#24: Jerry Collins

Rugby nemesis, 1987 - 1999

Every year of my whole rugby-playing career I was in the same grade as Jerry Collins. You could say he kind of haunted my childhood.

As kids his Norths teams would regularly pummel my Tawa teams, and Jerry was always North's number one hit man. Even as a kid, he played rugby like Mike Tyson boxed: speed, strength, accuracy. He ruthlessly and efficiently destroyed us every time, and had fun doing it. He showed no mercy. He ate skinny white boys like me for breakfast. By high school our teams (Me at Wellington College, him at St Pats Town) were more competitive, but still any one on one encounter with Jerry took serious balls. When you take a run off the back of a ruck and see Jerry lurking in the fringes ready to take your head off, you know you are in trouble.

Of course Jerry went on to become a 48 test All Black (including 3 as captain), an international star and one of world rugby's most feared hitmen. I've followed his career with interest and even a little bit of second-hand pride - these days I watch his knock-out tackles from the comfort of my bar stool and say to whoever is listening "that hurts, trust me".