Jonah Lomu: A Gentle Giant
For many the defining image of gentle giant Jonah Lomu, who died in November, aged 40, is the sight of the New Zealand rugby star swatting aside England players in the semi-final of the 1995 World Cup.
He made his “international mark the previous year in the seven-a-side version of the game” with his unprecedented display of pace and power in the 1994 Hong Kong Sevens.
“Had he been still alive today, you sense there is nothing Lomu would have liked better than to sit around the New Zealand dressing room at this weekend’s Wellington Sevens, chatting with the boys, sharing stories and wishing them luck”, writes Rob Hodgetts in an article on CNN.
“He loved the atmosphere and the family feel about the game of sevens. He was just one of the lads, regardless of where he was in the 15-a-side game,” former NZ Sevens captain Karl Te Nana told CNN.
Lomu’s rise to sporting stardom began on the tough streets of South Auckland. Te Nana remembers facing Lomu as a schoolboy when their school teams met in an annual fixture.
“We heard at the time their first XV forward pack was heavier than the All Blacks, and we heard a fourth-former had made the side — and that was Jonah,” said Te Nana.
“He was a lot more physically advanced than the rest of us. A guy who could run that fast and be that big way back then was something special. We had never seen it before, and when he started to do it on a rugby field he was pretty much unstoppable.”
“What I always remember was how explosive he was and how quick he was for such a young guy. The power he possessed was quite unbelievable and he made a huge impact in the game of sevens. Teams just struggled to tackle him,” said Gordon Tietjens, New Zealand’s long-time sevens coach, who spotted Lomu’s potential and took him to Hong Kong in 1994.
“Despite everything he achieved in the game, it was Lomu’s humble nature that stood out for many.”
“The big quality he possessed was it was never about Jonah, it was always about the team. He oozed that quality of humility,” said Tietjens.
“Not once did he ever act like he was holier than thou or bigger than the game. That’s probably the reason why he was so adored,” said Te Nana.
Article Source: CNN, Rob Hodgetts, January 28, 2016
Image Source: Youtube