Tragically, Jonah Lomu died in November 2015.
He passed away suddenly, in his sleep, soon after his return from the Rugby World Cup and a subsequent family holiday post tournament. he will always be remembered as one of the game’s greats, on the field as someone who changed the game, and off it as a global rugby ambassador.
Jonah Lomu endeared himself to Hurricanes fans in his very first game for the side in the very first Super 12 match played at Westpac Stadium in Wellington in 2000 against the Sharks, scoring two trademark blockbusting tries.
That was the first of many storming performances and barnstorming tries that the most famous name in modern rugby was to make for the Hurricanes and the Vodafone Wellington Lions in his four-year career in Wellington.
Lomu had transferred from stints with the Blues (1996-1998) and the Chiefs (1999) at the end of 1999, linking up with All Black teammates Tana Umaga, Christian Cullen and Alama Ieremia in a lethal Hurricanes backline. Later in the season he helped the Lions lift the NPC title for the first time in 14 years, scoring another two tries in the final against Canterbury.
In all, the champion winger played exactly 50 first class games out of Wellington - 29 for the Hurricanes and 21 for the Lions. In this time he drew expectation and anticipation off the field and excitement and exhilaration on it. 4000 people once turned out on a cold winter’s day to watch him play club rugby for his second division Wainuiomata side. That was his impact.
Lomu’s biggest battle wasn’t on the rugby field but off it. The giant winger battled nephrotic syndrome, a rare and serious kidney disorder that in 2003 prematurely ended his time with the Hurricanes and the Lions, and ultimately his top-level career. In 2004 Wellington radio personality Grant Kereama donated Lomu a new kidney.
At his best Lomu was the most devastating player world rugby has known, starring in two World Cups in 1995 and 1999, scoring 37 test tries and creating countless more in his 63 tests. He was also a fearsome Sevens player, the 1994 Hong Kong Sevens tournament his initial springboard to international fame.
In November 2008 Lomu was made an Adidas Hall of Fame Athlete, cementing his ambassadorial role with the sportswear giant.
In late 2009 Lomu dabbled as a bodybuilder before signing a three-year deal with French third division side Marseille-Vitrolles.
In late 2009 Lomu dabbled as a bodybuilder before signing a playing deal with French third division side Marseille-Vitrolles. In 2011 Lomu had finally hung up his boots from the game that made him its first global superstar. Calling Marseille home, Lomu was still heavily involved in the game from marketing through to video games. He returned to New Zealand and resided in Auckland until his death at the end of 2015. He left behind a wife and two young sons.