New Zealand
Hundreds walk to honour Jerry Collins
June 14, 2015
Hundreds of people turned out to march in memory of former All Blacks player Jerry Collins © Getty Images

The streets of Porirua were a sea of blue and white rugby jerseys as thousands turned out to remember former All Black Jerry Collins. Young and old alike came together on Sunday afternoon for a public march through Collins' old neighbourhood to pay tribute to their hometown hero.

Collins, 34, and his Canadian partner Alana Madill were killed in a car crash in the south of France nine days ago, leaving their three-month-old daughter Ayla fighting for her life in hospital.

Inspired by a silent march held by Collins' French club Narbonne, Wellington Lions teammate and friend Ali Koko wanted to organise something similar in Porirua. People came decked out in blue and white - the colours of Collins' local Northern United Rugby Football Club.

Samoan flags were being flown high and the colours of both the Hurricanes and the All Blacks dotted the crowd. As the march reached Collins' old primary school, Corinna School, dozens of young students performed a haka.

"Jerry Collins has been an inspiration to all of us here at school, we just want to make it up to him with this performance," 11-year-old EJ said.

Another local, 17-year-old Esi, told NZ Newswire that Collins was someone to look up to. "He's the tough man on the field, always working hard," Esi said. "He's an inspiration to us Porirua boys. Hopefully one day we can reach the benchmark he set for us."

After winding its way through the streets of Cannons Creek, the march ended at Porirua Park, which some are already dubbing Jerry Collins Park. An emotional Tali Lilo, who coached Collins at Northern United, retired the rugby hardman's No.6 club jersey for the rest of the season.

Collins' body has arrived back in New Zealand, accompanied by a group including his cousin and fellow former All Black Tana Umaga, and friend and another former All Black Chris Masoe. There will be a private funeral service on Monday, before a public service in Porirua on Wednesday.

A memorial fund in memory of Collins has so far attracted pledges of more than $35,000. The money will be put into a trust for Ayla. The infant was no longer being medicated to keep her in an induced coma, Madill's sister Nora told the Herald on Sunday.

"We now have to wait," she said. "Over the next week or two, we could see her wake up slowly, or she could even wake up suddenly in the next day or two."


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