Jonah Lomu

Just over three years since his death (as part of a short piece of written work for my studies), I had the pleasure of illustrating why Jonah Lomu must be regarded as one of rugby’s greatest ever!

Lomu
Jonah Lomu scoring in the 1995 World Cup semi-final against England. Photo from here.

Without a shadow of a doubt this man-mountain of a legend from Auckland deserves to be first on the list of rugby’s greatest that ever played the game. The upmost sadness, is that he was taken from us all to soon.

Jonah Tali Lomu can probably be regarded as rugby’s first global superstar recognised all over the world and gave us viewers some of the most iconic moments in world rugby. The wingers large frame weighed an impressive 18st 13lbs and stood at 6ft 5inchs tall; add another inch with the notorious Lomu quiff hairdo he had going on! The first rockstar of world rugby, the ‘try-scoring machine’ was said to have been earning $900,000 a year whilst in New Zealand.

The man, educated from the infamous Wesley College in Auckland, had spells with the Blues, Hurricanes and Chiefs in Super Rugby, he even in the latter part of his career joined up with Cardiff Blues for a season. However, the iconic moments that we all cherish and remember came from his time wearing the ‘Black Shirt’. An impressive 63 All Black caps that span over an eight year international career, allowed him to notch up 37 test tries.

Size is one thing in rugby but throw that in with speed, power, agility and handeye coordination you create a sensational rugby player that Lomu was. He started his international career at the age of 19 years and 45 days old, becoming the youngest All Black in history, playing on the wing against France in 1994. He would eventually play France again that same year before being picked to go to the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Here is where the true start of the Lomu’s legacy began! He cartwheeled over people, turned defenders on a sixpence and simply outpaced those around him to score an impressive seven tries in five games.

Even though I was little more than an enfant at the time trying to put together my first sentence, video footage from that day until now can allow you to be amazed at the big man’s sheer strength and try scoring ability (just ask Mike Catt here!). In the World Cup semi-final Lomu scored an impressive four tries against England and sent New Zealand into the final against South Africa. England’s captain at the time summed up Lomu’s performance, and single man handleless of the England team, when he described the All Black winger at the end of the game as “a freak”!

If you’ve ever watched the film ‘Invictus’ you’d know just how worried the South African team and President Mandala were of Lomu’s capabilities. Luckily for the South Africa no tries were scored and they went on to win the game with an extra time drop goal.

Lomu would go on and continue to make defenders look weak and silly. No better try of his came than in the famous ‘greatest ever game of rugby’ in the Bledisloe Cup match of 2000. In the last play of the game Lomu brushed off Stephen Larkham to snatch the game away from the Australians at the death. The winger was simply a match winner, a talent that no other team had at the time. (Full stats)

His formidable achievements paved their way into rugby greatness and in 2011 World Rugby inducted Jonah Lomu into the Hall of Fame.

Lomu Hall of Fame
Jonah Lomu receiving his Hall Of Fame honour from World Rugby. Photo from here.

Whilst fantastic to illustrate why Lomu should be regarded as one of the all time greats, we have to do all this looking back on his short life. The saddest thing about this great man was his health. Many will know that in 1996 Lomu was diagnosed with a kidney disorder that prevented him from playing a continual career, taking regular time out to get back to fitness. In 2002 he had a kidney transplant that seemed to help solve the matter some what, however, on the 18th November 2015 the rugby and sporting world would hear the last of Jonah Lomu as the legend fell down with a heart attack and passed away.

I think the sheer reaction from the sporting world as to the news of his death captivated why this man is held as a great within the rugby world. Off the field he also did large charity work which has continued to this day with the Jonah Lomu Legacy Trust.

He’s a player that many feared but also hugely respected, He was a one of a kind and global superstar who ultimately brought rugby into the limelight. Words can’t quite describe his abilities…maybe its worth sitting back and watching below. He will forever be remembered in the rugby world, and I think without disagreement the late Jonah Lomu must be placed in rugby greatness!