Jerry Collins was a genuine down-to-earth bloke, Zac Guildford says, and a player he looked up to in his younger days.
Collins, who with his wife Alana was killed in a car accident in France on Friday, was in his final year with the Hurricanes in 2008 when Hawke's Bay-based former All Black Guildford had his first.
"Jerry was a nice guy who inspired me when I was younger," Guildford said. "He was a great leader and an old-school type of player, on and off the field.
"Jerry will be a huge loss to the community."
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Guildford who is no stranger to tragedy - his father, Rob, died after a heart attack when watching his son play in the 2009 Under-20 World Cup final in Japan - said he was in shock after hearing of Collins' death shortly after arriving at Napier's McLean Park on Friday night to watch the Hurricanes play the Highlanders.
"The Hurricanes produced an awesome tribute to Jerry with their 56-20 win ... It was a tryfest."
Guildford hopes all the paperwork will be completed in time for him to play for his Napier Technical club next month.
"The plan is to get a couple of club games in and hopefully put my hand up for selection for the Magpies early Ranfurly Shield defences.
"In the meantime I will keep doing extra training sessions with Dearnsey [Magpies fitness trainer Grant Dearns] so I keep my fitness levels up," he added.