Jonah Lomu

40 Years of the Hong Kong Sevens

Pacific islanders say farewell to ‘greatest of us all’ Jonah Lomu in special memorial service

Former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga among hundreds to honour life of rugby’s first global superstar

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 November, 2015, 12:57am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 November, 2015, 5:33pm

New Zealand's Pacific islands community gathered at a memorial service on Saturday for former All Blacks winger Jonah Lomu, two days before all Kiwis unite publicly to grieve the loss of one of rugby's greatest players.

Lomu's wife Nadene, his sons Brayley, 6, and Dhyreille, 5 - who wore miniature versions of their father's number 11 All Blacks jersey - governor general Jerry Mateparae and former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga were among hundreds who attended the service at a South Auckland sports arena.

Representatives of Lomu's Tongan community were joined by others from Samoa, Fiji, the Cook Islands, Niue, Tuvalu and Tokelau to remember a man they say put Pacific Islanders on the global map.

Lomu, who died in Auckland last week at the age of 40, was considered rugby's first global superstar.

Many of those who attended the service wore a traditional woven skirt, which is a symbol of respect and mourning, and joined in prayers and hymns.

Lomu's former All Blacks team-mate Eroni Clark, who led the ceremony, said Lomu "was the greatest of us. Of all of our generations ... Jonah was the greatest."

Former All Black Michael Jones said Lomu was "a giant of a man, giant of the rugby world and a giant of a husband and father."

Mataparae, the representative in New Zealand of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, said: "A great Totara [tree] has been cut down and we will not see the likes of him again."

Lomu's official public memorial service will take place at Auckland's Eden Park rugby stadium on Monday.