I first watched Jonah Lomu play for New Zealand in the Hong Kong Sevens in 1995 and was amazed by his size and power, not to mention his speed. It looked funny having a player of his size on the wing when he should have been playing in the forwards.
He was an immediate success and the rugby world fell in love with him instantly.
Later that year he played a major role in the All Blacks attempt to win the Rugby World Cup in South Africa but the impact of Nelson Mandela defeated even the biggest names in world rugby. Every one who was in South Africa or who watched the match on TV can still remember the All Blacks semi-final match against England and the occasion when Jonah literally ran over the top of the English fullback Mike Catt.
I was only 50 metres away from the tackle when Jonah decided not to run around Catt but to run over him. It was a moment in my mind that made me happy that I had retired some ten years earlier.
I was only 50 metres away from the tackle when Jonah decided not to run around Catt but to run over him. It was a moment in my mind that made me happy that I had retired some ten years earlier. The game had changed and there was no way in the world that I could have stopped Jonah myself. In fact half the England team would not have stopped his rampaging display on that day.
In 2000, the Wallabies played the All Blacks at the new Sydney Olympic Park, now ANZ Stadium, in front of more than 100,000 fans in what was the greatest Bledisloe Cup ever. About twenty minutes into the match the Kiwis were up by more than 20 points. To their credit the Wallabies fought their way back into the game, only to be beaten by a Jonah Lomu try with seconds remaining on the clock. It was a remarkable Test match and big Jonah thrilled the crowd by his ability and determination.
I only met Jonah on a few occasions so I can't tell you too much about this legend of New Zealand rugby union apart from my admiration for him as a rugby player.
In the late nineties I had the honour of putting on the boots again to play in a Testimonial match for the retiring David Campese, who invited Lomu to play on the wing that night in Sydney. It was a great game played with great spirit and I was in awe on Jonah's ability and his attitude towards our great game of rugby.
Like all former and current internationals around the world we were devastated by the news of his sudden death. Everyone has a Jonah Lomu story, watching him entertain the fans by ripping the opposition to threads whenever he was playing for the All Blacks.
But he played with the utmost respect for the game, his teammates and his opponents. He was never one for glory because being part of the team was more important to him.
Like Campese, he was a freak of nature. But he played with the utmost respect for the game, his teammates and his opponents. He was never one for glory because being part of the team was more important to him.
Rugby and the All Blacks were his life but in recent years his partner and two young sons helped occupy his time and he was a proud father.
He will long be remembered for what he achieved and for what he stood for. Rarely has the passing of a rugby player around the world made such an impact on 'the game they play in heaven'.
There will only be one Jonah Lomu.