All Blacks bid farewell to Collins

Date published: June 17 2015

Former All Black loose forward Jerry Collins was laid to rest in is hometown of Porirua on Wednesday, with many past team-mates on hand to pay their respects.

34-year-old Collins, who played 48 Tests for the All Blacks, was killed along with his partner Alana Madill in a car crash in southern France on June 5. Their three-month daughter remains in hospital.

Over 3,000 mourners packed the Te Rauparaha Arena for a three-hour service which was broadcast into another area holding the overflow. 

Collins' body was escorted home by his cousin and ex-All Blacks captain Tana Umaga, and Chris Masoe, who both addressed the funeral.

Many other past and present All Blacks were in attendance with Hurricanes skipper Conrad Smith saying that rugby was "more than a game" for Collins.

"He understood how he could inspire a community and a country, then when he walked off the field he knew it was just a game," said Smith.

"His passing cast a shadow over all of New Zealand, it was probably longest here in Porirua."

Hurricanes and All Blacks wing Cory Jane said Collins was a great team-mate. 

"He was always protective of the young fellas," said Jane.

"If somebody was picking on you who you felt was treating you with disrespect he'd come in and give him a kind word in his kind of way and he was just a great man.

"Loved getting nude, which was interesting, but a good team man and a good man to be around.

"He lived life to the fullest."

All Black great Michael Jones said the service was a unique experience. 

"The service was really true to who Jerry was, I think just the uniqueness, even the spontaneity, just the real character of the man was really evident in that service today," said Jones.

"He was one of the most unique rugby players in the world, and one of the most unique characters in world rugby, and definitely one of the most special players to ever wear a black jersey. I think that was what the celebration very much was about today."

Jones said Collins set a new benchmark for blindside flankers. 

"The game became a lot more physical and confrontational … Jerry just really took that level of physicality and brutal influence.

"It was really his trademark … not just being physical but being influential and I think that's very much how he played the game, and I think that's how he lived his life."