Week 111 (14 – 20 November 2015)
The rugby world mourned the sudden passing of one of rugby's finest players and the sports first global superstar this week. Jonah Lomu inspired both awe and admiration on the pitch, steamrolling world-class players for almost a decade despite suffering from a chronic kidney disease since 1995.
Through his actions and words, Lomu became a powerful symbol of achievement through adversity, and he communicated this message both humbly and with purpose. Speaking about his rugby career, Jonah said:
"If I had my time over again, I wouldn't do anything differently, I wouldn't even change the kidney illness. It has made me a better person... I dared to dream. Who can criticise me for that?"
Lomu's frank discussions of his suffering made him genuine and accessible to all, and this is reflected in the outpouring of tributes to him. Former England football captain David Beckham described Lomu as "a sporting hero and one of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet", whilst former All Black Justin Marshall spoke about how "he always had time for people. For anyone. He could chat for hours."
Even after illness forced him to give up playing, Lomu continued to inspire through his extensive charity work, using his hard-earned status as a rugby legend to promote various charities, including UNICEF, Kidney Kids NZ and Fight For Life.
UNICEF NZ Executive Director Vivien Maidaborn said, "Lomu was a hero to so many New Zealanders, young and old. He was a great role model and a doting father so we appreciated having him support UNICEF's work."
Lomu was also integral to securing the inclusion of rugby sevens in the Olympic programme. The President of World Rugby, Bernard Lapasset, recalls how Lomu spoke "very naturally, with faith and conviction" in front of the IOC Session in 2009, holding "an almost religious silence" as he "recalled how sevens rugby had enabled him to escape a difficult life in his youth in Auckland".
Lomu will be remembered as a giant of the rugby game who came from humble beginnings and remained humble throughout his career. His message of triumph over adversity continues on through his legacy and is a wonderful sentiment for sports fans to share.