Steve Deane: Collins' sterling career lacked for nothing but silverware

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Like so many players of this hugely talented generation, Jerry Collins departs the New Zealand rugby scene with his destiny unfulfilled.

Collins, it now appears almost certain, will never have the epitaph "World Cup winner" etched next to his name.

He joins the likes of Jeff Wilson, Christian Cullen, Tana Umaga, Chris Jack and Andrew Merhtens - players who will live in the memory for their individual talents but who collectively failed to win rugby's ultimate prize.

Collins' silverware haul is particularly glaring in its paucity; some significant series wins for the All Blacks (what half-decent All Black can't boast those) and a single national championship with Wellington in 2000.

The following year he came within a lopsided Steve Walsh refereeing display and a late Ben Blair try of lifting the Ranfurly Shield but, like the World Cup, the Log O'Wood was a prize that would ultimately elude him.

In 2006 Collins' Hurricanes played out the 'Gorillas In The Mist' Super 14 final against the Crusaders. No one knows for sure what transpired that night as much of it was hidden from prying eyes, but Collins went home a bridesmaid yet again.

A rare talent, Collins was hailed as future All Blacks captain material while still a teenager. It was an expectation he fulfilled, but only as a stand-in. His on-field leadership was never in question, but he was at the opposite end of the spectrum from Anton Oliver - currently bound for Oxford to pursue a life of "academic thought and rigour" - when it came to off-the-field eloquence.

Just moments into his first post-match interview as All Blacks captain, against Argentina in 2006, Collins memorably said the f-word.

He retains his directness, as he walks away from the game for what a Wellington Rugby Union press release claims will be an extended period.

The release vaguely mentions "personal circumstances", which may or may not relate to lurid tabloid newspaper reports that, as well as impressing England's rugby public on a previous tour, he in fact contributed to its growth with a lass from Devon.

The why hardly matters. At 27, Collins' body has taken a beating. Replacements were already queuing up behind him. Crusaders blindside Kieran Reid looks every inch the coming man, while the Blues' Jerome Kaino and Hurricanes' Chris Masoe also have decent claims to inherit the mantle.

Blindside flanker is not a position where New Zealand struggles for natural resources.

Collins may be leaving but he is not exactly leaving his nation in the lurch. He goes having made a tremendous impression, and not just on Colin Charvis' chest.

There may be no memories to cherish of the beaming former bin man holding the Webb Ellis Cup aloft. We'll just have to make do with the countless ones of Big Jerry sprawled on the turf, grimacing in agony, surely destined to exit on a stretcher, only to rise and put in another colossal tackle and force a turnover at the next phase.

Collins deserves his epitaph. It should read: "No one tried harder."

Cheers Jerry.

* QUESTION OF TRUST

It was Lou Reed who wrote: Believe half of what you hear and none of what you see. The poet-songwriter obviously had dealings with the NZRU.

Earlier this month, claims that Collins had approached the NZRU seeking an early release from his contract were poo-pooed in no uncertain fashion.

"That's news to us," NZRU general manager of professional rugby Neil Sorenson said at the time. "Jerry and his representatives have not contacted us and he is currently contracted through to the end of 2009."

That was May 8 - just 18 days before Collins was in fact granted an early release from his contract.

And just last week the NZRU invited the game's national media to a day-long clear-the-air meeting at Eden Park. Half of the day was devoted to thrashing out just why the game's governing body and its media pretty much hate each other's guts.

Oddly enough, a lack of trust was found to be one of the key contributors to what has become a seriously dysfunctional relationship.

Trust is a popular concept at the NZRU: as in "trust us we know what we are doing by pulling the All Blacks out of the Super 14".

Real trust, however, the type where you can actually believe what the other person is saying to you, doesn't seem so prevalent.

It's plausible that Sorenson really didn't know anything about the matter. But it's stretching credulity to say that no-one at the NZRU had any knowledge Collins wanted out.

There are two ways of looking at the situation: either the media - and therefore the public - were intentionally given the wrong information; or the NZRU didn't know one of its biggest stars wanted to quit.

Neither inspires a hell of a lot of confidence in the current regime.

This sure doesn't feel like the start of a bold new era of media relations.

- NZ Herald

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