Jonah Lomu died with little money - independent trust set up for sons Dhyreille and Brayley

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Wayne 'Buck' Shelford leads former All Blacks in Ka Mate as Jonah Lomu is taken from his public memorial

An independent trust has been set up to help provide for rugby superstar Jonah Lomu's two young boys.

Lomu died last month aged 40 after a long battle with kidney problems.

It has emerged that the former All Blacks wing, the biggest name in rugby, died with few financial assets.

Jonah Lomu's sons Brayley and Dhyreille mourn at their father's funeral.
Chris McKeen/Fairfax NZ

Jonah Lomu's sons Brayley and Dhyreille mourn at their father's funeral.

The Jonah Lomu Legacy Trust has been set up by the NZ Rugby Players Association whose chief executive Rob Nichol described it as a response by business people and friends of Lomu to recognise the need to support his children, Dhyreille, 6, and Brayley, 5.

READ MORE:
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* Ex-All Blacks reflect on rugby legend Lomu

Nichol told NewstalkZB that Lomu's income and wealth hadn't matched people's expectations from his storied career in the game and aftermath as he tried to cash in on his fame.

Widow of Jonah Lomu, Nadene Lomu is comforted by her two sons Brayley Lomu and Dhyreille Lomu, her mother Lois Kuiek and ...
HANNAH PETERS/GETTY IMAGES

Widow of Jonah Lomu, Nadene Lomu is comforted by her two sons Brayley Lomu and Dhyreille Lomu, her mother Lois Kuiek and father Mervyn Kuiek during the public memorial.

"There's not going to be any great windfall," he said.

"The estate has to go through a probate period, but we don't see any financial benefit or proceeds going to his family."

Nichol said that wasn't a surprise.

Former All Blacks coach John Hart speaks at the public service for Jonah Lomu.
Peter Meecham/ Fairfax NZ

Former All Blacks coach John Hart speaks at the public service for Jonah Lomu.

"We've kind of known for a little while that things may not have been great."

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Nichol felt Lomu had been a victim of his own generosity where he often helped others at the expense of his own family and situation.

"He's clearly taken on obligations, financial or otherwise, on behalf of others and that has definitely been at the expense of his family.

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Former rugby mates of Jonah Lomu pay tribute after the sudden death of the rugby superstar, aged 40.

"The guy was a proud man and the concept of being a burden on others or coming and asking for help, even though people wanted to help, it just isn't really him. He was more about helping other people.

"There was an obligation on him to be the one who helped others as opposed to being the one reaching out for help."

Nichol felt Lomu's illness, which involved dialysis, had impacted on his earning abilities.

An Arohanui Hospice and Farmers tree of remembrance in Palmerston North had a dedication to Jonah Lomu.
David Unwin/ Fairfax NZ

An Arohanui Hospice and Farmers tree of remembrance in Palmerston North had a dedication to Jonah Lomu.

"People have presumed or assumed that he has been able to earn quite good money over the last 10 to 15 years but his illness and the treatment he has had to go through have severely hindered his ability to do that."

The Jonah Lomu Legacy Trust excludes the boys' mother, Nadene, Lomu's third wife, as a beneficiary or from having control of any of the funds. She will, however, be able to apply to the trust for money to help raise their sons.

Lomu's sudden death had also exposed a financial situation Lomu may have felt he could remedy with time.

All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu takes a selfie at the Rugby World Cup.
SHAUN BOTTERILLl/GETTY IMAGES

All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu takes a selfie at the Rugby World Cup.

Nichol believed Lomu's "optimistic" nature meant that while he realised his situation, "he backed himself to be here to deliver on those obligations".

His unexpected death had prevented that.

"The family are left where they are left and from the boys' perspective, that's what he cared about the most and that's where we want to step up and ensure the future for."

Jonah Lomu's son Dhyreille walks behind the hearse containing his father's casket as it leaves Eden Park.

Jonah Lomu's son Dhyreille walks behind the hearse containing his father's casket as it leaves Eden Park.

Nichol said he didn't know if Lomu had been "ripped off".

"We know people are going to have a lot of questions around what has happened and what's gone on in the past. We just don't know.

"We hope that people will appreciate that we are being honest about what we see."

Nichol believed people should turn their mind to everything Lomu had done for the game and the country, for so many people, charities and organisations.

He said the family hadn't asked for the independent trust to be established and said the Givealittle page that was established then quickly taken down in the wake of Lomu's death "had given an insight" that there might be some issues facing Lomu's wife and children.

Nichol felt it was better to distance the fundraising from the family and that's why the players had stepped up to say "we'll help establish the trust and set it up independently".

He described Lomu as someone who was "fantastic on the field, he was wonderful off the field but he got a raw deal in terms of illness".

"He was a New Zealand icon who was phenomenal on the rugby field and this is a credible and transparent way for people to help his children out in the future because that's what mattered to him most."

Nichol acknowledged that Lomu was played well to play and had some significant commercial arrangements. But these had been eroded by time.

"When you put it all together and the impression that he was a global superstar doing all this stuff, I think that over time, frankly, it probably wasn't as substantial as people just assumed.

"Yet he had this sense of pride and maintained that front that he could help his family and help his community."

While it wasn't unusual for people to die broke and for their families to suffer, Nichol believed Lomu deserved special attention and consideration under the circumstances.

"What we can't ignore is that Jonah Lomu was a phenomenal success for rugby, he took rugby to the world to a certain extent. And we have all benefitted from that.

"I sit here in my job and I think that in some way I have benefitted. All the players playing today have benefitted, whether they are New Zealanders, Australian or South African. We all know that Jonah was the original.

"If people have benefitted then now, understanding the situation they might want to give back a little bit to a guy who wasn't sophisticated or complicated, he didn't try and trick anyone, he just went about doing what he did and handling it the best he could."

As Lomu's financial issues emerge, New Zealand Rugby was still discussing appropriate ways to commemorate the former All Black's contribution to the game.

NZ Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said it was too early to say whether that would include a donation to the players' association's trust fund.

"This is obviously an incredibly sad situation. From a rugby perspective, we acknowledge that we will want to find an appropriate and fitting way to recognise Jonah's contribution to the game, just as we have recognised other rugby greats such as Jock Hobbs, Sir Colin Meads and Sir Brian Lochore," Tew said. 

"That may or may not include helping the Trust but no decision has been made to donate directly at this stage."

Tew was satisfied there were robust measures in place to provide the union's professional players with the best possible advice on how to deal with their finances. 

"We take very seriously the professional development of young players, to the point that financial advice and asset protection is a mandatory part of a player's professional development programme.

"Players also have access to budgeting and other expert financial advice through their team's personal development manager."

 - Stuff

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