Tributes for rugby cult hero Berryman

Former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga has led the tributes for popular former rugby union star Norm Berryman, who has died at the age of 42.

Berryman died on Tuesday of a heart attack in Australia, where he has been based for several years.

A father of six, he had recently worked as a forklift driver in Perth, where he had also played club rugby.

Umaga and others expressed shock and sadness at the passing of Berryman, who will be remembered for a flamboyant attacking style and laid-back approach off the field.

A decade-long career through the 1990s included three seasons with the Crusaders, where he won three Super Rugby titles from 1998-2000. He also represented the Chiefs and Blues.

Berryman’s lone Test appearance was off the reserves bench in a 24-23 loss to South Africa in 1998.

“He always had a big smile,” Umaga said.

“He loved life, loved his family, he’ll be a big loss. It’s a life lost too young.”

Umaga was constantly amazed by Berryman’s ability to scythe through defences, belying a physique which was wider of girth than most of his peers.

Umaga admits he was embarrassed more than once defensively when the pair locked horns at provincial and Super Rugby level.

“There were probably a few times where he beat me on the outside, the inside, upside-down, I’m not too sure. He was that good with his footwork.

“He had amazing skills for a big man.”

“Stormin” Norman Berryman, as many supporters knew him, represented New Zealand Maori across an 11-year span and finished his playing career with short stints at French clubs Castres and Bourgoin.

Berryman’s death follows that of another recent former All Black, Jerry Collins, who died in a car accident in France this month.

Collins’ wife was also killed and their baby daughter remains on life support.

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