Jonah Lomu, Greatest All Black of all-time. Greatest All Blacks XV
On the date of his youngest son Dhyreille's birthday, Jonah has been named as the greatest All Black of all-time, along side Sir Bryan Williams and team mate, Christian Cullen by a panel of rugby experts and the Kiwi public.
The panel were unanimous in their verdict that Lomu, the game’s first and only global superstar, and Cullen, the 60-test veteran who played for the All Blacks between 1996 and 2002, were New Zealand’s greatest left wing and fullback.
Their verdict was supported by the Kiwi public, who voted Lomu (84 percent of the public vote) and Cullen (79 percent) as the best-ever All Blacks in their respective positions on social media.
In doing so, they cemented their places in the Greatest XV ahead of the likes ofJoe Rokocoko,Julian Savea, Ron Jarden, Mils Muliaina, George Nepia and Bob Scott.
At right wing, however, there was a three-way tie after the panel of experts couldn’t decide between Williams and Jeff Wilson, while the public backed the exploits of all-time leading All Blacks try-scorer Doug Howlett, who garnered 41 percent of the vote.
Former World Cup-winning All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry was called on as the “convener of selectors” to pick between the three players for the No 14 jersey, which resulted in Williams’ selection.
Regarded as a trailblazer of his time, Williams was spoken highly of by Laban for the impact he had off the field as a young Pacific Island player who touredSouth Africain the midst of Apartheid during the 1970s as an “honorary white”.
“1970, a young, Auckland, Pacific Island player, and a law student who was doing his studies out of Auckland University, called Bryan George Williams, was forced to tour South Africa, along with three other players, who was declared an honorary white,” Laban toldThe Breakdownlast week.
“In some ways, it’s a disgrace, but that image of BG in South Africa, at that time it was segregated, so those honorary whites weren’t allowed access to public transport, they weren’t allowed access to public health services – all of those things that come along with Apartheid.
“BG became a beacon of hope, a beacon for fairness, for justice, and for equality.”
Laban added: “He was so high-profile, he was so good, there was so much attention on him – unbelievable sidestep in the in-goal area to get that try under the posts in South Africa – but, in terms of the impact, changing the course of the history of our game, for me, Bryan Williams, the greatest right wing the game has seen.”
While Williams’ influence off the field was revolutionary, Lomu became an icon in his own right, so much so that many have argued that no rugby player has ever reached the level of fame or celebrity status that the late great achieved.
According to former All Blacks captain and Lomu’s ex-teammate Sean Fitzpatrick, no other player will ever reach Lomu’s star power.
“Jonah Lomu is the only global superstar we’ll ever have in rugby,” Fitzpatrick toldSky Sport.
“I don’t think there ever will be a player like Jonah where you can go to America or go toBraziland they know whoJonah Lomuis.”
Tana Umaga, another ex-All Blacks captain and former teammate of Lomu’s, saw first-hand how revered he was by international fans.
“When you walk downLeicesterSquare withJonah Lomu, buses stop, crowds start to form,” Umaga said.
“It was tough watching him go through that sometimes, and you kind of just get a gauge of how well-known is someone.”
Before he became an All Blacks teammate of Lomu’s, former two-time World Cup-winning captain Richie McCaw came up against him at provincial level in the early 2000s.
While playing forCanterburyagainst Wellington, McCaw soon realised how formidable of a player Lomu truly was.
“You look at guys that couldn’t tackle him, and I was going, ‘Surely you’ll be able to [tackle him] if you just get in low’, and I remember the first day I played against him. I tried tackling him twice, and I got nowhere near him,” McCaw said.
“My respect for everyone that had been shunted off went up a lot, I’ll tell ya.”
McCaw added things became much easier for him once he became teammates with Lomu rather than facing off against him.
“To have a guy like that alongside you, you’re like, ‘Man, this is easy’.”
Ex-All Blacks fullback Laurie Mains was the firstNew Zealandcoach to pick Lomu for the national squad, and he toldSky Sportthat a positional switch from loose forward to wing kickstarted the career of arguably the best player in rugby history.
