Rugby: Superstar to appear at awards

By Shane Hurndell

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Jonah Lomu is still a big drawcard.
Jonah Lomu is still a big drawcard.

The man with rugby's most recognised face on the planet, Jonah Lomu, will be the guest speaker at the Ngati Kahungunu Sports Awards function in Hastings next month.

Lomu, 38, played the first of his 73 matches for the All Blacks in 1994 as a 19-year-old. Earlier in 1994 he was the star of the Hong Kong Sevens.

Arguably Lomu's most memorable feat on the international stage was a four-try haul in the 1995 World Cup semifinal when the All Blacks destroyed England 45-29 in Cape Town. After the match England captain Will Carling remarked:

"Jonah is a freak and the sooner he goes away the better."

To a certain extent Carling got his wish as the first of many health problems for Lomu emerged in 1996. After missing most of the 1996 and '97 seasons with these issues and injuries Lomu again showed his class at the 1999 World Cup.

The Wesley College product's international career ended in 2003 when he decided to focus on managing his health issues.

Lomu represented three New Zealand provincial unions, Counties-Manukau, Wellington and North Harbour and three Super Rugby franchises, the Blues, Chiefs and Hurricanes. His overseas clubs included Marseille and Cardiff Blues.

A 2011 International Rugby Board Hall of Fame inductee, Lomu will use his visit to Hawke's Bay to promote My Story, an update to his 2004 biography.

Avid rugby fan and staunch supporter of the Tamatea club, Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana, was thrilled to get the thumbs up from Lomu for the October 18 function to be staged in the Hastings Sports Centre.

"We're delighted Jonah has accepted our invitation. He's the world's first rugby superstar and even though he's been out of rugby for a decade, he's still in hot demand all over the world. We're the first iwi to host Jonah Lomu at our iwi awards and we're excited to give him an awesome Kahungunu experience," Tomoana said.

Guest artists for the night are the "Delicious Dance Crew" a Pacific Island version of Maoridom's J Geeks.

"They will entertain us and have us in fits of laughter," Tomoana added.

In a change from previous awards, category winners have been announced a month out from the function. However the winner of the premier award, the Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated Maori Sportsperson of the Year, won't be announced until the night.

All category winners become automatic nominees for the premier award. Hot favourites for the premier award are the joint winners of the Senior Sportsman award, softball's Thomas Makea jnr and sevens and rugby's Gillies Kaka, two-time Senior Sportswoman award winner, rowing's Fiona Bourke, two-time winner of the premier award, Coach award winner Chubb Tangaroa of softball and Junior Sportsman Award winner, sevens and rugby's Trinity Spooner-Neera, all of whom won world titles during the judging period.Tickets can be purchased from the Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Inc office in Hastings from today. Tables of 10 are $600 and individual tickets are $60.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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