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Former All Black Norm Berryman dies

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 23/06/2015
Norm Berryman © Getty Norm Berryman

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

One-Test outside back Berryman died 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 the player who will be remembered for a flamboyant attacking style and laid-back approach off the field.

A decade-long career for Northland 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 Test appearance was off the reserves bench when he replaced Eroni Clarke 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.

Also an outside back, 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.

Northland rugby chief Jeremy Parkinson said he would be remembered as a champion for ordinary athletes.

"Any kid can grow up anywhere in the country and become an All Black, and that's what Norm did," Parkinson told NewsTalk ZB.

"He was always a character, he always had a smile on his face, he played the game for all the right reasons and in the spirit of it."

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.

Umaga, who was appointed Blues head coach on Tuesday, admitted it has been a very difficult two weeks.

He returned to New Zealand to be present at the funeral of former teammate Collins, leaving his post of assistant coach for the New Zealand team who went on to win the world junior championship in Italy over the weekend.

CULT RUGBY HERO NORM BERRYMAN

Born: 15 April 1972

Died: 23 June 2015 (aged 42)

Career:

All Blacks: 1 Test (replacement v South Africa, Durban 1998)

Maori All Blacks: 1992, 1995-97, 1999-2000, 2003

Super Rugby: Chiefs 1996, Blues 1997, Crusaders 1998-2000 (3 titles)

NPC: Northland 1991-2000 & 2003 (107 games, 71 tries)

France: Castres 2000-2002; Bourgoin 2002-2003

Tributes:

"He was a huge role model up here. He always had a smile on his face and high-fived kids after the games - he was the last to come off the field after signing autographs." - Northland rugby chief Jeremy Parkinson

"Thoughts are with Berryman whanau following passing of "Stormin" Norman." - All Blacks' official Twitter account

"He was everything that was special about New Zealand rugby." - Crusaders' coach Todd Blackadder

"Another sad day for rugby. My thoughts and prayers are with the Berryman whanau" - former All Black Zac Guildford.


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