“Jonah, simply, was the most dangerous rugby player I think that’s played the game. He could run around them, he could run over them, he could run inside them.” Mains, who handed a 19-year-old Lomu his All Blacks debut in 1994, said.
“He played in the Counties sevens team, and I’d already been told about how great this kid was, and he was a No 8.
“We watched him, Earl [Kirton, ex-All Blacks assistant coach] and I, and we talked about it, and then, almost together, we said, ‘How would he go on the wing?’
“As a loose forward, he wasn’t going to be much bigger, and certainly not tougher, than a lot of the top international loose forwards, so his great ability would be nullified to an extent.
“But, if we were good enough to develop him as a wing, then he could be something the world has never seen. Fortunately, that’s the way it turned out.”
John Hart, another All Blacks coach who Lomu played under, said that had the 63-test wing not have battled nephrotic syndrome throughout his career, the world would have seen an even greater version of the player he already was.
“We never saw him in his peak. We never saw that. He was at 60, 70, 80 percent of his ability when he had his illness,” Hart said.
“If he had ever been able to go to 100 percent, so he didn’t have that [illness], what would we have seen? We saw a colossus as he was, but I think he could have achieved even greater things than we saw. That’s how good he was.”
Cullen, meanwhile, was described by Mains as the “most exciting fullback” he had ever seen during his seven-year spell in the All Blacks between 1996 and 2002.
All Blacks Greatest XV
1. Tony Woodcock (118 tests from 2002-2015) 2. Sean Fitzpatrick (92 tests from 1986-1997) 3. Ken Gray (24 tests from 1963-1969) 4. Colin Meads (55 tests from 1957-1971) 5.Brodie Retallick (86 tests from 2012-present) 6. Michael Jones (56 tests from 1986-1998) 7. Richie McCaw (148 tests from 2001-2015) 8. Zinzan Brooke (58 tests from 1987 to 1997) 9. Aaron Smith (101 tests from 2012-present) 10. Dan Carter (112 tests from 2003-2015) 11. Jonah Lomu (63 tests from 1994-2002) 12. Ma’a Nonu (103 tests from 2003-2015) 13. Conrad Smith (94 tests from 2004-2015) 14. Bryan Williams (38 tests from 1970-1978) 15. Christian Cullen (60 tests from 1996-2002)
Nadene Lomu, wife of the Legendary Jonah Lomu, continues to work on the projects she and Jonah were developing together prior to his untimely passing.
"As my promise to Jonah, I am determined to continue working on the dreams Jonah and I had to build on his phenomenal legacy, to help inspire our future generations.”
“Through various Jonah Lomu Scholarships as well as individual and team sponsorships throughout New Zealand and internationally, I have been able to assist in helping others move a few steps closer to achieving their dreams and being able to participate in something they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.
Dealing with my grief and that of our boys, has been more than difficult but through Jonah's JL11 clothing brand, I have been able to continue helping others by giving them a piece of Jonah, in a sense. I know Jonah has and continues to inspire many not only here in New Zealand but around the world too.
When you put on your special piece of Jonah’s JL11 Collection, it's so much more than a t-shirt, a jersey, a cap or even a hoodie, it’s a reminder of believing in yourself and taking the chance to chase your dreams and never giving up, just like Jonah.
Jonah would often tell me that when he was younger, he would say to himself, "When no one else believes in you, you have to believe in you".
Jonah has left a phenomenal imprint globally. In Nadene’s words, “It’s pretty special having people from the teams I’ve sponsored, to Super Rugby players, All Blacks and even athletes in the fight sports, tell me it’s an honour to wear their Jonah gears and how much they love the clothing”.
“Nowhere outside of New Zealand did Jonah leave a bigger impact than in Hong Kong, where he continues to maintain Legendary status. Not only did he play in HK but visited the HK Sevens many times as an ambassador, which always created the ‘Pied Piper’ effect of how many people, particularly children, who wanted autographs and photos with him, for which he was always so accommodating. Jonah was always happy to be in HK bringing Nadene too, which we considered to be a second home for him. We all miss him but his spirit will always live on in HK.” said former HKRU Chairman Trevor Gregory.
