The rugby world is in mourning with the news that Jerry Collins and his wife Alana were killed in a car crash in France. The mourning wasn't just for the tragic loss of young lives, but the type of man that the 34-year-old former All Black was.
Our thoughts are still with the couple's young daughter who is fighting for her life in hospital. The reaction from the rugby community has been one of deep sadness and it's no surprise given the kind of player, and man, that Collins was.
There's one story about Jerry Collins that sums up why the great man will be missed.
Back in late 2007, "the terminator" had just been knocked out of the Rugby World Cup after France shocked heavy favourites New Zealand in Cardiff. Collins was on holiday after the tournament in Southern England when a rugby fan recognised him
That fan was Barnstaple's head coach Kevin Squire who decided to chance his luck and invite the All Black to his club (via the Guardian):
I did a double-take when I saw who it was and knew I had to introduce myself. He was very polite and unassuming. We talked for several minutes and I mentioned the club and invited him to come down and watch a game, but of course never expected him to turn up. He did though and even coached a session with the under-14 side, who were completely awestruck.
That wasn't all from Collins, who was asking for a game when he was in the clubhouse. Rules in the club's competition mentions that because Collins wasn't registered - he couldn't play for Barnstaple's firsts. Squire mentioned that the second's team had a match coming up:
I told him we had a match coming up and he was welcome to join us, but again I was gobsmacked when he showed up to catch the bus with the rest of the players.
It shows how much Collins loved the game of rugby, which is common amongst the majority of New Zealand players who turn out for their local team whenever they can.
The team of bricklayers, builders, plumbers now had an All Black, who had to go to the local sport store for a pair of boots to play.
Naturally enough, the other team were a bit nervous when an All Black nicknamed "The Terminator" for the power of his hits appeared on the other side, but Squire said that Collins joined in on the banter and reduced his level:
Jerry didn't play up his superstar status but was really one of the lads. He didn't crunch into them like he could have done – they would have gone flying. He adapted his level of play to suit the game like a proper gentleman.
One of the Newton Abbott players, prop Tom Meek recalls trying to handoff Collins:
I thought I'd handed him off but the next thing was flat on my face eating grass.
For the record, Barnstaple ended up winning the game 21-7 with Collins scoring a try and making three try-saving tackles. Not that the opposition manager seemed to mind. Newton Abbott's coach Phil Burford said:
You take it with a pinch of salt. It's not every day you get someone of his stature playing at your club - it was quite a shock. I think the second-team lads were pinching themselves after playing with such an icon.
When Sky Sports when to Barnstaple to interview the players about their experiences, how Collins took pictures afterwards, and even lay down with the injured Trevor Wayburn to make sure he got his picture that he wanted.
To say thank you, Collins wor the Barnstaple's club socks when he was selected to play for the Barbarians later that year.
It's an experience that the players will never forget, and the club expressed their sadness at today's tragic news:
We are saddened to hear the tragic news about All Black great Jerry Collins. He will forever have a special place in our clubs history.
— BarnstapleRFC (@BarnstapleRFC) June 5, 2015