24 Nov 2015

'Spiritual home of rugby' set for Lomu's farewell

9:26 am on 24 November 2015

Jonah Lomu will be farewelled by thousands of New Zealanders at Eden Park, the spiritual home of rugby and a special place for the rugby star, former All Blacks coach John Hart says.

Jonah Lomu at Twickenham, London in 2002, before an All Blacks vs England match.

Jonah Lomu at Twickenham, London in 2002, before an All Blacks vs England match. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The service - to be held on Monday - was one of two announced by Prime Minister John Key yesterday.

Both Mr Key and Eden Park officials were expecting tens of thousands of people to attend.

John Hart

Former All Blacks Coach John Hart, outside the late Jonah Lomu's home in November 2015. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Lomu family spokesman and former All Blacks coach John Hart said Eden Park was a special place for rugby and a special place for Lomu.

Lomu's family wanted to invite the public and were hoping for a big crowd, he said.

"We've chosen Eden Park because it's the spiritual home of rugby and somewhere that Jonah loved so much."

A separate event, for the many Pasifika communities who are wanting to pay their respects, will be held on Saturday at the Event Centre in Manukau.

Mr Hart told Morning Report the the Lomu family had had many visitors to their home, but there was a limit to what they could handle - which is why Saturday's event had been planned.

"So that many, many community groups can come and pay their respects to the family in traditional Polynesian manner, and that is another part of the remembrance and the opportunity to pay respects to Jonah."

He said a number of All Blacks past and present had also visited the family home in Epsom.

"On Sunday night there was a group of nearly 40 who travelled to the family home and I think that was a very special occasion and that helped Nadine get through her grief," Mr Hart said.

Eden Park's acting chief executive Vicki Salmon said staff were thrilled to be able to help Lomu's grieving family.

"There are so many special moments in Jonah's life, I think Eden Park plays a great part in all of our hearts.

"It's very appropriate we spend some time to remember those good times, and good wins."

 Mt Eden Park Stadium. View from Mt Eden Summit

Eden Park Stadium. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The order of the memorial was a matter for Lomu's family to decide, she said.

"We're just the facilitators of the venue and all of the logistics behind that, and we're pretty used to that and we can do it.

"We're proud to be able to assist and help out - the programme itself, there's still a lot of detail to still work through which I know a lot of people are working on at the moment."

She was hopeful of good weather and "kind hearts" for the event, and plenty of supporters to farewell someone she called a "treasured person".

The government will be picking up the majority of the costs for the Eden Park memorial and another announced yesterday, to be held two days earlier in South Auckland, which would be more of a traditional Pasifika farewell.

"We're a trust owned on behalf of the people of Auckland so we're not a money making venture as such, so we'll work with the government on those cost," Ms Salmon said.

"We're not trying to make money out of this, just to make sure that the event happens and it's something we can all be proud of."

All staff had volunteered to work extra hours and "do whatever is required beforehand" to ensure a smooth service.

Eden Park rugby and cricket fraternities had also offered whatever help they could give.

"It's not something we do everyday to have a memorial service like this, but we're proud to be a part of it," she said.

Key dates

  • Saturday 28 November - 'Aho Faka Famili' (Day of the Family) event allowing Pasifika to pay their respects in a traditional way, Vodafone Events Centre.
  • Monday 30 November - Public memorial at Eden Park, 1pm to 3pm.
  • Tuesday 1 December - a private funeral for Jonah Lomu

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