Former St Patrick’s College student and New Zealand All Blacks player Jerry Collins and his wife Alana passed away on June 5, after a car accident in France. Peter Wadsworth, St Patrick’s college counsellor, rugby manager and mentor to Jerry Collins, gave a tribute at the school assembly on Wednesday 10 June, in which he spoke about ‘JC’s’ personal qualities rather than his well-known sporting achievements.
As a community of faith, it is right for us to celebrate life, and grieve the death of those who have demonstrated their passion on the world stage. A skinny kid with a cheeky smile from Cannons Creek once walked through the front gate of this great college contemplating his future.
This young Patrician was more the sum of an All Black that you might have seen on TV. Jerry loved this college. He had an enduring relationship with college staff and was committed to the brotherhood of this community.
He was a humble, big-hearted man who understood the spiritual significance of the college.
He avoided fame. He would often turn up to 1st XV rugby games to support his old team, with his trademark hoody pulled up over his head so not to be in the limelight. Jerry was not influenced by peer pressure and was comfortable to be seen chatting with college staff.
He was a generous man, who gave back to his family three-fold of what they were able to provide for him. His mum had suffered from serious illness and Jerry was focussed on her care as a 15-year-old.
Jerry experienced disappointment and failure. He experienced criticism and misunderstandings. How did he respond to this? He converted any perceived disadvantage into an advantage and refused to give up. When he failed to get selected for age-grade teams, he would quickly learn from it and came back much stronger.
JC was a college prefect and captain of the 1998 1st XV team. He would lead his team mates onto the field, into a huddle, and recite the Serenity Prayer to his players before kick-off. JC was an intelligent student, top of maths in Year 11. He was able to make good use of these skills on the field.
Everything he did, he did with all his might – there was never any half-heartedness with Jerry.
What are the lessons we can learn from his life? JC would likely say to you, ‘Be fully committed to every task set before you.’
He would ask, ‘are you ready to make sacrifices to achieve your goals?’ He would tell you mental toughness is developed through pain and pain is required for us to grow and mature. He might say to you, ‘Your last breath is in God’s hands so life is a precious gift that cannot be taken for granted.’
He would say to young men, ‘You might be a sportsman for 15 years but you should prepare yourself for citizenship and a positive contribution for many years beyond.’
Rest in Peace, JC.
Teacher Peter Wadsworth is the longest-serving staff member (35 years) at St Patrick’s College Wellington. He was the Year 10 Dean that enrolled Jerry in Term 3 1995 and was his 1st XV manager 1996, 1997 and 1998. He also negotiated Jerry’s first rugby contract with the WRFU and remained in contact with Jerry as a mentor since that time.