JONAH LOMU :
I just want to stay alive to see my kids make 21… Rugby’s first superstar is desperate for a second kidney transplant, but is still fighting
Sadly that wish ended today
- Rugby’s gentle giant catapulted to world fame after the 1995 World Cup
- It seemed then that nothing could ever stop him, not even the rare kidney disorder known as nephrotic syndrome
- But rugby’s wunderkind is 40 now and he is at bay. A kidney transplant in 2004 fixed him for seven and a half years but his body rejected it in 2011
- He has been a prisoner of dialysis ever since
- Now his ambition for life centres on seeing the sons he thought he could never have grow into men
‘My goal is to make it to the boys’ 21sts,’ says Lomu. ‘There are no guarantees that will happen, but it’s my focus. It’s a milestone that every parent wants to get to. My dad died young and that makes you think. I want my boys to be healthy and if they get to 21, they should be fit and healthy and live a normal life.’
So Lomu sinks into a sofa in the plush lobby of The Savoy hotel and smiles when he recalls taking the two children he thinks of as his ‘miracles’ on an open-top London double-decker bus last week. He and his wife, Nadene, retreated downstairs out of the wind and the rain. Brayley and Dhyreille insisted on staying upstairs, their hoods pulled tight around their faces, happy to be buffeted by the elements.
‘These are new adventures for them,’ says Lomu. ‘Getting them to write about this fantastic new world they have come to is going to be fun.’ He smiles again when he talks about how Nadene has to manage her ‘three boys’, but somewhere amid the great gentleness that is Lomu’s defining characteristic, there are also hints of melancholy and weariness.
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Jonah Tali Lomu, MNZM (12 May 1975 – 18 November 2015) was a New Zealand rugby union player of Tongan descent. He had sixty-three caps as an All Black after debuting in 1994. He has been described as the first true global superstar of rugby union and as having a huge impact on the game. He was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame on 9 October 2007, and the IRB Hall of Fame on 24 October 2011.
The Best of Jonah Lomu MUST SEE!! Part 1
Lomu burst onto the international rugby scene during the 1994 Hong Kong Sevens tournament and was widely acknowledged to be the top player at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa even though New Zealand lost the final to the host Springboks. At one time Lomu was considered ‘rugby union’s biggest drawcard’, swelling attendances at any match where he appeared. He was one of the Rugby World Cup all-time top try scorers with 15 tries, a record he shares with Bryan Habana of South Africa—despite never winning a World Cup.
He played for several domestic teams, in the Super Rugby, NPC and later the Magners League competitions. These included the Auckland Blues, Chiefs and Hurricanes, and Counties Manukau, Wellington and later North Harbour and Cardiff Blues. He made a comeback after undergoing a kidney transplant in 2004, finally retiring from professional rugby in 2007.
Lomu started his career in the forwards, mostly as an openside flanker (no.7), before switching to the left wing in what he described as the “best move he could have made”. He represented New Zealand in the national under-19 side in 1993, as well as the under-21 side the following year. He first came to international attention at the 1994 Hong Kong Sevens tournament as part of a team including Eric Rush.
At the age of 19 years and 45 days, Lomu became the youngest All Black test player as he debuted on the wing against France in 1994, breaking a record that had been held by Edgar Wrigley since 1905. The match was played at Lancaster Park in Christchurch, and the All Blacks lost 22–8. The second match was played at Eden Park in Auckland with France winning again, 23–20. Lomu marked Emile N’tamack and admits that his inexperience led to him being exposed by the French team.
Jonah Lomu creates carnage vs British Isles at RWC 1995
1995 World Cup
Despite having just two All Black caps, Lomu was included in the squad for the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. Lomu scored seven tries in five matches, two in the first match against Ireland in Johannesburg, a try in the quarter final against Scotland at Loftus Versfeld, and four tries in the semi-final against England at Newlands. The first try in the English match occurred after Lomu received a pass behind him, beat two defenders and then, after a stumble, ran straight over the top of Mike Catt. This reduced one New Zealand commentator, Keith Quinn, to gasps. After the game, England captain Will Carling said: “He is a freak and the sooner he goes away the better”. In 2002 the UK public voted Lomu’s performance no. 19 in the list of the 100 Greatest Sporting Moments. New Zealand played the World Cup final at Ellis Park against South Africa (the Springboks). Neither side scored a try, with South Africa coming out on top 15–12 after kicking a drop-goal in extra time.
Following the World Cup New Zealand played Australia home and away for the Bledisloe Cup with Lomu scoring tries in both matches. Lomu’s scoring for New Zealand continued later that year when he scored two tries in the All Blacks victory over Italy in Bologna. Lomu played in a losing effort against France in Toulouse, where New Zealand failed to score any tries. He scored a try in the second test in Paris, helping his team to victory. Lomu played for the All Blacks in matches against the touring Samoa and Scotland teams in June 1996, scoring in one of the Scottish matches.
