The streets of Porirua were a sea of blue and white rugby jerseys as thousands turned out to remember former All Black Jerry Collins.
Young and old alike came together on Sunday afternoon for a public march through Collins’ old neighbourhood to pay tribute to their hometown hero.
Collins, 34, and his Canadian partner Alana Madill were killed in a car crash in the south of France just more than a week ago, leaving their three-month-old daughter Ayla fighting for her life in hospital.
Inspired by a silent march held by Collins’ French club Narbonne, Wellington Lions teammate and friend Ali Koko wanted to organise something similar in Porirua.
People came decked out in blue and white – the colours of Collins’ local Northern United Rugby Football Club.
Samoan flags were being flown high, while others opted for Hurricanes and All Blacks memorabilia.
As the march passed Collins’ old primary school, Corinna School, students performed a stirring haka.
After winding its way through the streets of Cannons Creek, the march ended at Porirua Park, where Collins’ No.6 Northern United jersey was retired for the rest of the season.
Collins’ body is being flown home and will be accompanied by a group including his cousin and fellow former All Black Tana Umaga, and friend and another former All Black Chris Masoe.
There will be a public funeral service in Porirua next Wednesday.
A memorial fund in memory of Collins has so far attracted pledges of more than $35,000. The money will be put into a trust for Ayla.
The infant was no longer being medicated to keep her in an induced coma, Madill’s sister Nora told the Herald on Sunday.
“We now have to wait,” she said. “Over the next week or two, we could see her wake up slowly, or she could even wake up suddenly in the next day or two.”