RIP Jonah

Role models come in all shapes and sizes- parents, teachers, older siblings, uncles, aunts- and they can all have a considerable influence on our lives. These are the people whom we look up to, wish to emulate, and they can have a huge bearing on the paths we take.

Professional athletes too, have a significant impact on our lives when we are younger, and they don’t come much bigger than Jonah Lomu.

When he stepped onto the field at 19 years of age for his debut as an All Black- an absolute phenom at 6ft 5, 120 kg, and clocking the 100 metres in 11 seconds- I was 4ft nothing and still sleeping with the light on.

My life changed forever.

There’s no doubt about it, he’s a big b*stard.

– Gavin Hastings

Jonah Lomu transformed the game of rugby, and inspired a generation. Nobody will ever come close to the level of individual dominance he reached.

I will never forget the first time I witnessed him in action on live TV, during the 1999 Rugby World Cup. Rugby wasn’t as prominent in Ireland back then as it is now; I’m not sure if anyone in that packed living room that day could have named 5 Irish players.

But everyone knew who Jonah Lomu was.

We were there for one reason only, as we waited with anticipation for the ball to reach the left wing.

Then, it happened.

There was only going to be one outcome from 30 metres out, as he bulldozed through the French defence with ease, to score one of the best individual tries in RWC history. I can still hear the screams from grown men as he bounced off Abdelatif Benazzi; the French captain- a big unit himself- was made to look like a complete chump.

The reaction in the room as the replay showed the destruction in slow motion, was that of admiration and fear.

‘F*ckin’ hell, he’s a beast!’

One thing was for certain, he wasn’t from this planet! I was intrigued, and my curiosity sparked.

If ever the game was flat, you would ship it to Jonah. He just disposed of whatever was in front of him. He made the very best look average.

– Zinzan Brooke

He was one of the main reasons I picked up a ball, and looking back now, I’m thankful I did, because rugby has been a huge part of my life since. Many of the values which are engrained in me, are there as a result of playing the great game.

I was fortunate to have been part of successful teams, and played with and against some top quality players. I’ve played under some hugely talented and knowledgeable coaches. I’ve met great people through rugby, and have made some friends for life.

I will be forever grateful to the sport for all it has given me.

Had Jonah not graced the field with his considerable presence, who knows where the world of rugby would be right now.

I’m sure my life would have been very different. Jaysis, I could have ended up playing soccer! Thank f*ck!

Lomu globalised the sport, and carried the game into the professional era on his mountainous shoulders, leaving the mere amateurs trailing in a heap.

He simply changed the game.

– Ian McGeechan

He was the first true superstar of the game; a legend and an icon who will be forever revered.

RIP Jonah.

The game they play in heaven just got a whole lot tougher.