Jonah’s special relationship with Counties Rugby is also recognised by the selection of two Counties recipients annually for the Jonah Lomu Scholarship.
Vice Captain Veveni Lasaqa of the NZ Fijian School Boys team of 2020 who were sponsored to play at the World School Rugby 7's tournament said “As vice captain of this year's NZ Fiji babas for me personally I would like to thank you for sponsoring us for this year's NZ Fiji babas team, it was a privilege and the boys were more than grateful for your support. Without it none of this would have happened.”
To celebrate Jonah’s birthday this year, Nadene and the boys are launching a new scholarship at Rotorua Boys’ High School with Chris Grinter, who was Jonah’s mentor when he was at school. Nadene will be involved in selecting the recipients of the scholarship, which will enable sporting opportunities for school students from year 11.
“Working with Jonah Lomu during his high school years has been one of the highlights of my career in education. I am therefore honoured to have been asked by Nadene Lomu to continue my special connection with Jonah through this scholarship.” Chris Grinter said.
Nadene also says, “Jonah loved music. Many people don’t know he particularly enjoyed programming music selections for an online music radio station.
When Raymond Bishop from the MGN-My Greatest Now Band approached me asking if his band could produce a song to honour Jonah’s life, ‘Jonah - Nothing Is Impossible,’ especially inspired by Jonah, I suggested Jonah’s birthday, May 12 would be a good time to launch the song worldwide.
I feel this is a great way to share his inspiration, especially with the challenges we all face daily.
All music lovers will know what I mean that when you listen to the song, you need to turn up the volume to a Jonah volume loud, the louder the better and you can't help but feel moved and uplifted. Everyone will have their own feelings when they listen to the song but for me it brings out many emotions, even ones where I feel I can take on the world......”
“The song and Jonah’s JL 11 clothing collection, are two ways we can contribute to helping others to not only chase their dreams but to believe in themselves and to be the best they can be. Something that has always been close to both Jonah’s and my Hearts, something I will continue to instil in our boys Brayley and Dhyreille” Nadene said.
To download the song, please go to Spotify or iTunes and enjoy.
For all other information regarding scholarships, sponsorships, and merchandise, please contact Nadene Lomu.
Never would I ever thought a single person could shred my heart into a gazillion pieces, pieces that could never be put back together fully! To this very day, 5 years ago that’s exactly what happened....Jonah, you tore my world apart with your departure to the point I struggled to breathe 💔 ....I know you’d give anything to be here with your boys and I right now, as I would too...just one last anything 😢, everything you ever wanted for us and more, all that we were working for together! 😢.....there’s not a moment that I don’t wish you were still here. I feel sick, I’d rather sleep the entire day away and wake up the next morning just to get through but I can’t, I can’t because your boys need me to be their pillar of strength, they need me to smile even though my insides are hurting and crushed beyond repair. 💔🖤💔 In my moments of weakness you are my strength, I hear you, I feel you and I know you are watching over us and you still walk by my side! I will always stand to be your voice for what you wanted and believed in but most of all, I stand with your strength to be the best I can be for your boys like you asked me too, no matter what, no matter who thinks they know better....
I will always love you Jonah, my heart will always be yours and our boys will always be my everything in this life and the next, till FOREVER. Yours truly. 🥀 - Nadene Lomu
It takes a lot to leave rugby motormouth Keith Quinn speechless and just as much to put a smile on the face of Laurie Mains.
Jonah Lomu achieved both with what remains the greatest individual performance the Rugby World Cup has seen.
Lomu's barging run over the top of England fullback in the 1995 World Cup semifinal in Cape Town was so outrageous that classy Kiwi TV commentator Quinn was literally lost for words as the unbelievable unfolded in front of him.
Then I witnessed Lomu achieve something I'd never seen before – he had his All Blacks coach Mains actually smiling.
From the comfort of the media benches at the Newlands ground I watched history unfold in front of me as a baby-faced Lomu shredded England with the signature performance of his outstanding career.
Mains was seated not far away. After Lomu scored the fourth of his remarkable tries on that historic day, I turned to see what Laurie's reaction was.
