Jerry Collin's daughter Ayla visits NZ for memorial

By Solbin Kang

Family, friends and former team-mates gathered for the unveiling of the rugby star's headstone, on the eve of one-year anniversary of the pair's death in a car crash in France.
Family, friends and former team-mates gathered for the unveiling of the rugby star's headstone, on the eve of one-year anniversary of the pair's death in a car crash in France.

All Blacks great Jerry Collins and his partner Alana Madill were remembered during a day of moving memorial events in Wellington yesterday.

Family, friends and former team-mates gathered in the capital for the unveiling of the rugby star's headstone, on the eve of today's one-year anniversary of the pair's death in a car crash in France.

Among those present was the couple's 14-month-old daughter, Ayla. Collins' former rugby club, Northern United, also paid tribute to their favourite son with a memorial lunch at Porirua Park, now renamed Jerry Collins Stadium.

At the lunch family spokesman and former agent Tim Castle said Collins and Madill were madly in love.

He also said the rugby star "never forgot his home and his family" during his career, which took him around the world.

Members of Madill's family, who now care for Ayla, travelled from Canada for the memorials.

Alana's father, Darrell Madill, said it was an honour to make the trip Downunder.

"We came here for very special reasons; the primary reason is to bring Ayla to the homeland of her father," he said.

"[It will] let her see first-hand the community that helped shape Jerry. This is a very important part of her life.

"Secondly, we wanted to make sure we could reunite Alana with Jerry. It's something Alana would want.

"We hope for many visits back and forth. Ayla is the bond between our family."

Jerry's father, Frank Collins, thanked the Madills for bringing Ayla to New Zealand.

Two matches were played at Northern United's home ground, with players running on to a field that had a giant Hurricanes jersey, with Jerry Collins' No 6 playing number emblazoned on it.

Earlier in the day, hundreds gathered at Porirua's Whenua Tapu Cemetery as the former All Black's headstone was unveiled.

Father Penehe Patelesio welcomed the Madills and made special mention of Ayla.

He hoped the 14-month-old would "emulate the legacy of your father as a rugby player".

"Hopefully you will represent Samoa, New Zealand and Canada."

Frank Collins said his family was "very proud" of what his son had achieved in his 34 years.

Also present at the ceremony was former All Black captain Tana Umaga.

Collins and Madill died on June 5 last year after their car crashed into a median barrier and was hit by a bus near Montpellier. French officials believe Madill fell asleep at the wheel.

Collins, who played 48 tests for the All Blacks, was playing rugby in France for Racing Club Narbonne.

- Herald on Sunday

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