Thursday, 10 January 2013

"Rugby legends" - Jonah Lomu

As promised, this post initiates a series of posts devoted to rugby legendary players. I have decided to begin with my very first rugby idol – Jonah Lomu. He appeared on the international stage in an unparalleled style when I was a teenager. In his early twenties he could easily beat experienced world-class players. His strength pace and dynamics as well as self-confidence were incredible. I can remember that when I played rugby with my brother in my teens, one of us pretended to be Lomu and tried to outplay the opponent just like the amazing player from New Zealand would. I can also remember the ‘ à la Lomu’ hairstyle which was very popular among my team mates years ago. This player has changed the way I think about rugby. He was the first sport hero who impressed me so much. In my eyes he was always outclassing the rivals and almost all his ball carries created dangerous situation on the pitch. 

Lomu became a role-player for me. He was a top quality player and every young rugby player dreamt about reaching his level. I am sure that a lot of people connected with rugby were impressed by Lomu just like I was. I hope that reading this post will evoke some nice memories of Lomu.  I’d like to encourage players and fans, who may be too young to remember the rugby giant, to read a biography of Lomu. Below is a short story of his career and video-highlights which shows exactly how Lomu used to play havoc in the opponents’ defense lines.

Jonah Tali Lomu was born on the 12 May 1975 in Auckland (New Zealand). This impressive size All Blacks winger is regarded the first professional rugby superstar. Lomu grew up in poor suburbs of Auckland and played rugby league until the age of 14. Thanks to his amazing talent and hard work he became multimillionaire later on. He was first rugby player and first New Zealand sportsman who earned 1 million dollars.
 
Big money was only the outcome of his successful career but the respect and prestige came from his rugby skills, commitment, and fantastic physical conditions. 196cm (6ft 5 in) high and 119-125kg (273-276lb) weight, Lomu could run 100 meters in 10.8 seconds! He was also very strong, agile and dynamic so he played havoc at the opponents’ defence like no one else.

Lomu became famous in 1994 after his performance in Hong Kong Sevens. Shortly, (on the 26 of June 1994) he had his debut against France in the New Zealand’s National Team. He was only 19 years and 45 days old and became the youngest All Blacks’ player who took part in the official test math.

In the 1995, despite having just two All Blacks caps he was included in the squad for the World Cup where he impressed everyone with his extraordinary talent. He scored seven tries in five games, including four against England in the semi-final. The most famous one was definitely a try scored after running straight over the top of England’s fullback Mike Catt. It is one of my favourite 1995 RWC highlights which I can watch over and over again!

During the 1999 Rugby World Cup Lomu scored eight tries and with 15 in total he became the RWC all-time top tries record holder. All in all, he had 37 tries and 185 points in the 63 New Zealand’s tests. Unfortunately, the career of this exceptional player ended prematurely because of serious health problems, which came to light in the last months of 1995. He was suffering from kidney disorder, which was later diagnosed as a nephrotic syndrome. He had been put to dialysis and undergone kidney transplant in 2004. Despite several come-back attempts he couldn’t reach his heights again.

Jonah Lomu received a Special Merit Award at the International Rugby Players Association's awards for his contribution to the international rugby game. It was a great honour - only two players have received it before him. The rise of Lomu on the international stage coincided with transformation of rugby into professionalism era. His fantastic performance in the two Rugby World Cups was a cherry on the pie of these tournaments. Lomu marked the beginning of producing big, strong, and quick wingers. He became one of the most famous and recognizable rugby players in the world. He was and still is a role model and an idol for many rugby generations. He is one of my sport heroes. I love to watch footage of him scoring tries and knocking down defenders. It is extra encouraging especially before my own rugby games and work great as a pre-match motivation.

Below you will find Jonah Lomu’s career highlights showing the brilliance of one of the best rugby players on the world.