He may have hung up his boots long ago but Blues legend Justin “Gus” Collins’ impact is still being felt in New Zealand rugby.
That’s why he was awarded the New Zealand Rugby Players Association (NZRPA) Kirk Award at the recent NZ Rugby Awards for his outstanding contributions on behalf of fellow professional players, on and off the field.
“It’s a huge honour,” said Collins. “To be recognised by the NZRPA and actually be presented the Kirk Award by its namesake, David Kirk, was incredibly humbling for me.”
Collins, who earned 92 caps for the Blues, began serving the NZRPA as a Blues player representative, and has continued to serve as an individual board member since his retirement from rugby in 2010.
During that time, his proudest achievements have been helping to usher in the association’s Agent Charter, which protects the interests of players when dealing with agents; implementing the Personal Development Programme for providing career advice and placing players in work after rugby; and establishing the Benevolent and Welfare fund to aid players and their families who suffer severe hardship.
He’s since stepped down from the board this year to focus on family and work, as well as potentially seeking a position on the Northland Rugby Union Board – the beloved province that he played an impressive 114 matches for.
“It’s been an incredible honour to serve, and it was a tough decision to step down, but I feel the board would benefit from a different type of experience instead of the same old voices. I will be keeping busy, though, and the NRU is something I feel very passionate about.”
In recent years, Collins has also been involved with the Blues U18 Development squad and is a founding member of Blues Legacy committee.
As a Kirk Award winner, he is in prestigious company. Previous recipients include Conrad Smith, Richie McCaw, and Blues coach Tana Umaga.