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Jonah Lomu R.I.P. 1975 – 2015

Jonah Lomu R.I.P. 1975 – 2015
November 22
10:00 2015

It is with great sadness that last week rugby superstar, Jonah Lomu passed away.

He was just 40.

He left behind a great legacy as both a fine rugby player on the pitch and a true gentleman off the pitch.

It is a time for reflection as we honour this gentle giant who lit up our TV screens every time he took to the field to battle his oppositions.

Here are some extracts from the last interview I did with the superstar of rugby.

Standing at over six feet five inches tall and weighing about 125 kilos, he was a super sized rugby player and what makes it all the more frightening is the fact that he played the majority of his career on the wing, where we were not used to seeing men of his speed and size perform.

Jonah first came to prominence and burst onto the world scene representing New Zealand in the 7s code at the 1994 Hong Kong 7s led by his captain, Eric Rush.

In the same year he made his International debut for the All Blacks in the 15s code.

He became the youngest player to represent the All Blacks at 19 years and 45 days old.

The following year he was selected for the Rugby World Cup in South Africa.

He captured the attention of the world and becoming the largest drawcard in the game.

He was regarded as the standout player for the tournament and terrorised oppositions with his breathtaking tries which were scored by brute strength, speed and skill.

Throughout his international career which spanned from 1994 to 2002, he became the International Rugby Board (IRB) now called Rugby World’s joint all time top Rugby World Cup tryscorer with South Africa’s Bryan Habana.

In addition to 63 appearances for his country, he scored an amazing 37 tries which is well over one try in every two games. This feat may have been contributed by the fact that this 125kg powerhouse could run 100 metres in 10.8 seconds.

As most of you may be aware despite becoming the first superstar of rugby Jonah’s health was deteriorating very badly at an alarming rate.

As early as 1995 at the age of just 20 during the Rugby World Cup, Jonah was bedridden for days after each match due to a serious and chronic kidney disorder.

In 2003 it was disclosed that Lomu had been put on dialysis three times a week due to deterioration in his kidney function. Side effects of Lomu’s dialysis treatment led to severe nerve damage in his feet and legs; his doctors warned him that he faced life in a wheelchair if a kidney transplant was not performed soon.

Finally in 2004 after his illness was kept away from the media spotlight, Jonah underwent a kidney transplant. After recovering from this major surgery, Lomu attempted many comebacks to play professional rugby again but he would never be the same and also he was endangering his own safety by participating in this contact sport.

In the last interview I did with Jonah, we discussed at length not only his sterling rugby career, but more importantly about his ongoing illness and his hopes and aspirations for the future which as we now know was tragically cut short.

At the time Jonah told me he was concentrating fully on being a devoted husband to his wife Nadene and a great father to his two young boys. It was also moving to know that he aspired to look after himself physically so he could watch his sons grow up and enjoy his time with them.

Simple aspirations for many of us, but after going through Lomu’s serious health issues it certainly meant a lot to him.

Alas that simple wish was cut short last Wednesday, November 18, 2015, where he died unexpectedly on his return to Auckland from the Rugby World Cup in the United Kingdom.

R.I.P. Jonah Tali Lomu, a true Statesman of World Rugby


 The writer is a Fiji Sun
columnist.

Feedback:  ajay@carvingdream.com

 

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