The last haka: All Blacks past and present pay fitting tribute to rugby legend Jonah Lomu as thousands join his heartbroken family at stadium service
- Jonah Lomu passed away unexpectedly at his home in Auckland earlier this month
- A service for the public was held at Eden Park in Auckland a fortnight after his death
- The memorial followed a special ‘family day’ on Saturday. His private funeral will be held on Tuesday
- The legendary All Blacks winger scored 37 tries in 63 Tests and starred during 1995 and 1999 World Cups
- Tributes have flooded in from all over the world for rugby’s first global superstar
It was the most fitting tribute to a rugby giant. In suits, in sports kit and in T-shirts emblazoned with his name, scores of mourners filed on to the pitch to perform a last haka for Jonah Lomu.
The venue, Eden Park, is the home of New Zealand rugby and a stadium where the 6ft 5in All Black had played many times before a crowd awed by his power, speed and sheer stature.
But on Monday there was no match to win. Instead the crowd of 8,000 people gathered solely to honour Lomu, who died unexpectedly at the age of 40 from a cardiac arrest a fortnight ago.
Among them were his wife Nadine, 34, and their children Brayley, six, and Dhyreille, five, who released doves in his memory. The haunting rendition of the haka was performed by former and current All Blacks as a hearse containing Lomu’s body was driven onto the pitch.
Former All Blacks team mate Eric Rushspoke from a stage, recounting tales of an aversion to training and a voracious appetite that brought Lomu into conflict with the strict nutritional edicts of his professional coaches.
‘It was a love-hate relationship. I loved training, he loved the Manukau city food court,’ Rush said, referring to his hometown.
‘You didn’t tell Jonah to do anything, but if you asked him, he’d run through a brick wall for you.’
The service followed a special ‘family day’ which was held in Manukau, New Zealand to celebrate his Tongan heritage on Saturday. A private family funeral will take place on Tuesday.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who was unable to attend the service due to his commitments at the UN summit in Paris, sent a video message honouring the All Blacks great.
‘He meant so much to his family and his community,’ said Key.
‘He wanted to make a real difference to people’s lives and he certainly did that.