Tra­di­tional Pa­cific farewell for Lomu draws thou­sands

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

AUCK­LAND: Thou­sands of peo­ple, some wear­ing tra­di­tional Ton­gan wo­ven mats, gath­ered in Auck­land yes­ter­day for a Pa­cific is­land farewell for late rugby leg­end Jonah Lomu. For­mer All Blacks Tana Umaga and Michael Jones led mourn­ers at the ser­vice which Queen El­iz­a­beth II’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive in New Zealand, Gov­er­nor Gen­eral Jerry Mateparae, said was a cel­e­bra­tion be­cause “Jonah’s life is worth cel­e­brat­ing”. “He im­pressed us with his courage, his hu­mil­ity, his grace un­der pres­sure,” Mateparae said of the block­bust­ing wing who is cred­ited with rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing rugby and be­came the game’s first global su­per­star.

Lomu’s ca­reer was cut short by a chronic kid­ney dis­ease and he died un­ex­pect­edly at his Auck­land home last week aged just 40, leav­ing a wife and two young sons. The sud­den death brought an out­pour­ing of grief around the world, not only from rugby union team­mates and ri­vals but also politi­cians, Hol­ly­wood per­son­al­i­ties and sports stars. “His de­ter­mi­na­tion to use his in­flu­ence and his mana (pres­tige) for the ben­e­fit of oth­ers was ex­em­plary,” Mat­a­parae said. Ahead of Mon­day’s pub­lic me­mo­rial at the spir­i­tual home of New Zealand rugby-Auck­land’s Eden Park-the Pa­cific is­land com­mu­ni­ties gath­ered yes­ter­day for a “fam­ily day” to pay a tra­di­tional trib­ute to Lomu who was of Ton­gan de­scent.

His widow Nadene and sons Dhyreille and Bray­ley-who were wear­ing All Black jer­seys with the name Lomu and the num­ber 11 on the back-led the mourn­ers into the ser­vice. Hun­dreds of Pa­cific is­lan­ders, many wear­ing a ta’ovala-a mat wrapped around the waist, which is a tra­di­tional Ton­gan dress worn by men and women on spe­cial oc­ca­sions-turned up for the ser­vice where for­mer All Black cap­tain Umaga said it was im­por­tant to gather in South Auck­land where Lomu was born. “We come to pay our re­spects in the area and with the peo­ple he grew up with,” Umaga said. Jones said the Pa­cific fam­ily day was an “in­ti­mate and beau­ti­ful part of the mourn­ing and the heal­ing”.

Manu Vatu­vei, a star in the ri­val code rugby league, de­scribed Lomu as a spe­cial man. “When he played on the field he was a beast and no one could stop him but when he was off the field he was a gen­tle gi­ant,” he said. An­other for­mer All Black, Ofisa Tonu’u, a spokesman for the gath­er­ing, de­scribed it as a “joy­ous” cel­e­bra­tion where peo­ple could “tell sto­ries and a few eu­lo­gies and just to cel­e­brate Jonah’s ca­reer and the legacy he’s left be­hind”. “We have come to cel­e­brate, to cel­e­brate the life of a brother, and a friend,” added for­mer All Black Eroni Clarke. —AFP

AUCK­LAND: The cas­ket con­tain­ing the body of Jonah Lomu sits at the front of the Aho Faka Famili me­mo­rial for him at Voda­fone Events Cen­tre in Auck­land yes­ter­day. — AFP

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