Jerry Collins was used to making his body do extraordinary things. In his time as a back rower for the All Blacks rugby team he was known as ‘The Human Wrecking Ball’, twisting, turning and tackling his way through 48 All Blacks tests.
But it was the final, heartbreaking act his powerful body performed for which he will always be remembered; he used it to shield his three-month-old daughter, Ayla, when a bus ploughed into their vehicle on a motorway in France. Both he and his partner, Alana Madill, were killed in the horror crash, but by sheltering baby Ayla, Collins, who was in the back seat with his baby at the time of impact, was able to give her a chance at survival – a chance she is still clinging to as she remains in a serious yet stable condition in a French hospital.
Fellow rugby player and ex-teammate Jonah Lomu paid tribute to Collins during a moving funeral ceremony that took place in Wellington, New Zealand, yesterday.
“What they say about how they found him, he was protecting his baby,” Lomu said. “That’s just typical Jerry. When you talk about putting your body on the line, he did that.”
“You made it possible for her to have a chance. That is the man you are,” added ex-All Black Chris Masoe.