Just before the World Cup final a deal was struck between South Africa, New Zealand and Australia (SANZAR) to create the Tri-Nations, an annual round robin competition between the three nations launched with the advent of professionalism in rugby. New Zealand won all their games to become the first Tri-Nations winners. Lomu scored a try in a 43–6 victory over Australia in the inaugural match, which has been described by New Zealand Herald journalist David Leggat as “the perfect wet-weather game”.
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At the end of 1996, he was diagnosed with a rare and serious kidney disorder, which saw him take time off from the sport. As a result he did not play in the 1997 Tri Nations Series, but he was included in the All Blacks tour of the northern hemisphere at the end of the year. Lomu played in the two warm up matches, scoring tries against Wales ‘A’ and Emerging England. He played the first test against England at Old Trafford, as well as the test against Wales at Wembley Stadium, and the second match against England—he did not score in any of the three games.
At the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, he won a gold medal representing New Zealand in the Sevens Rugby event. The English rugby team came to New Zealand the following year for a two test series. Lomu played in both of the matches, scoring in the first, which was a 64–22 win in Dunedin, but not in the second test won 40–10 by the All Blacks.
1999 and the World Cup
Lomu’s 1999 international season kicked off with a warm-up match against New Zealand A, which was followed by a game against Samoa in which Lomu scored one of the All Blacks’ nine tries. He came on as a replacement in every game of the 1999 Tri Nations Series with Christian Cullen and Tana Umaga preferred as starters on the wings. New Zealand were crowned Tri Nations champions despite losing the last game against Australia.
Lomu scored eight tries at the 1999 World Cup. In pool matches he scored two tries against Tonga, one against England and two against Italy. The All Blacks, finished top of their pool and proceeded to the quarter-finals. They defeated Scotland, with Lomu scoring one of New Zealand’s four tries. Lomu scored twice in the semi-final match against France, though it was not enough to see them through to the final as France went on to win 43–31. Following the World Cup, despite speculation that he would be moving to play American Football in the National Football League or continue to play rugby in the English Premiership, Lomu returned to New Zealand.
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After playing the 100+ victory over Tonga, Lomu and Tana Umaga scored five tries between them in the subsequent match against Scotland. One of Lomu’s tries was a characteristic bulldozing effort down the wing, leaving Scottish defenders in his wake. In the opening match of the 2000 Tri Nations Series, the All Blacks raced out to a 21 to nil lead, which had the potential to be 28, had George Gregan not stopped Lomu from scoring one of his own. Australia amazingly fought back, and with minutes remaining, both sides had scored five tries each.The world record rugby crowd of 109,874 was treated to the highest scoring match ever between the two sides. With just minutes remaining, the Wallabies led 35 to 34; until Lomu “brushed past a desperate Stephen Larkham to tip-toe down the line and score the winning try”.
The match was followed by a victory over South Africa, and then a re-match of the thrilling Bledisloe Cup game, which Australia won by just a single point, 24 to 23. A barn-storming Lomu was stopped short of the line early in the second half in the final match against South Africa. The Springboks eventually won, 46 to 40. The All Blacks finished second on the table, with Australia winning the Tri Nations. Lomu played in one other test that year; against France at Stade de France in November, which the All Blacks won 39 to 26.
Lomu also led the New Zealand Sevens team to victory at the 2001 Sevens World Cup, filling in for Rush, who suffered a broken leg during the competition. In the lead up to the 2001 Tri Nations Series, the All Blacks played Argentina and France at home, Lomu scoring a try in the French match. Despite causing havoc for the Springboks, no tries were scored in the opening match of the Tri Nations, which was won on penalty goals by the All Blacks. Lomu played his 50th test for the All Blacks at the Carisbrook ‘House of Pain’, scoring a try in the second minute of play. The Wallabies spoiled the party however, winning 23 to 15. This was followed by a win over South Africa, and loss to the Wallabies at Stadium Australia.
During the 1999 off season, Lomu transferred to Wellington and won many plaudits by signing up with Wainuiomata RFC which at that time was a second division club. Lomu played his debut match against Northern United scoring twice and attracting a bumper crowd and followed that up with a further appearance in 2001. Supporters and club members were particularly proud when Lomu wore the green and black club socks when he played for the Barbarian F.C. in 2000.
