Kirsty Wynn is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Jerry Collins and Alana Madill's girl comes home

Jerry Collins and his partner Alana Madill. Photo / Instagram
Jerry Collins and his partner Alana Madill. Photo / Instagram

The baby daughter of the late Jerry Collins and Alana Madill has made her first trip to New Zealand as friends and family prepare to honour the rugby great and his partner.

Ayla Collins arrived in New Zealand this week with her Canadian family, including grandparents Ruth and Darrell Madill and her Aunt Nora.

Next Sunday marks the first anniversary of the death of Ayla's parents in a car crash near Montpellier, France.

Canadian-born Ayla was just 10 weeks old at the time of the crash and received life-threatening head injuries.

She fought for her life in hospital for more than a month before she was discharged into the care of her maternal grandparents.

Jerry Collins' father Frank said it was wonderful to have the Madills and his granddaughter in New Zealand.

"She is good and getting better, much better and she is just walking now," he said.

"And she is strong, very strong."

Frank, Jerry's mother Galuia Collins and his sister Brenda flew to Canada last July to see Ayla when she was recovering.

This week the Collins and Madill families will take Ayla to the unveiling of Jerry Collins' headstone at his former rugby club, Northern United.

The 48-test All Black, who was 34, was raised in Porirua and played for the club.

"Everyone is going because this is our club," Frank said.

Frank manages one of its teams and his daughters are part of the club's top women's team.

Their home ground is now called the Jerry Collins Stadium.

Alana Madill, partner of Jerry Collins, with their daughter Ayla. Photo / Facebook
Alana Madill, partner of Jerry Collins, with their daughter Ayla. Photo / Facebook

Northern United captain Alphonso Parsons said there would be a three-day celebration. "On Friday night there are two games and Jerry's sisters Helen and Brenda will play," Parsons said.

"There will be three days of celebrations, music, singing and rugby for Jerry."

More than 200 people are expected for the unveiling on Saturday and Galuia has requested the Samoan hymn Ua Soona Olioli Nei.

Parsons said the weekend would mark the end of a sad year for the club, which had lost not only Collins but other valued members to ill health.

But he said things were improving and they looked to Collins for inspiration.

"The club has been rebuilding and coming together in Jerry's honour. "We have a lot of young players coming back to play and we know we can still help develop some new young All Blacks.

"Everyone is working together to achieve this."

- Herald on Sunday

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