In the profession era of modern sport, money and marketing have become major influences on players and clubs. However there are some players who understand that sport is so much more than that. Jerry Collins was one such man, and it is incredibly sad to read of his passing away in a car crash along with his wife at the age of only thirty-four.
As former All Black Captain Sean Fitzpatrick has been quoted as saying he “epitomised everything an All Black should be. He was as tough as old boots on the field, very uncompromising and not someone you wanted to play against,” he told the BBC.
“Off the field, he was the nicest guy you could meet.”
Collins was an outstanding back-rower, one of the true greats of the game, Yet his humility off of the pitch made him even greater.
Who can forget in 2007 after he had played his last game for the All Blacks, their quarter final loss to France at his second World Cup after a casual conversation kept good on a promise and turned out for Barnstaple, a small side in Devon England’s second XV against Newton Abbot while on holiday. He then went on to wear the club’s socks when he played for Barbarians in a win over South Africa in December of the same year.
Collins started his career in Wellington and not only did he travel the world with the All Blacks but he took his spirit of rugby to other corners of the globe playing in Wales France and Japan. He had an uncompromisingly style on the pitch, fully committed, but as much as he wanted to win, always knew that you left that competition on the park and when you crossed that white line it was all about the camaraderie of sport and the friendships that are made.
It is a tragic loss to the game of rugby that one of its true disciples has been take far too young. Our thoughts are with all those close to him and his family. There is no doubt that Jerry Collins touched many lives, some times in crunching tackles, but in the main because of the man his was and the example he set.