Monday, April 02, 2007

He dared to dream

September 30, 2006


Jonah Lomu's dream of playing for the All Blacks in next years' World Cup are over. The big fella reluctantly concedes he'll be cheering from the grandstand.

Stephen Cook (New Zealand Herald) reports:

As unforgettable rugby memories go, few come close. For 15 mesmerising minutes, the hulking frame of Jonah Lomu crushed the red-rose brigade on the way to becoming a sporting deity, propelling the All Blacks into the 1995 World Cup final.

Twelve years and a kidney transplant later, Lomu desperately wanted to repeat those exploits but go one step further, helping the All Blacks secure their second World Cup victory. Sadly, the 31-year-old concedes that "dream" is now over. [...]

"I will be there in the stands, in black, supporting the team in France. My dream will live on through the guys - I want to watch them bring the World Cup home." [...]

"I'd be lying if I said I'm not disappointed about not getting a Super 14 contract. But I have had a go. I would have been more disappointed if I didn't have a go," Lomu says. "I didn't want to ask myself in 10 years, what if?"

However, there is still a massive 'if' surrounding both the man and the myth. What if Lomu had never succumbed to the kidney disease nephritis? How good could he have become? He was already the game's first global superstar, a player who at his peak dominated the sport like Tiger Woods dominates golf and Roger Federer dominates tennis.

Sport is littered with stories of those who have played on when they should have called time on their careers. Some of those who have watched Lomu in recent weeks will say he should have quit the game while he was at the top rather than jeopardising his health and standing in the sport. [...]

Lomu insists his raison d'ĂȘtre has always been "the love of the game". Not the fame, fortune or adrenalin rush of a sporting career.

"It is tough being on the sidelines but I believe you have to be there to support the team, otherwise you are no good to them. But I'm not bigger than the game, no one is. When you are playing rugby, you have to remember it's a team game. There's no 'I' in team.

"To come from where I was to where I am today is an achievement in itself. People will ask why I didn't take the easy option and retire but it's just not in my nature to do that.

"I have given everything that I could possibly give. The one thing I have learnt from playing this game is that you get knocked down and you just have to get back up."

Lomu says the last thing he wants from the rugby public is sympathy but some empathy would not go amiss.

"If I had my time over again, I wouldn't do anything differently. I wouldn't even change the kidney illness. It has made me a better person. I don't feel I've let anyone down. I've given it my all. It's been a failure in the sense I didn't make the All Blacks but I certainly didn't fail myself.

"I have been able to come back to the game I love. I dared to dream. Who can criticise me for that?"


Paul Lewis also comments:

Some of his critics have taken unkind cuts at him, questioning the wisdom of his comeback and querying his judgment.

They missed the point. Another famous New Zealander, Sir Edmund Hillary, said: "It is not the mountain we conquer, it is ourselves."

Jonah climbed his mountain twice - once as an international rugby player; the other as a man who beat death and disability and again played first-class rugby.

If he didn't scale the second mountain quite as highly as he'd hoped, he still conquered himself. Critics of his comeback - most of whom have scaled nothing higher than a barstool - would do well to remember that.

I'll miss the big guy. My brain always told me there was no way he could return to elite-level rugby, let alone repeat his devastating form of 11 years ago. But my heart always hoped that he'd prove me -- and everybody else -- wrong. He failed. But he's the bigger man for trying. Lomu always said he was put on earth to play rugby. The rest of us will long remember him for more than that. As much as I'll always remember his spectacular steamrolling tries, I'll also never forget his dignity and humility congratulating France after their titanic upset in the 1999 RWC semi-final, while his distraught teammates escaped and hid under the stands. He'll be missed.


At 6:10 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

jonah if you see this i hope to follow in your steps i'm Tian Schoeman in South Africa East London beaconhurst school i'm in grade 10 and i am crazy about rugby i live off of it and my lovely girlfriend i hope you see this by any chance i would like to see my hero in real live and talk to him ok got to go before the teacher catches me!!!


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