Yesterday, Jonah Lomu, one of the finest rugby players and athletes of all time, passed away in Auckland. He had spent the last month of his life in England with his family, watching his beloved All Blacks become the first team in history to retain the World Cup.
Lomu was a rare talent who galvanised the game – a man whose legacy and sheer brilliance almost single-handily elevated the sport of rugby union on to the international stage. Without Lomu's charisma and huge heart there would be no Richie McCaw, no Dan Carter, no rugby as we know it today. Lomu defined what it meant to be a rugby player – to play the game with skill, passion and desire, but, above all, to always show respect. He had dedicated himself to teaching this philosophy to young players since his retirement in 2002.
A ferocious scorer of tries, Lomu is New Zealand's sixth all time try scorer and joint recorder holder of World Cup tries with an astronomical 15 in just two tournaments. His most famous game came against England in the 1995 World Cup semi-final, which he started off by picking up the ball with his back to the goal line just over the halfway before turning and sprinting to touch, seemingly defying physics by running through England's Mike Catt. That was vintage Lomu: a man whose game seemed, at times, to be played out one dimension above every other player.
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A humdinger of a sportsman as a kid, a young Lomu dominated the Junior field at Wesley College, with an image circulating online showing that he snatched up the 100m, 100m hurdles, 200m, 400m, discus, shotput, javelin, long jump, high jump and triple jump in 1989.
Lomu would also go on to lend his name to one of the most beloved rugby video games of all time, Jonah Lomu Rugby, which helped establish the sport even further in the minds of a new generation.
But at times like these it's almost more important to emphasise the man behind the sport. Lomu was noted by those who knew him best as that rare human who was as genuine as they seemed – his good friend Polly Gillespie uploaded a post last night telling of how Lomu would arrive at her house at night "with a big feed and presents for the kids".
Most amazing, though, is the history of illness that Lomu battled throughout his career and later life. Diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome, a rare kidney disorder, before the 1995 Word Cup, Lomu would go on to play for the All Blacks for a further 7 years. True to his reputation, he battled the disorder with patience and good nature.
In 2004 he received a transplant, but in 2011 his body rejected it. For the past few years, he has received blood cleaning every other day, a procedure that often lasts up to six hours. He never complained about it. "Yeah," he recently told The Telegraph, "there's only so many movies you can watch, so many emails you can catch up with. But I don't let it get me down. Everybody has their ups and downs. For me, getting up is not a chore."
Jonah Lomu leaves behind his wife and two children. He was 40 years old.