November 30, 2015
Fond Farewell, Jonah Lomu–Rugby’s First Global Superstar.
The Chairman of World Rugby says Jonah Lomu “will forever be a big part of rugby’s story.”Bernard Lapasset travelled from France to pay tribute to Lomu at an emotional public memorial for the All Black legend today at Eden Park. He was among several rugby identities that delivered moving eulogies for the sport’s fallen star, including former All Black coach John Hart and Eric Rush.
Mr Hart spoke of Lomu’s prolific sporting talents, but added most of all “you were a lovely, lovely man”. While Mr Rush, who played alongside Lomu in both the All Blacks and New Zealand Sevens side, delivered a humorous speech before breaking down at the end as he farewelled his good friend.
All the speakers addressed Lomu’s wife Nadene, their sons Brayley and Dhyreille and his mother, Hepi and his sisters, acknowledging their grief. Pride and sadness permeated the ten thousand-strong crowd of people young and old that turned out to farewell the All Black legend, who passed away suddenly 12 days ago.
The memorial brought together many members of the sporting community, with the entire Blues rugby squad and Warriors team in attendance to pay tribute to Lomu, along with many of his former teammates from all levels of his rugby career.
The icons of New Zealand sport performed a rousing haka, led by All Black legend Buck Shelford, at the end of the service as Lomu’s casket was carried from the stage and into a waiting hearse.
Former Wallabies George Gregan and Tim Horan made the trip across the Tasman, joining the family, close friends and dignitaries sitting under a canopy next to the stage.
Lomu’s casket was carried through the players tunnel onto Eden Park as members of the Ngati Whatua cultural group performed an emotional haka and powhiri. His pallbearers included former teammates Frank Bunce, Michael Jones, Joeli Vidiri, Dylan Mika and Eroni Clarke, along with Blues captain Jerome Kaino, Warriors star Manu Vatuvei, and Dr John Mayhew.
The procession was followed by Lomu’s wife, their two children, and his extended family. Mrs Lomu wiped away tears as she and her two sons placed flowers on his casket, pausing to reflect before taking her seat.
Lomu’s father-in-law, Merv Quirk opened the service with a prayer, speaking of “our dearly beloved son, father, wonderful husband and good friend”.John Campbell, who MCed the proceedings, opened by outlining the impact Lomu’s death has had on New Zealand and the world, before turning to Nadene, Dhyreille and Brayley.
“Thank you for sharing your Jonah with us for one last time.
“We all feel loss but the most immense loss is yours.
“Dhyreille and Brayley, these are just some of the people who loved your dad – that’s how amazing he was.”
Prime Minister John Key, who is currently at a climate summit in France, delivered a video message.
“Everyone recognised Jonah as an outstanding rugby player, but it was his actions off the field that I will remember most fondly,” he said. He spoke of Jonah’s charitable work and his sportsmanship, that saw him last signing autographs for fans and shaking the hand of every last opposing player after the Rugby World Cup final loss in 1995.
Mr Lappaset said Lomu was the game’s first global superstar.
“As well as being a giant in the game, he was a giant of the game. He took our sport to a new level of profile.”
“He will forever be a big part of rugby’s story.”
Mr Lapasset made special reference to a message of solidarity Lomu sent to the French people in the days after the Paris terror attack. Former Wesley College principal Chris Grinter, who Lomu described as a “father figure” to him, spoke of the All Black legend’s athletic prowess.
From winning 10 out of 13 events at school athletics to his entrance into the first XV at age 14.
“I saw a troubled young man influenced by his college, challenged by rugby and fuelled by a positive attitude and high expectations of himself.”
He said Lomu turned challenges and adversary “into incredible strength”.
Mr Grinter repeated his final sentiment twice: “Too big, too fast, too much”.
Family spokesman John Hart chronicled Lomu’s meteoric rise from the schoolboy wonder of Mr Grinter’s words to world rugby superstar.
“Power, pace, skill and grace were all part of the gentle giants performance,” he said, listing Lomu’s incredible sporting achievements.
“There has never been a player like Jonah and there will never be another like him.”
He spoke of Lomu’s kidney disease as “a huge medical handbreak” and gave special mention to Lomu’s doctor, Dr John Mayhew and his “Angel” kidney donor, radio personality Grant Kareama.
“You were a freak on the field and a huge caring giant off it.
“A loving husband, father, son and brother but most of all you were a lovely, lovely man.
“Officially we salute All Black number 941 but to the world you will be known as the All Black who made number 11 his own.”
Mr Rush often laughed and had the crowd in stitches at times as he recalled his friendship with “the beast”.
“He was like two different people. He was such a humble guy and such a beast on the field but off the paddock he was such a humble, respectful, generous man.”
Weaved between jocular tales from rugby tours and trainings, Rush spoke of Lomu’s love for his family.
“I felt sorry for the guy…he was one of the best rugby players in the world but he was also one of the loneliest rugby players in the world too.
“That all changed when Nadene came along and have him his two sons.
It was the first time he saw “real joy” in Lomu’s life, he said.
“Nadene, I’ve been around him a long time and it’s the happiest I’ve ever seen him.”
He also had a very close bond with his mother, said Rush.
“He feared no man but he did fear one person and that was his mum. When his mum said things, he acted.”
In between the speeches, there were several musical tributes.
Students at Mangere’s Favona School – Lomu’s former primary school – performed a specially written song – with upbeat lyrics that told of the pride he instilled his South Auckland community.
“You showed us how to follow our dreams, never give up and just believe.
“You showed us to always give it your all, Favona we will always stand tall.
A message at the end of the video by teacher Heather Harvey, who taught Lomu, also reinforced his “legend” status.
The crowd turned into a sea of waving flags as Adeaze performed You’re the Inspiration. Classical singer Lizzie Marvelly close the proceedings with a rendition of How great thou art, with many of the crowd joining her.It was followed by a rousing haka by the Wesley College Old Boys, before Lomu’s former All Blacks teammates, the Blues, and Warriors followed suit as the casket was carried to a waiting hearse and Lomu passed through the tunnel of Eden Park one last time.