Across The Ditch: Dedicated in Memory of the Legend Jonah Lomu

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Across The Ditch: Dedicated in Memory of Legend Jonah Lomu – EveningReport.nz’s Selwyn Manning and Australian radio FiveAA.com.au’s Peter Godfrey speak of the passing of New Zealand’s Rugby legend Jonah Lomu.

Jonah Lomu, New Zealand’s legendary Rugby superstar passed away on Wednesday at the age of 40.

Last night (Wednesday November 18, 2015) it was reported that Jonah likely died of a cardiac or pulmonary event while at home in Auckland surrounded by his family,

Hours before, he had arrived back to New Zealand from Dubai where Jonah, his wife and sons, Brayley (6) and Dhyreille (5), had holidayed after having attended the Rugby World Cup in the United Kingdom, where he officially kicked off the world cup at the opening ceremony.

Jonah was a superstar on and off the Rugby field. He took the Rugby world by storm in the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa – notching up 15 tries in the 1995 and 1999 tournaments.

And he was the youngest person to pull on the All Blacks jersey at 19 year and 45 days old.

He played for the All Blacks 63 times, and at 6’5″ and weighing 119 kilo grammes, he could run 100 metres in 10.8 seconds with a Rugby ball in his hand. On top of this, the All Blacks played Jonah on the left wing. In that position he was virtually unstoppable. Former Australian Wallabies great Peter FitzSimons said last night, Jonah in full stride was like a human freight-train in ballet shoes.

As an All Black Jonah scored 188 points between 1994-2002.

Jonah’s Rugby career was cut short after it was revealed in 2002 he had a relatively rare kidney disease called nephrotic syndrome.

He was actually diagnosed with the disease at the end of 1995, but details of his condition were kept private for some time.

In May 2003 Jonah was placed on dialysis treatment while he waited for a donor kidney. In July 2004 Jonah received a kidney transplant and then enjoyed relatively good health.

But seven years later his body rejected the donated kidney. And since 2011 Jonah relied on dialysis treatment in order to stay alive.

PERSONAL MEMORIES:
Personally, I will always remember the first time I saw Jonah. I was working for a south Auckland newspaper and received a call from a man called Phil Kingsley Jones, who managed some up and coming-young sports kids.

He spoke of this fine young man, from Mangere – one of South Auckland’s poorer suburbs. He said Jonah was destined to be an All Black.

A couple of years earlier, as a 15 year-old, Jonah had caught Phil Kingsley Jones’ eye while playing Rugby for Wesley College near Pukekohe.

When I met him he was about 17 years-of-age, Phil arranged for me to meet Jonah. There was a young mother who needed a liver transplant. She was trying to raise money to pay for the operation in Australia. At the time, liver transplants (of the kind of procedure she needed) were not performed in New Zealand.

The two of them were standing outside the Post Office in Papakura, about 25 kilometres south of Auckland. It was raining. There was Jonah – while only 17 he was already a giant a man at over 6’5″. He stood beside the young mother holding an umbrella and shielding her from the cold wind.

He was softly spoken, almost shy at that age. He gently spoke of why he was helping the young mother raise money for her treatment. He said, in south Auckland people were getting to know him because of his Rugby playing, so if he could help her in his way to get this life saving treatment then it was the right thing to do.

His kindness made an impression not just on me but on a whole nation. Through these short years since he became famous, Jonah Lomu kept doing things for people who needed a hand.

It wasn’t just his skills on the Rugby field that made him a superstar, but acts of kindness like keeping a vulnerable young woman company on a cold winter New Zealand day.

REMEMBERED BY HIS MENTORS & OPPONENTS:

Jonah’s former manager Phil Kingsley Jones told the New Zealand Herald on Wednesday: “Today is one of the saddest days of my life, hearing that one of the most wonderful young men I have ever known and who was like a son to me, has been taken from us.

“Jonah was a big part of my family and we are all shattered by his passing.

He gave the world so much pleasure. Most people think of him as a rugby superstar, but to me he was always that young man from Welsey College who was great company.

“I have seen him grow from the young man he was, to the perfect gentleman he had become. We had exciting times together and I will treasure his memory always. The world will will be a poorer without him.”

SKY Television has launched a pop-up channel “in memory and tribute” to Jonah Lomu.

Australian Rugby great Nick Farr-Jones said: “I think that we can always talk about what were the best World Cups, but when you talk about who was the most influential in a World Cup, you’ll never go past him in ’95.”

Farr-Jones added: “Thank God I didn’t play against him.”

Former All Blacks captain Tana Umanga said: “There’s never been another Jonah Lomu, has there? Everyone’s tried to manufacture one or tried to put forwards out to the backs or put someone on the wing who had the same size as him.

“There was no one like him. To be honest there probably never will be.”

Jonah was award the New Zealand Order of Merit honour in 2007. He is survived by his wife Nadene and sons, Brayley (6) and Dhyreille (5).

Across The Ditch is broadcast Live on Australia’s radio FiveAA.com.au and webcasts on EveningReport.nz LiveNews.co.nz and ForeignAffairs.co.nz.

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Selwyn Manning, BCS (Hons.) MCS (Hons.) is an investigative political journalist with 23 years media experience. He specializes in reportage and analysis of socioeconomics, politics, foreign affairs, and security/intelligence issues. Selwyn has extensive experience as a commentator and has provided live political analysis to a wide range of television and radio organizations broadcasting in New Zealand, Australia and globally including the BBC (Five Live, London) and BBC (World Service). He is currently a correspondent to Australia's FiveAA radio, and is a regular live-on-air panelist on Radio New Zealand's The Panel with broadcaster Jim Mora.

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