All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu ‘dies age 40’

Posted on November 18, 2015 08:39 am

All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu has died at home in Auckland, aged 40, not many athletes in the world who are instantly recognisable by all sports fans. Jonah Lomu was one of them. Former All Blacks doctor John Mayhew confirmed on Wednesday that Jonah Lomu, survived by wife Nadene Lomu and young boys Brayley Lomu, 6, and Dhyreille Lomu, 5, died unexpectedly, although he has a long history of health issues. Nadene Lomu issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon, posting on Facebook with a family photo: “It is with great sadness that I must announce my dear husband Jonah Lomu died last night. As you can imagine this is a devastating loss for our family and may I ask that our privacy, especially the privacy of our two very young boys, be respected as we take them through this traumatic time. “Jonah Lomu has had a long running battle with kidney problems and had a life saving kidney transplant seven years ago.Jonah Lomu’s steamrollering try-scoring feats attracted interest from the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys but he remained loyal to his beloved All Blacks.His kidney issues suffering a rare disorder known as nephrotic syndrome meant he was forced to cut short his rugby career but he bravely attempted several comebacks.He received regular dialysis treatment to help deal with his kidney issues.Jonah Lomu burst onto global consciousness as an irresistible force 20 years ago during the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa. How can he be dead at just 40?His performance against England in Cape Town during the 1995 Rugby World Cup remains the most astonishing sporting performances Contador Harrison has ever seen.I recall Australian media story how Jonah Lomu had a $52,000 sound system in his car in early 2000s and was said to be the loudest in New Zealand, Australia and possibly the world.

Jonah Lomu in his heydays
Jonah Lomu in his heydays

NZ Rugby chief executive Steve Tew confirmed ‘We’re all shocked and deeply saddened at the sudden death of Jonah Lomu,’ Tew said.’We’re lost for words and our heartfelt sympathies go out to Jonah’s family.’Jonah was a legend of our game and loved by his many fans both here and around the world.’ Details of his death remain unclear. The winger was labelled rugby’s first professional superstar and played 63 Tests for New Zealand.While intimidating on the field, Lomu was beloved as a gentle giant off it.He worked at the 2015 World Cup as a rugby ambassador and spoke of his desire simply to see his children reach their 21st birthdays.Local media is reporting that people were seen arriving at Lomu’s house on Wednesday to pay their respects.New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said he was saddened to hear of Lomu’s unexpected death.’The thoughts of the entire country are with his family,’ he said.Lomu quit rugby in 2002 aged 27 because of Nephrotic syndrome, a rare and serious kidney disease. He has been on dialysis treatment for more than a decade and has suffered occasional setbacks to his health.The youngest ever All Black, Lomu went on to score 37 tries in 63 Tests and is regarded as one of New Zealand’s greatest wingers. His spectacular performances at the 1995 Rugby World Cup made him one of the sport’s most recognisable global figures.His tackle-shredding displays included a stunning four-try demolition of England in the quarter-finals, where his trampling of fullback Mike Catt remains an indelible image.A true legend who’ll be missed forever.

Former All Blacks centre Tana Umaga paid tribute to Jonah Lomu saying there will never be another player quite like him.Tana Umaga, who won 74 caps for New Zealand and is now the head coach of the Blues. “There’s never been another Jonah Lomu,” Umaga told New Zealand media. “Everyone’s tried to manufacture one. They’ve tried to put forwards out into the backs and tried to put someone on the wing who was the same size. But there was no one else like him. And, to be honest, there probably never will be.”He was a unique individual as well. He did live his life in a bit of a goldfish bowl, after that 1995 World Cup, and he did it really well. He understood the expectations on him, he understood the new guidelines in his life he had to live within.”We sat on the outside seeing all the accolades he was getting but knowing that it came at a price. He let us know there was certain responsibilities to what you did and that’s how he helped players just letting them know the responsibility to becoming an All Black, of being in the spotlight. He kind of led the way in that.” Tana Umaga said Lomu “single-handedly put rugby back on the map” following his incredible performances in the 1995 World Cup. He added: “We’ve got to make sure we understand that and respect that. You go anywhere and, although the All Blacks are huge, the one player they talk about is Jonah Lomu. That’s who they know.”

 Jonah Lomu on June 18 1995 Cape Town trampled over England's Mike Catt and Tony Underwood to score four tries
Jonah Lomu on June 18 1995 Rugby World Cup in Cape Town against England where he scored four tries

His performances in South Africa are said to have triggered the birth of professional rugby in 1996, with media moguls admiring the speed and power which contrasted with his gentle off-field demeanour.The joint record-holder for the most World Cup tries with South African Bryan Habana with 15, Lomu was recently named the tournament’s greatest ever player in an English-run poll.Born in Auckland to Tongan parents, he outlined a difficult upbringing in his autobiography. He detailed a strained relationship with his father Semisi and admitted to a falling in with the wrong crowd of friends on the streets of south Auckland.After starring as a schoolboy No.8, Lomu rose to prominence with a powerhouse display at the 1994 Hong Kong sevens tournament.He made his All Blacks in 1994, on the left wing against France in Christchurch, aged 19 years 45 days.After a shaky debut, he soon established himself as a potent match-winner, with his combination of size and acceleration too much for most opponents to handle.Forty-three tries in 73 All Blacks games earned him a following overseas which sometimes superseded the recognition of his deeds in New Zealand.The former Blues, Hurricanes and Chiefs winger underwent a kidney transplant in 2004. He attempted a short-lived comeback a year later.Lomu was inducted into the International Rugby Board Hall of Fame in 2011.Tragic news about the death of Jonah Lomu will take days if not weeks and months to sink because he was not only a superstar on the field but a true gentleman off it.He was one of my childhood biggest heroes, such an inspiration and inspired so many of us by making rugby cool and changed the sport of Rugby Union. I will always remember watching 1995 Rugby World Cup with my elder brother where Jonah Lomu was something else.#RIPJonah

Contador Harrison