In junior rugby, there’s always that one child who’s bigger than everyone else, the one the others know to pass to if they want to inflict some quick damage.
That tactical advantage usually dissipates come senior rugby but former All Black and new Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson, said playing alongside Jonah Lomu was like being back playing with that kid again.
“It’s a real luxury,” he said.
“You could know you could give him the ball and he could create something through sheer talent or physical size.
“It was like playing under eights when you know you’ve got the big kid on your side and you can throw him the ball and he’ll do something.
“It was really nice to be able to do that as an All Black.”
Gibson paid tribute to his former teammate on Wednesday after news of his sudden passing, recalling a 1999 World Cup match against Tonga where Lomu piled on two trademark tries that proved the difference.
That was a tournament in which Lomu crossed in all but one match, contributing to his tally as the World Cup’s most prolific try-scorer.
“(I remember him) scoring those bullocking tries he became famous for and certainly put our game on the map,” he said.
“Remember particularly a World Cup game in England 1999 where he scored two fantastic tries.
“That really was the difference between the two teams.”
Many players shared their memories of Lomu on Wednesday, many of whom he inspired and influenced through his rugby career.
His ability to beat defenders, either with a deft fend-off from his palm or a steamrolling run right over them, was iconic throughout the sport.
Gibson said Lomu’s influence could be seen in many of the current players on the world stage.
“100 per cent,” he said.
“You hear a lot of those guys talk about Jonah and they talk about Jonah in reverent terms.
“What he did for the game. He was probably one of the first true global ambassadors and superstars.”
Off the field, Gibson said Lomu was just as remarkable in his promotion of the game and compassion to those around him.
“He was a real ambassador to our game, a fantastic person and a real role model to all rugby players,” he said.
‘He gave us so much more than just his on field ability.
“What he did for the game as an advocate and ambassador was truly (incredible).”