At the end of the year, the All Blacks played Ireland at Lansdowne Road in Dublin. Lomu was a central figure in the 40 to 29 win, setting up Aaron Mauger for his debut try, and taking an inside pass to blast through for one of his own. The All Blacks end of season tour continued at Murrayfield in Edinburgh, where they defeated Scotland 37 to six, with Lomu contributing one try. In the final match of the tour, the All Blacks played Argentina at the River Plate Stadium. Lomu put the All Blacks in front after Argentina took an early lead. New Zealand won the match by a score of 24 to 20.
In his first test of 2002, he came off the bench in the second half to score a try in a match against Italy. He was again injected into play from the bench in the first of a two test series against Ireland in New Zealand; setting up the All Blacks second try coming on in the last fifteen minutes of play. Lomu was back at his usual starting position for the second test against the Irish, which New Zealand won 40 points to eight. Lomu did not score in the subsequent match against Fiji; though he did however make a trademark run down the wing, setting up Christian Cullen’s third try in the match. Lomu came off the bench in the All Blacks first game of the 2002 Tri Nations Series against South Africa, though he did not play in the rest of the tournament.
He was, however, back in his starting position on the wing for a game against England in November. Lomu ended up scoring a double, though it was not enough to secure a New Zealand victory, with England winning 31 to 28. The subsequent match against France resulted in a draw, the first between the two nations in 96 years. The last match of the end of season tour was against Wales, which the All Blacks won 43 to 17.
Lomu scored tries against every major test playing nation in World Rugby except South Africa and Wales. In his career, Lomu scored eight tries against England—more than any other All Black. Lomu set a record of 15 tries in World Cup tournaments, which was equaled by South African Bryan Habana in 2015.
International analysis by opposition
In 1996, Lomu married South African Tanya Rutter and they lived together in New Zealand for four years before divorcing. He married his second wife Fiona in a secret ceremony on Waiheke Island in August 2003, holding a party on the island a week later. In 2008, Lomu and Fiona divorced after he had an affair with Nadene Quirk. Lomu and Nadene later married and at the time of his death he was living with Nadene and their children.
Lomu was a member of the Champions for Peace club, a group of 54 famous elite athletes committed to serving peace in the world through sport, created by Peace and Sport, a Monaco-based international organisation. In 2012, Lomu and Nadene became members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Lomu lent his name to various video games including Jonah Lomu Rugby and Rugby Challenge. He is portrayed by Isaac Fe’aunati in Invictus, a film chronicling Nelson Mandela‘s journey with the South African rugby team in the 1995 World Cup,
At the end of 1995 Lomu was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome, a serious kidney disorder. His rugby union career went on hold whilst the disorder was treated. In May 2003, the NZRFU announced that Lomu had been put on dialysis three times a week due to deterioration in his kidney function. Side effects of Lomu’s dialysis treatment led to severe nerve damage in his feet and legs; his doctors warned him that he faced life in a wheelchair if a kidney transplant was not performed soon. At the end of July 2004 it was reported that Lomu had indeed undergone a kidney transplant on Tuesday, 28 July, in Auckland, New Zealand. The kidney was in fact donated by Wellington radio presenter Grant Kereama.
Lomu’s vital statistics have been cited as an example of the problematic use of Body Mass Index as a measure of obesity. Lomu had a BMI of 32, in excess of the value of 30 usually taken to signify obesity.
In January 2005, Lomu announced his intention to lead a team against Martin Johnson‘s invitational XV on 4 June 2005, at Twickenham. He scored a try in the first half of the Johnson testimonial, but injured his shoulder in the process and did not return for the second half, dampening an otherwise encouraging first appearance. As it turned out, his injury was more serious than originally thought; he underwent surgery on the shoulder, causing him to miss the 2005 NPC season.
Before returning to professional rugby, he needed special clearance from the World Anti-Doping Agency, as one of the anti-rejection drugs he was required to take is on the WADA list of banned substances. On 8 April 2005, he signed a two-year contract to play for the New Zealand first division provincial team North Harbour in the NPC.
On 9 August 2005, he joined North Harbour, but the shoulder injury he had picked up in the Martin Johnson testimonial game ruled him out for the season, so he worked with the team in a coaching capacity. North Harbour agreed to allow him to play overseas during the NPC offseason, so Lomu signed with the Cardiff Blues of the Celtic League and began playing in Wales in December that year, though he would then return to North Harbour for the 2006 NPC season. Lomu made his first appearance in a competitive match since his transplant on 10 December, in Cardiff’s away Heineken Cup fixture against Italian club Calvisano. He started the match and played 60 minutes, although he did not score, making a key line break leading to Cardiff’s first try in their 25–10 win.