He was beaming. The normal furrows had gone, his face alight with a huge smile. Mains knew he and his team were heading to the final.
But he also knew he had someone truly special in his ranks. Like everyone at the ground, he was incredulous at the deeds of the hulking man in the black No 11 jersey.
It took a lot to make Laurie Mains smile. He was a hard taskmaster, an earnest coach, firm but fair, totally dedicated to his teams and a quest for success.
Fairly or unfairly, some of us media had dubbed him "Funeral Face" but his face was joyful as his team buried England.
Mains took charge of the All Blacks at a dark time, when they were emerging from their 1991 World Cup semifinal defeat. Slowly but surely he transformed them. While his crowning glory sadly wasn't the 1995 world title, he did oversee the belated emergence of a flowing style of rugby that had Lomu providing the exclamation marks.
Lomu's notorious training struggles certainly didn't endear him to his coach. At that point no one knew of Lomu’s struggles with his illness aside from his doctor. Despite his medical condition, he never gave up!
Lomu persisted, fighting extra hard with his fitness during the buildup camps to convince Mains he was worthy of a chance on the sport's biggest stage.
Lomu's next test was the World Cup opener against Ireland in Johannesburg, where he scored his first two test tries.
He was under way with bigger things to come.
Laurie was laughing – he and Lomsmiles were appearing on more than the All Blacks and their fans.
Lomu was one of those rare sporting icons who had the ability to cheer people from any nationality and any walk of life.
His Cape Town capers were the stuff of dreams for the faithful band of coloured supporters living there, who would rather back Lomu than the Springboks.
Former England winger saw up close Lomu's devastating impact in unforgettable 1995 RWC semi-final
When Jonah Lomu charged at you at full pelt, there often wasn’t much you could do to stop him – as England found out to our cost in that memorable semi-final in the 1995 World Cup.
Lomu was the fiercest of opponents. His speed, once he got going, his sheer size and the length of his stride meant that he was a difficult man to bring down.
A player who in that match swatted my brother Tony off “like a fly”, as one commentator put it, before storming through attempted tackles by Will Carling and Mike Catt was always going to be remembered by those who love rugby for a long time after the final whistle blew.
Yet Lomu, who has died so tragically young at the age of 40, leaving behind a wife and two young sons, was not just a big guy who ran fast. He was both of those things on the pitch, yes, but he was also supremely skillful. It was this combination – his power and his technical mastery – that made him stand out in the sport.
At the time, I didn’t really take it on board: there were 14 other All Blacks on the pitch that day. Amid all the running and tackling, he just seemed to keep reaching the try line – again and again.
Overall it wasn’t even as if England played that badly – Will Carling and I scored two tries apiece in the second half – but the truth is we had been thumped in the first 20 minutes. Lomu matched us both with four tries of his own.
Looking back on that match, particularly watching replays of his tries, and seeing him steamroller over a few players who got in his way, you could argue that he was ahead of his time by five or 10 years.
Here was a great professional athlete playing right at the end of rugby’s amateur era. His opponents simply weren’t ready for that level of athletic ability.
There was also the crucial matter of timing. The 1995 World Cup was such a key moment for rugby. It was the first World Cup to involve the Springboks and the fact that South Africa hosted it, with Nelson Mandela’s full and public support, ensured that the eyes of the world were on the tournament.
It was at this moment that Jonah Lomu ran on to the stage with a performance that for me had the biggest impact of any player on any Rugby World Cup. It was a performance that helped to usher in the professional era. What a tragedy it was that his career would be cut short by his medical problems.
Lomu was unstoppable on that memorable day in South Africa
Importantly, away from the pitch Jonah was among the kindest and most respectful people you could hope to meet. I had the utmost admiration for him, and we shared the mutual respect of former opponents. In 2007 I flew to New Zealand to appear in an episode of This is Your Life that paid tribute to him.
I was proud to be a part of that small tribute to a fine human being – and am proud now, when I look back on it, to have played against one of the All Blacks’ greats. - Rory Underwood (Telegraph UK).
Thank you Rory for the tribute interview you did for our Jonah with the Telegraph.