On the 17th of November, MPs paid tribute to the late former All Black Jonah Lomu, lead by Sport & Recreation Minister Jonathan Coleman.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The whole of New Zealand will be in shock and sadness today to learn of the sudden passing of the great Jonah Tali Lomu—the greatest No. 11 ever in an All Blacks side. Anyone who was living in New Zealand in the 1990s and the 2000s would not have failed to notice the massive impact that Jonah Lomu had not only on sports fans but on the wider community in this country. He was a man who came from very humble beginnings in Māngere, South Auckland, and who rose to become the first ever global rugby superstar. He brought a lot of joy to New Zealanders, and no one will ever forget his performance at Cape Town in the semi-final of the Rugby World Cup in 1995, when to the great delight of all New Zealanders he scored four tries against the English, ran right over the top of them, and asserted our primacy at the top of the rugby world, at least for a week.
Jonah Lomu was a man whose achievements went way beyond rugby. He was a major inspiration to a whole generation of young Polynesian men because Jonah proved that you could come from anywhere in New Zealand and make it to the very top. He was a man who was extremely generous with his time. He was a loving father. He gave generously to a wide range of causes, and he remains an inspiration not only to those who follow sport but to anyone who is battling against the ravages of a chronic disease.
There will only ever be one Jonah Lomu. In 100 years from now, when they name the greatest ever All Blacks team, he will still be the best ever No. 11.
We mourn his passing. We know that he leaves behind Nadene, his wife, and two young sons, and our thoughts at this time are with those two little boys and their mother.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South): On behalf of the Labour Opposition, I would like to join with the Minister for Sport and Recreation and extend our condolences to Jonah Lomu’s family—both to the immediate and to the extended family. Those of us who have been watching rugby for some time will remember him bursting on to the scene at the 1994 Hong Kong Sevens, and then following that in 1995 when, although there were four tries, it was the one that sat Mike Catt on his backside that we will remember the most, over a period of time.
Jonah went on to earn a total of 63 All Blacks caps over his career. He played for a number of Super Rugby teams. I think the Minister is correct to say that a combination of international television, Sky Sport, and the predominance of Adidas, frankly, meant that he went from being one of our stars to a world star. That was something that I think was really important, especially given the fact that he was a Wesley College old boy and from South Auckland.
I think it is also appropriate to place on the record our thanks to Grant Kereama for donating his kidney, for extending Jonah’s life and the quality of his life. I do not totally agree with the Minister, as to this being a major surprise. I think that those of us who saw him in the stands in the telly shots during the Rugby World Cup recently saw a frailness that we had not seen for some time, and that was, to a certain extent, foreboding.
The Labour Opposition supports the Minister and extends our condolences to Jonah Lomu’s family.
KEVIN HAGUE (Green): I rise on behalf of the Green Party to join others echoing the comments made by the Minister and by Trevor Mallard expressing our sadness and condolences to Jonah Lomu’s family. Recently we have been celebrating the performance of our All Blacks team at the Rugby World Cup, and of individual players within that team. But it is true that at no point, either now or at any point in the past, has any player so dominated the sport of rugby as Jonah Lomu did and will continue to do in people’s memories. Others have already mentioned that 1995 World Cup campaign, and in particular that try involving the encounter with Mike Catt.
Jonah Lomu’s fame, popularity, and influence have extended far beyond the sport of rugby, and indeed far beyond the countries where rugby is played. He has become an icon for his strength, skill, determination, and, as the Minister says, for his generosity also. He was often the last player to leave the field, still signing autographs for kids until the kids had gone.
I sit on the Health Committee, and we have recently been hearing about the ordeal that is dialysis, and that is an ordeal that Jonah Lomu has had to sustain for many years now.
The Green Party expresses our shock and our sadness and our deepest sympathy to Jonah Lomu’s family and friends.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): As Muhammad Ali was to boxing, so was Jonah Lomu to rugby. He was simply the greatest player we have ever seen, and anyone who was lucky enough to be at the Sydney sportsground the time he first turned up—when he got the ball 70 metres out, sent Damian Smith and three other guys flying, got all the way to the corner, and then gave the ball to Kronfeld—would have then heard the buzz, which no one will ever hear again, so loud of Aussie admiration, which is not easy to get. An Aussie sports field will never forget how good this man was. To use Tina Turner’s famous song, he was simply the best.
It is a very sad day—a tragedy—because for much of his playing time towards the end, he was never fit, he was never really well, and we did not see the best of him.
Our condolences go out to his family; to the very special relationship he had with Tonga, as someone whom they owned; to Wesley College, his school, which he made seriously famous because of his athletic prowess; to the people of Māngere in South Auckland; but above all to all his friends and admirers all over the world.
Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL (Co-Leader—Māori Party): Jonah Lomu te toa o Tonga, Jonah Lomu te tōtara o Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, Jonah Lomu te ngākau ngāwari, Jonah Lomu te pāpā ki ngā tamariki, e moe! I nanahi nei i kōrero tēnei Whare mō te hunga i Wīwī i mate i te parekura nui i tū ki reira. I tēnei rā kua hoki mai ki te wā kāinga. I noho tata te hunga mate o te wā kāinga ki te hunga mate o tāwāhi kia taea ai te kī, koutou o te mate, haere, haere, whakangaro atu rā. Ka tangi ake ki a ia me tana whānau, tana hoa rangatira, otirā, rātou o Tonga e tangi nei i tēnei rā. Nō reira, kāti ake huri noa kia ora tātau katoa.
[Jonah Lomu, warrior of Tonga, tōtara of the Great Ocean of Kiwa, affable one, and father to children, sleep! Yesterday this House accorded tributes to the ones in France who died in the huge calamity that occurred there. Today we have returned to the home front. The death of the one at home is closely associated with those overseas, making it possible to say to you the dead, depart, go forth and fade away. I truly mourn for him, his family, his wife, and at the same time those of Tonga grieving today. So enough, my appreciation to us all throughout.]
I join with other speakers in saying what a sad day it is for Aotearoa, and it was a bit of a shock to see the news coming over.
I will just bring one other perspective to the House today. As an old boy of the greatest rugby school in the country, St Stephen’s School, there are about three or four schools that my generation, my school, loved playing: Wesley College, Te Aute College, Church College, and others. One was Wesley College, and I in my day played Wesley College, and because that was pretty much one of the closest schools to St Stephen’s School, when it was alive, it was always a very, very hard game. I am glad that I was not around in the generation that Jonah Lomu came through, because he brought a totally different perspective to the game that we have. In my day, Wesley College played our third XV; in his day they played our first XV.
I can say this, from all the old boys of St Stephen’s School, who think about the relationship that St Stephen’s had with Wesley College, we think about our Wesley brothers and sisters, and we think about Jonah Lomu’s whanau. We hope that the next couple of days will be easy on them as the whole nation mourns the death of a wonderful man, who gave, as the Minister said, not only to the rugby world but, actually, to the nation by way of his donations and looking after our tamariki. Nō reira, e moe Jonah Lomu te toa o Te Moana-Nui-a-Kiwa.
[And so to you, Jonah, warrior of the Great Ocean of Kiwa, sleep.]
DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT): I will not reflect on the previous speaker’s choice of the greatest rugby school in New Zealand, but I would like, on behalf of the ACT Party, to join with other leaders in expressing condolences at this very sad time to the family of Jonah Lomu, and also to pay tribute to such a tremendous man, such a freakishly great athlete, such an inspiring leader, and such a great ambassador for New Zealand. Thank you.