Jonah Lomu: The Beauty in the Beast

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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.

James Morgan

4 Comments

  1. Spot on James. You have eloquently described the incredible talent he had. Back in 1995 you could only look on in awe of what he did to us that day.

    Just watching the various montages of him today reaffirms that he was a once in a generation sportsman.

    He came across as such a humble lovely guy in the various interviews I saw during the RWC.

    Such a sad loss so young.

  2. Back in 1996 I had a student job doing crowd marshaling at Lancaster Park in Christchurch, and I got put on the door to the after match function. People with corporate tickets to the function had little tags hanging off their belts, so we had our eyes at that level checking everyone through. Someone approached with no tag, so I started to put my hand out and looked up … “OK Jonah, your tag’s up there”. Gentle giant who will be missed.

    I’m currently working in Japan, and on Monday our Japanese office manager coincidentally brought in his most treasured possession to show us (we have 2 Kiwis out here from London currently). A replica Gilbert RWC ball, signed by the whole NZ RWC ’95 squad, with Jonah’s name taking pride of place. Truly global impact.

    Lomu transcended the sport – redefining wing play, and driving the game professional, so desperate were Packer and Murdoch to have him on screen.

    And he was a good bloke too.

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