Fund established to support Lomu's sons

The son of former All Black player Jonah Lomu, Dhyreille Lomu, walks behind the hearse containing his father's casket as it leaves a memorial service at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Hannah Peters/Pool
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WELLINGTON (Reuters) - All Blacks great Jonah Lomu was almost penniless when he died last month at the age of 40, the New Zealand Rugby Players Association (NZRPA) said on Tuesday as it announced the launch of a fund to support his children. New Zealand was plunged into a state of mourning when Lomu died suddenly from cardiac arrest on Nov. 18 after two decades battling a debilitating kidney disease, leaving behind two sons under the age of six. Despite being his sport's first superstar and benefiting financially from the early years of professionalism in rugby, Lomu's estate will leave insufficient funds to support his children, the NZRPA said. "It appears that because of Jonah's well-known generosity, he had taken on obligations, financial and otherwise, to support others at the expense of himself, Nadene and the children," NZRPA chief executive Rob Nichol said. "It is also apparent that his twenty-year illness and long dialysis sessions, multiple times a week affected him far more than people realised, including his ability to work and earn the type of money people probably assumed he was capable of earning. "Despite his debilitating illness he was unwaveringly optimistic and clearly had faith he would be able to continue working to meet these obligations and to provide for his family. "Due to his untimely death, we all know this is sadly not to be, and Jonah is now unable to provide for his boys -- for their development, welfare and education." Among the four founding trustees of The Jonah Lomu Legacy Trust, which will run its fundraising efforts through the website jonahlomulegacy.com, is former All Blacks flanker Michael Jones. "He superseded anything we had seen before, and it is unlikely we will ever see the likes of again. He was an absolute rugby phenomenon," said Jones. "Jonah always said his greatest fear was not being around to see his sons turn twenty-one. "We feel there is no better way to honour his legacy and all he has done for rugby and New Zealand than to provide for what mattered most to Jonah, the future of Brayley and Dhyreille." (Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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