Video: All Black legends pay Jonah Lomu tribute with emotional Haka at memorial service
Friends, family and fans of Jonah Lomu attended a public memorial service on Monday to say goodbye to the New Zealand rugby great after he died of a heart attack earlier this month at the age of 40.
Thousands turned out at Auckland’s Eden Park, with many sporting Lomu’s famous No 11 All Blacks shirt, to pay their respects to the former rugby union star who died on the 18 November.
With many of Lomu’s former team-mates in attendance, a mass Haka was performed in front of Lomu’s coffin. Ex-players from the Hurricanes and the All Blacks lined up to carry out the war dance, which New Zealand regularly perform before their matches as a challenge to their opponents.
It took 12 pallbearers to carry Lomu’s coffin, with former All Blacks Michael Jones, Frank Bunce, Joeli Vidiri and Jerome Kaino, as well as New Zealand rugby league player Manu Vatuvei, among those who carried Lomu into the stadium.
Lomu’s wife, Nadene, followed the coffin alongside their two sons Brayley, 6, and Dhyreille, 5.
Speaking on behalf of Lomu’s family, former All Blacks coach John Hart thanked the outpouring of messages, tributes and condolences sent from around the world.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key, who is currently in Paris attending the world climate conference, recorded a message that was played during the service in which he praised Lomu for making a real difference in people’s lives.
"He proved that you can come from anywhere in New Zealand in any background and make it to the top," Key said.
Pupils from Lomu’s school, Favona Primary in South Auckland, paid a moving tribute to their alumnus as they wrote and performed a song for the record Rugby World Cup try-scorer, in which they referred to him as "No 11, our friend in heaven."
World Rugby chairman, Bernard Lapasset, also attended the service after flying in from France. A private burial service will be held in Auckland on Tuesday.
Lomu battled a nephrotic syndrome, a debilitating kidney illness, for almost 20 years after becoming aware of his condition in 1995. Lomu was forced to retire from the game in 2007, having undergone a kidney transplant in 2004 that his body would later reject in 2011, and the illness is thought to have contributed to his death.
"It's frightening to think what he could have done on the field had he not played with such a huge medical handbrake," he said. "He overcame tremendous hurdles throughout his life but never, ever complained. He was a fighter until the very end."
(© Independent News Service)
Independent News Service