Jonah Lomu started playing rugby professionally at the age of 14, and played a game with New Zealand sevens star Eric Rush. Rush was so impressed with him that he invited him to a sevens tournament in Singapore.
He was introduced to rugby union through a tournament in Te Kuiti. Initially, he started his rugby union career in the forwards as an openside flanker. Sometimes he also played on the blindside.
In 1993, at the age of 18, he represented New Zealand in the national under-19 side and under-21 side.
At the age of 19, he became the youngest All Black test player as he played against France in 1994, breaking a record set by Edgar Wrigley in 1905. He was included in the squad for the 1995 World Cup in South Africa, where he scored seven tries in five matches.
New Zealand played against Australia for Bledisloe Cup, where Lomu scored tries in two matches. He also scored two tries in the New Zealand national team All Blacks’ victory over Italy in Bologna. The team lost against France in Toulouse, where he failed to score any tries. But he scored a try in the second test in Paris, which helped his team to win.
South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia created the Tri-Nations, an annual competition between the three nations, in which New Zealand won all the games to become the first Tri-Nations winners. Lomu scored a try in a 43–6 victory over Australia.
In 1996, he took off some time from the sport after being diagnosed with a serious kidney disorder. However, at the end of 1997, he played at the All Blacks tour of the northern hemisphere, and in the two warm up matches, he scored tries against Wales 'A' and Emerging England.
When the English rugby team played against New Zealand in 1998, he scored in the first, which was a 64–22 win in Dunedin, but not in the second test.
In 1999, in a game against Samoa, he scored one of the All Blacks' nine tries. He scored eight tries at the 1999 World Cup. In pool matches as well, he scored two tries against Tonga, one against England and two against Italy.
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In 2000, he helped the team achieve big victories over Tonga and Scotland. The opening match of the 2000 Tri Nations Series witnessed a record crowd of 109,874, and was considered as the ‘match of the century'. In the match, Lomu scored the winning try.
In 2001, he played his 50th test for the All Blacks at the Carisbrook 'House of Pain', and scored a try in the second minute of the play. This was followed by a win over South Africa. He also played his debut match against Northern United, and scored twice. There he attracted a bumper crowd.
In 2002, Jonah Lomu scored a try against Italy. He played in a match against the Irish, which New Zealand won 40–8. He also played the Tri Nations Series against South Africa. Against England in November, he scored two tries, but New Zealand lost the game. Due to his illness, he could not play any international matches for several months after this.
He returned to play rugby in 2005. In April 2005, he signed a two-year contract to play for New Zealand first division provincial team North Harbour in NPC. He missed the first season as he injured his shoulder.
North Harbour gave him permission to play at the Cardiff Blues. He scored his first try for Cardiff in December 2005, with a man-of-the-match performance during a 41–23 win against the Newport Gwent Dragons.
He broke his ankle, and on healing, he returned to North Harbour for the 2006 NPC season. He played against Marist in the North Harbour club competition. He played against Wellington, with his team winning 31-16. Due to his failing kidney, he retired from professional rugby in 2007, but played some charity matches.
Awards & Achievements
In 1995, Jonah Lomu was named Player of the Tournament in the Rugby World Cup and was the first All Black since 1905 to score four tries against England in a test match.
At the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, he won a gold medal representing New Zealand in the Sevens Rugby event.
In 2002, the UK public voted Lomu's performance in the 1995 World Cup no. 19 on the list of the 100 Greatest Sporting Moments.
He was the youngest player to score ten test match tries and the first to score 12 test match tries in a year.
In 1996, Jonah Lomu married South African Tanya Rutter. They stayed together for four years in New Zealand before they divorced. He married Fiona in August 2003, but they got divorced in 2008 due to his affair with Nadene Quirk.
He married Nadene in 2011 and they had two children—Brayley and Dhyreille. At the time of his death, he was living with Nadene.
He was a member of the Champions for Peace club, a group of 54 famous elite athletes committed to maintaining peace in the world through sport. In 1996, McDonald's New Zealand named a burger ‘Jonah Burger’ after Lomu.
In 1995, he was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome, a serious kidney ailment. While he was getting treated, he put his rugby union career on hold. In 2003, he was put on dialysis, and due to its side effects, the nerves of his feet and legs were severely damaged.
In 2004, he underwent a kidney transplant in Auckland, New Zealand. His long-time friend Grant Kereama, who was a Wellington radio presenter, donated his kidney. On November 18, 2015, Lomu died in Auckland due to a heart attack linked to his kidney disease.
Despite making millions during his rugby career, he had faced acute financial crisis due to his previous divorces, treatment for kidney disease, and unsuccessful business ventures. At the time of his death, he owed money on property investments and loans taken to buy personal vehicles. He had sold off his properties, including his Maupuia mansion, but still lacked funds during his last days.
New Zealand’s rugby players started a trust fund to support his two sons after his death as it emerged that he was almost penniless when he died.