Brandon Going just wrote a good article on Jonah Lomu and reading it got my thoughts going, pardon the pun.
I grew up in the 1980s in Auckland and Jonah was not what you knew a winger was.
Wings were always the skinny guys who could not play so they got stuck out there to do no harm, except for guys like Terry Wright, who looked about 12, but boy could he play.
Jonah was big and fast for the time, plus he scored tries that made a huge difference in how wings were viewed. This enhanced his impact on the game.
I think back to when I played, it was hard to come up with a back over 80 kilograms. World Cup All Black Warwick Taylor, one of my favourites, was only 79 kilos when he won the tournament at inside centre in 1987.
Most of the guys playing in that era were not the big muscled dudes you see playing today. A lot of backs nowadays are pushing 100 kilograms.
I had the misfortune to play against Buck Shelford, who was in a particularly bad mood that day. I was No.12 and he was No.8.
I was around 80 kilograms and he must have been close to 100. He was a PT instructor in the navy at the time, so he had lots of time to get big, strong and fast.
He would break off the back of the scrum and look around for people to hurt. He would look at the No.10, who was very well groomed but about 60 kilos, ignore him as there was no fun in that, then charge at me and use me as a speed bump no matter what my efforts were like.
After about five of these I was getting pretty pissed, so I tried a tactic of grabbing him high and attempting to pull him down in a sling tackle. All I got was a free ten-metre trip down the paddock until a couple of other dudes jumped on him.
In the aftermath function, I had a beer with him and he said: “You did well, but a good big guy will always beat a good little guy.”
That stuck with me
I think Jonah was remarkable, but he was the good big guy at the time.
I don’t think we will see another Jonah. Everyone today is massive. I saw the Sharks play and they need a cargo plane like a C-17 to carry that lot around.
The game has changed. It is fast with flat back lines – we used to stand so deep we were nearly perpendicular – plus awesome forward plays and strength.
Lets celebrate what it was, watch him smash Mike Catt on YouTube and enjoy.