Push aside Carter and Richie for just one moment. Let’s just take a couple of steps back, give a guy some respect.
There has only been one sport in which New Zealand gets to dive into Rabelaisean abandon, and there will probably only ever be one. And there’s a reason for that.
There many professional players before him, but he alone and by his performance alone could persuade Rupert Murdoch to take this otherwise obscure postcolonial mudbath and turn it into a global sport.
There have been many All Blacks who started young, but he was our youngest ever. As for tackling him, well, in the words of All Black Michael Jones, “It’s better to give than to receive.” Ask Will Carling.
He was not even the first Tongan-descended All Black – there have been several, including Carl Hoeft and others. But it was he alone that made Pacific Island Rugby Player into a class of its own.
There are many who will argue whether he was New Zealand’s greatest Rugby Player. But due to the Rugby World Cup, he will always be the only player to have truly broken Rugby into the globally professional era.
In doing so, he became the outstanding role model for Pacific males trying to break out of disadvantage. Public education would never again be New Zealand’s primary escalator for Pacifica to get rich, and famous, and stand astride the world.
His force, skill, and televisual presence made the All Blacks into the global brand that it now is, a brand of true value to the most powerful broadcasters and sports equipment companies in the world. He was our multimillionaire boy made good. He was our Muhammad Ali.
We don’t have to worry about what he could have been. Some are destined to speed across our firmament bright and to burn out just as fast, and to be that bright line of our minds forever. He was one of those.
Remember him. His name was Jonah Lomu.