One week later, he made his home debut for Cardiff at Cardiff Arms Park and played for the whole match. Again, he did not get onto the scoresheet but his presence was enough to create space for other players to score in a 43–16 win over Calvisano. In front of a record home crowd, Lomu scored his first try for Cardiff on 27 December 2005, with a man-of-the-match performance during a Celtic League 41–23 win against the Newport Gwent Dragons. In early 2006, he was sidelined while he concentrated on gaining speed and strength, stating that “I have now lost between 10 and 11 kilos [1.7 and 1.9 st; 24 and 26 lb]” He got his first start since January against Border Reivers on Saturday, 15 April, but broke his ankle as a result of a cover tackle on him four minutes from time. He was denied a try, but managed to get the ball away for Mark Lewis to score the Blues sixth try in their 46–11 win. He was estimated to be out for six weeks, as reported by his manager and wife, Fiona Lomu, meaning the end of his Celtic League season.
After three seasons of absence from rugby in New Zealand, Lomu played for Massey against Marist in the North Harbour club competition. Lomu was on for 30 minutes, making a blocking run before he twisted his right ankle and was subsequently replaced. Lomu said that it was “a small step” in his comeback. Lomu’s aim was to return to the National Provincial Championship and reclaim his All Blacks jersey for the 2007 World Cup. Lomu ended up playing for North Harbour in round four of the National Provincial Championship, in a match against Wellington, playing in the last 26 minutes of the game. Harbour won the match 31–16. Lomu said after the match “For me it’s a dream come true… I’ve always said this is my goal—to come back and play in New Zealand.”
It became apparent in early 2007 that Lomu was not going to make the Rugby World Cup after not signing with a New Zealand Super 14 franchise, therefore ruling him out for the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France. Previous to not gaining a Super 14 contract,[clarification needed] Lomu had been demoted to the North Harbour 2nd XV. Lomu stated that he was disappointed by his failure to gain a Super 14 contract, but that he had not failed himself. It was subsequently speculated that Lomu may have played in Australia in 2007 for one of the then new national competition clubs.
On 16 October 2006, it was reported that Lomu was close to switching codes and signing for the Gold Coast Titans, a new Queensland franchise in the National Rugby League competition. He was offered a relatively small contract of one hundred thousand dollars. However, the deal did not materialise as Lomu had numerous important sponsorship contracts with companies associated with rugby union and it would have proved difficult to reconcile these if he was to play in the NRL.
On 5 November 2006, the BBC reported that Lomu was considering a return to Welsh rugby. He last played rugby in Hong Kong to take part in the Tens competition.
On 9 April 2007, Lomu appeared on New Zealand’s version of This Is Your Life, in which he was united with his brother John Lomu.
Lomu was appointed as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list on 4 June 2007.
Lomu retired from rugby in 2007, but was persuaded to play in the Help For Heroes charity match at Twickenham a year later, although he had to withdraw after injuring his ankle in training.
Later that year after recovering from the injury Lomu played in another charity match at Aberavon RFC‘s Talbot Athletic ground. The match was arranged by friends that Lomu had made during his playing days in Wales with Cardiff Blues. Lomu donned the navy blue jersey of the Aberavon Naval RFC, playing against a Port Talbot select XV made up of players from various local clubs such as; Aberavon Quins RFC, Baglan RFC & Taibach RFC in order to raise money for a local children’s charity. The match was covered by the BBC rugby show Scrum V.
However, in June 2009, the BBC claimed he was close to joining French third division club Marseille Vitrolles and was expected to start in the first match of the new season.
In September 2009, Lomu took part in an amateur bodybuilding contest in Wellington. He revealed that he had lost weight since preparing in March and weighed 115 kg (18.1 st; 254 lb), due to intensive gym work and a diet without carbohydrates. He claimed his weight had not been this low since he left school at 19. He finished second in two categories, including the men’s open over-90 kg, and the mixed pairs. His bodybuilding partner, Tracy Toulis, suffered from breast cancer but had recovered as Lomu had from his kidney transplant. He also prepared for his comeback to rugby, joining French Fédérale 1 team Marseille Vitrolles in November. Lomu made his debut against Montmelian, they won 64–13 at home. Lomu started the match at centre and was nervous but enjoyed the occasion very much. Lomu then moved to number 8 successfully with Marseille Vitrolles Rugby, the position he played as a youngster in New Zealand.
Lomu also made an attempt to take part in a charity boxing event in New Zealand called “Fight for Life” 2011, which he was intended to be the captain of the rugby union team. He was intended to fight the main event against former league player Monty Betham. On 14 November Lomu pulled out of the competition as he had just recently been hospitalised for over a week due to his failing kidney.
On the morning of 18 November 2015, Lomu died unexpectedly in Auckland. The previous night he had returned from the United Kingdom with his family after a short holiday stay in Dubai. Lomu had been receiving dialysis treatments during his recent visit to Britain where he was involved in heavy promotional work during the 2015 Rugby World Cup