South Auckland service for Jonah

Pacific communities are gathering in south Auckland to pay tribute to one of their most respected sporting heroes, All Black Jonah Lomu.

The Aho Faka Famili, or day of the family, event from midday on Saturday at the Vodafone Events Centre in Manukau is an opportunity for communities from the Pacific to honour Lomu using their traditions, organisers say.

Lomu, 40, died suddenly on November 18, prompting a huge outpouring of messages from around the world.

Lomu was born in Pukekohe and spent some of his early childhood in Tonga with family before returning to south Auckland where he attended Wesley College.

The Tongan community honoured Lomu at the Lotofalei’a Tongan Methodist Church, a Mangere church he attended as a child, last Sunday.

Tens of thousands of people are expected at a public memorial service to be held at Eden Park in Auckland on Monday.

Jonah’s brother John Lomu says their family is grateful to Auckland Council and to the communities of south Auckland for supporting the family’s desire to adhere to Pacific traditions at Saturday’s event.

Auckland mayor Len Brown says it’ll be a way for Pasifika communities to respect their traditions, through oratory, music and gifts.

Many celebrities with connections to south Auckland are expected.

Groups will be welcomed inside and will greet the family, offering gifts and condolences.

There will be performances by high-profile Pasifika groups and singers.

World Rugby chairman Bernard Lapasset will travel to New Zealand to attend Monday’s memorial, along with representatives from other international rugby unions, present and former All Blacks, and well-known faces from across New Zealand’s sporting community.

Broadcaster John Campbell will be master of ceremonies on Monday and artists Lizzie Marvelly, Aseaze and Ardijah will play.

Following the conclusion of Monday’s ceremony, Lomu’s casket will be taken from Eden Park to his home in Epsom.

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