The haka is stirring at the best of times. But today it was devastating.
A public memorial was held for All Blacks player Jonah Lomu today, with thousands attending to pay their respects.
Whether you’re a rugby fan or not, Lomu’s presence was larger than life, and his tragic passing earlier this month has been felt around the world.
The Guardian reports thousands of mourners attended today’s service at Auckland’s Eden Park. Many donning Lomu’s number 11 jersey to pay tribute to the 40-year-old winger.
Proceedings were led by World Rugby chairman Bernard Lapasset, who described Lomu as “a giant of a man (who) leaves a giant space in world rugby. He will forever be a big part of rugby’s story.”
The memorial began with a haka and powhiri (welcome) performed by representatives of Auckland’s Ngati Whatua people.
You can watch the powerful tribute below:
Lomu’s coffin was carried by pallbearers including former All Blacks teammates Michael Jones, Frank Bunce, Joeli Vidiri and Jerome Kaino. It was followed by his wife Nadene, and his sons six-year-old Brayley, and five-year-old Dhyreille.
Former All Blacks coach John Hart spoke on behalf of Lomu’s family about his career and his ongoing health battle. “It’s frightening to think what he could have done had he not played with such a huge medical handbrake,” he said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “He overcame tremendous hurdles throughout his life but never, ever complained. He was a fighter until the very end.”
A private family service will be held tomorrow.