Jonah Lomu’s last send-off was held at Auckland’s Eden Park today, where thousands gathered to farewell the number 11 All Black legend who died on November 18, aged 40.
Current All Black Jerome Kaino and former rugby stars Michael Jones, Frank Bunce and Joeli Vidiri, as well as New Zealand Warriors player Manu Vatuvei were among the pall bearers. Jonah’s widow Nadene and their two sons followed closely behind the coffin.
The public memorial was fittingly hosted by John Campbell who welcomed the crowd before a video message recorded by Prime Minister John Key was shown.
“He wanted to make a real difference to people's live and he certainly did that. He proved that you can come from anywhere in New Zealand, and any background, and make it to the top,” John Key said.
"My thoughts are with Nadene, his young boys and family. Go well Jonah, rest in peace."
Other tributes came from World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset who flew from France, pupils of Lomu’s former school, Favona Primary in South Auckland, Elton John, and former All Blacks coach John Hart who spoke on behalf of Jonah’s wife and children.
Hart made mention of the rugby legend's kidney illness Nephrotic syndrome, which Lomu first became aware of in 1995. He said the star number 11 played at only 80 percent capacity during his career because of the debilitating condition which eventually forced his retirement.
“It's frightening to think what he could have done on the field had he not played with such a huge medical handbrake,” Hart said. “He overcame tremendous hurdles throughout his life but never, ever complained. He was a fighter until the very end.”
A private family burial service will be held in Auckland on Tuesday.