New Zealand rugby legend Jonah Lomu was paid an emotional tribute by family and friends yesterday at his old school Wesley College.
On the day after the first anniversary of his death, Lomu's mother Hepi, brother John and sister Sela joined about 100 old boys and students at the South Auckland school to remember a sporting great who passed away aged just 40 after years of battling kidney disease.
Hepi Lomu was in tears as she remembered her famous son during a church service at the school.
"Thank you to all the teachers where who brought him up," she said. "He learned a lot from here and he always remembered you guys.
"I'm proud. He was a loving boy."
At the end of the service, the Lomu family presented the school with one of Jonah's giant All Black shirts.
"We don't have much to give you but the family would like the school to have something of his because we will never forget everything you have done for us," Hepi said.
After the service, a flag raising ceremony was held on school grounds, featuring a flagpole donated by Lomu's former school rugby team mates.
Wesley College principal Steve Hargreaves was moved to tears as he accepted the Lomu All Black shirt.
"We have a lot of famous jerseys hanging up at this school but we will have to clear a special place for this one," he said.
The tribute day was rounded off with a match between the Wesley College Old Boys and Tipene Old Boys.
Lomu's wife Nadene and their young sons Brayley and Dhyreille were due to attend the tribute day but could not because they were too upset.
On Thursday, the day ahead of the anniversary of her husband's death Nadene Lomu paid tribute in a statement issued by the New Zealand Rugby Players' Association.
"Firstly, I want to express my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all of those people who have supported our boys and myself since Jonah's death a year ago," she said. "There have been many of you who have helped us through the toughest year of our lives.
"While every day is a challenge without Jonah, this first anniversary is particularly poignant for us all."
Meanwhile, PNG is hosting a rugby 7s tournament in honour of Jonah Lomu from December 9-11.
Nadene Lomu and her two boys have been invited as special guests and VIPs for the opening of the tournament.
Next year, the tournament will be held around 18 Nov, and every year thereafter, to commemorate Jonah's passing. The tournament is organised by the NZ High Commission based in Port Moresby and the Capital (Port Moresby) Rugby Union.