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Cool Stuff: Sweet Jonah will be remembered

Jonah Lomu and his New Zealand Rugby Seven's teammates greeted youth teams during opening ceremonies at the 20th Anniversary 1994 Hong Kong 7s. [Photo Copyright Barry Markowitz, 1994]

A year ago I had an hour with Jonah Lomu in Hong Kong, and a few very special private moments.

I reminisced with Jonah how 1994 was the first Hong Kong 7s for both of us. I told Jonah of my arrival to Auckland from Apia, and that I got to shoot precious images of Jonah's primary school, out in force, giving him a magical send off. I joked with Lomu in front of Australian legend, David Campese, how Jonah ran over "Campo" in their first encounter (Campese's glare showed he was not at all enamored with my humorous, though factual, recollection.)

Jonah had a lot of pumps and tubes hooked up to him that day at the Olympic House adjacent to the Hong Kong Stadium. Instead of sharing with you Coolios, those images, I copied out of an old scrapbook a shot of Jonah's debut and his universal love for young people... same as what I saw with Auckland children... he shared his inner sweetness around the world.

Something overcame me in my private moments with Jonah... I may have been out of line in what I said, because I spoke for you. I said to Jonah, "The People of Samoa have great love and respect for you. We pray for your good health and for the future of your family."

Jonah smiled and thanked me with a smile and kindness in his eyes.

I had no right to say what I said on behalf of you Coolios or the people of Samoa. But it was the right place, and little did I know, it was the absolute right time… yes, the last and only time.

Bless you Jonah, your dear wife and kids. Thank you for World Rugby for the brotherhood of this sport that connects us all in special and unique ways... like the tribute to Jonah this Friday at the HK 7s Opening Ceremonies, like the ongoing fundraising for Fiji's Cyclone Winston victims, like the Koko Samoa I will share with Savai’i relative, DJ Forbes.

Our Samoa News coverage of the Hong Kong 7s is always more than sport. Our team will bring you the action, special crowd moments, and the subtle but significant impact of Polynesian culture on the event... so very far from home.

See photos of this weekend’s action on and more photos in the print edition next week.