Rugby: Too big, too fast, too much - New Zealand bids farewell to Lomu

The casket of New Zealand All Blacks rugby legend Jonah Lomu is carried onto New Zealand's home of rugby at Eden Park for a memorial service.
The casket of New Zealand All Blacks rugby legend Jonah Lomu is carried onto New Zealand's home of rugby at Eden Park for a memorial service. PHOTO: AFP
The casket of New Zealand All Blacks rugby legend Jonah Lomu is carried onto Eden Park, for a memorial service.
The casket of New Zealand All Blacks rugby legend Jonah Lomu is carried onto Eden Park, for a memorial service. PHOTO: AFP
The casket of New Zealand All Blacks rugby legend Jonah Lomu is carried onto Eden Park for a memorial service.
The casket of New Zealand All Blacks rugby legend Jonah Lomu is carried onto Eden Park for a memorial service. PHOTO: AFP
Nadene Lomu (second left), widow of New Zealand All Blacks rugby legend Jonah Lomu, walks onto Eden Park with her two sons Brayley (left) and Dhyreille (third left).
Nadene Lomu (second left), widow of New Zealand All Blacks rugby legend Jonah Lomu, walks onto Eden Park with her two sons Brayley (left) and Dhyreille (third left). PHOTO: AFP
Widow of New Zealand All Blacks rugby legend Jonah Lomu, Nadene Lomu (right) releases a dove at Eden Park.
Widow of New Zealand All Blacks rugby legend Jonah Lomu, Nadene Lomu (right) releases a dove at Eden Park. PHOTO: AFP
The son of former All Black player Jonah Lomu, Dhyreille Lomu, walks behind the hearse containing his father's casket as it leaves a memorial service at Eden Park.
The son of former All Black player Jonah Lomu, Dhyreille Lomu, walks behind the hearse containing his father's casket as it leaves a memorial service at Eden Park. PHOTO: REUTERS
Former rugby players including Tana Umaga (front right) perform a haka during a memorial service for the late New Zealand All Blacks rugby legend Jonah Lomu.
Former rugby players including Tana Umaga (front right) perform a haka during a memorial service for the late New Zealand All Blacks rugby legend Jonah Lomu. PHOTO: AFP
Maori men perform a haka as the casket of New Zealand All Blacks rugby legend Jonah Lomu is carried onto Eden Park during a memorial service.
Maori men perform a haka as the casket of New Zealand All Blacks rugby legend Jonah Lomu is carried onto Eden Park during a memorial service. PHOTO: AFP

AUCKLAND (REUTERS) - Six simple words eloquently summed up the impact Jonah Lomu had on rugby union when New Zealand paid its final respects to the former All Blacks winger on Monday.

"Too big, too fast, too much," Lomu's high school coach Chris Grinter told the thousands of people who had flocked to Eden Park for a public memorial service.

Lomu, rugby's first global superstar, died unexpectedly at the age of 40 on Nov 18. He had been suffering from a kidney disease for 20 years and was awaiting a second transplant.

The service at the ground where the hulking winger once thundered down the touch-lines was the last chance for his compatriots to publicly mourn his death and celebrate his life.

He will be buried after a private funeral service later this week.

Lomu's casket was carried to a specially built stage by former team-mates, including All Blacks Michael Jones, Frank Bunce and Jerome Kaino.

Many of the speakers at the service referred not only to Lomu's abilities on the field but also to what he did off it by making time for autograph hunters and bringing hope to sick children through hospital visits.

Several remarked on his impact as a role model for children in South Auckland, which has a high proportion of Pacific Island families who related to Lomu, who was of Tongan heritage.

One such tribute was a song performed by a group of students from Favona Primary School in Mangere, which Lomu attended. "You showed us to follow our dreams, never give up and follow our dreams," they sang.

The service, which was broadcast on both main free-to-air television channels in New Zealand, also included musical interludes from South Auckland artists.

Former All Blacks team-mate Eric Rush brought an element of humour to the proceedings.

Rush repeated tales of an aversion to training and a voracious appetite that brought Lomu into conflict with the strict nutritional edicts of his professional coaches.

"It was a love-hate relationship. I loved training, he loved the Manukau city food court," Rush said. "You didn't tell Jonah to do anything, but if you asked him, he'd run through a brick wall for you."

World Rugby's French chairman Bernard Lapasset said Lomu was "a giant" of the game, while former All Blacks coach John Hart said the world never saw Lomu at his best owing to his illness.

"It is frightening to consider what he could have achieved on the field if he had not played his entire career with a massive medical handbrake," said Hart. "You were a freak on the field and... to the world you will be remembered as the All Black who made No. 11 his own."