You’ll have read a hundred eulogies of Jonah Lomu by now. I imagine they all talked about his greatness as a player and how he helped to modernise the game. There’s little I can add, other than to express what Jonah meant to me – a teenaged England fan watching the 1995 World Cup in awe.
Lomu will always be the man who shattered my dreams but won me over at the same time. Unlike other sports stars who singlehandedly orchestrated England’s demise (Diego Maradona immediately springs to mind) I never resented Jonah as a kid. He was an absolute sensation, a one-off, and a humble man seemingly devoid of all ego. Even though he never won the World Cup, he was a champion in every other way.
Jonah was a beast of a man but there was something graceful, beautiful even, in his play. His thighs were the size of my stomach, and the ground seemed to shake when he ran, but he was sublimely balanced for one so big. A man with Jonah’s size shouldn’t have had such a good step. He had the power of a rampaging elephant but the centre of gravity of a hare.
Everyone remembers that World Cup semi-final in 1995 fondly. He tossed aside would-be tacklers like ragdolls. I admit that Rob Andrew was a bit of a lightweight, but Will Carling was quite a robust player. Jonah made him look like the wee man from Jackass.
I remember watching that game with my eyes bulging out of their sockets. It almost seemed unfair: Jonah was surely from another planet. Today’s professionals spend hours in gym working on their strength. God just seemed to build Lomu that way.
It’s such a tragedy that the legend has left us at the tender age of 40. Although we all knew about his kidney issues, I had hoped he was on the mend. To lose his life so suddenly – and initial reports suggest it was caused by an unrelated health issue – seems particularly cruel. I’m sure everyone wishes his family all the best.
Today is one of the blackest days in All Blacks history. So long Jonah. You’ll be missed terribly.