He wore the No 6 jersey with an understanding of exactly what that meant. He threw himself into every collision, looked to win the physical battle for 80 minutes.
What he did was establish a baseline for all other New Zealand blindsides to aspire to. He made it clear what level of physicality had to be brought to the job and by doing that, he sent a message to other teams about what the All Blacks were all about.
Nowhere was that better demonstrated than when he tackled Colin Charvis in June 2003. Collins hit Charvis so hard that the Welshman was out cold before he hit the ground. It was one of those tackles that reverberated around the world and tightened the legend of Collins.
His reputation began to precede him after that – everyone knew he was an enforcer, hungry to impose himself and he gave the All Blacks pack an aura again. He gave them a vibe which said that while they played fast and attractive rugby, they had an edge to them as well.
Collins became a cult figure and such was his standing in the world game that there was nothing but sadness and shock when he was killed in a car crash in 2015, leading his peers to make heartfelt eulogies.
“You always knew he had your back,” said All Blacks captain Richie McCaw. “He was in the senior leadership group. He didn’t say a lot. He would say some things that would sometimes be random and sometimes be bang on. He would sit and listen. He was a smart man but he didn’t want to give that impression. He was pretty on to it and he o ered a di erent perspective.
“Unique is probably the right word. He was hugely generous to people. He would turn up and do things with kids that perhaps the hard person that you’d see at times didn’t match up. He’d give his time willingly to people and touch people in a way that others would never consider.
“I think of that story when he played a club game in whatever division. Most of us it wouldn’t cross our minds but that was something he would do. That was
the unique side of him.
“I can remember in 2003 – I was talking to Aaron Mauger about this – and the World Cup quarterfinal against South Africa. He [Collins] absolutely flattened Thinus Delport and the whole team looked at that and probably subconsciously took a step back.
“And our team probably went the other way and it is moments like that I certainly enjoyed having him in my team.
“He did the same against us [Crusaders] when he got Chris Jack a year later. You know when a guy is capable of something like that you would much rather have him in your team. Like I say, I’d always have a wee eye out for him especially when you had the ball.”
UNIQUE IS PROBABLY THE RIGHT WORD. HE WAS HUGELY GENEROUS TO PEOPLE. HE WOULD TURN UP AND DO THINGS WITH KIDS THAT PERHAPS THE HARD PERSON THAT YOU’D SEE AT TIMES DIDN’T MATCH UP.’ RICHIE McCAW
DEAD STRAIGHT Jerry Collins had no soft edges.
NO FEAR Collins delivered performances that were all about enforcement.