Big Norm's mum says thanks

By Mike Dinsdale -
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Rora Berryman is collecting newspaper articles of the tributes paid to her rugby hero son Norm. PHOTO/JOHN STONE
Rora Berryman is collecting newspaper articles of the tributes paid to her rugby hero son Norm. PHOTO/JOHN STONE

The mum of late Northland rugby legend Norm Berryman wants to thank the region's rugby fans for their glowing tributes to her son, who died of a heart attack in Perth last year.

Rora Berryman, who now lives in Perth, has been in Whangarei this month catching up with family and asked the Northern Advocate for any cutting from the newspaper of "Big Norm's" career to put into a scrap book for his wife Lena and their six children; twin daughters Cairo and Kaya, Terrell, Tatiana, Laytarjae and Shyah.

Mrs Berryman was particularly keen to see the images from the Norm Berryman Memorial Tournament , which was held at his old club Hora Hora in August and attended by former teammates, family members, friends and fans.

She said the outpouring of love, respect and grief after Norm died at just 42 in June last year was overwhelming and something she would be eternally grateful for.

"We are just so grateful for all the love and respect shown. To everybody, the Northland Rugby Union, his supporters, Hora Hora club, and Doug Te Puna for helping organise the memorial day, the family thanks you all so much," Mrs Berryman said.

She said to have Norm's children at the memorial games, including Terrell playing in some of the matches, was wonderful.

She said the tributes had amazed the family, but also showed just how well loved Norm was and how his rugby career, which included 107 games for The Taniwha, three for the Blues, 30 for Canterbury Crusaders and a single All Blacks test - would never be forgotten.

"Norm just had a big smile that everybody loved. He was always smiling and joking, and he just loved playing rugby. In fact sports all round," she said.

"He started out playing soccer and was a good little soccer player, and we are really a league family so it was a bit of surprise when he came home and said he wanted to play rugby."

But from not playing schoolboy rugby to starting for Northland at just 17, it was obvious that he would be a star at the game.

She was slightly disappointed Norm didn't get more All Blacks caps, but said Norm felt that the environment of the team under then coach John Hart was not for him.

"Norm thought the ABs were being run as a business and he didn't really like that and he didn't want to change the way he played for that. But he made some great friends, including Jonah Lomu," Mrs Berryman said.

"Norm and Jonah were big KFC and MacDonald's fans, as was Inga (Tuigamala), and one time they (ABs) were at the airport when they lost Norm and Inga ... they searched everywhere, until they looked in McDonald's and found them both there having a feed. Norm loved his food."

She said when Norm got called up for the All Blacks she was working at the IRD office in Whangarei when her workmates told her he was in the team.

"I said 'are you kidding' because I couldn't believe it, but I thought they must know what they are doing, they are the All Blacks. I was just so excited for him, and the other staff were too."

Mrs Berryman said it is good to know that her son has left a huge legacy that his children can look up to an take inspiration from when they need it.

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