It has been a week to celebrate Jonah Lomu‘s life.
My Jonah story is about a learning experience at the 1995 Rugby World Cup that helped me understand my role and responsibilities as a performance analyst thereafter.
I was a performance analyst for the Welsh at the World Cup. Wales were in the same group as New Zealand and played them in the second pool game at Ellis Park, Johannesburg.
I had been tracking Jonah’s performances for New Zealand since his debut against France in June 1994.
In South Africa, I had compiled a VHS tape of his play and added the two tries he scored against Ireland in the first pool game.
We had four days to prepare for the New Zealand game but this was reduced by our relocation from Bloemfontein to Johannesburg after the opening pool game against Japan .
Once the team to play New Zealand was selected, I had an opportunity to spend some time with Wayne Proctor, the person that would play on the wing against Jonah.
I shared the video I had compiled and we discussed how Wayne might defend with the rest of his team’s help. The plan we had seemed quite rational. Wayne would try to face Jonah and others would tackle low to stop his progress. It required lots of support.
After working through the VHS tape in real time and slow motion, we ended the session with an agreed plan to share with the whole team.
As we were leaving the team room, Wayne had a wonderful final point to make … it looks very straightforward when Jonah is reduced to a two-inch figure on a TV screen. In one day’s time, Wayne would be facing a 20 year old who was 6’5″ and 262 lbs.
Jonah did not score in the game against Wales. Wayne’s defence was heroic. However, this is an example of Jonah creating mayhem in the game and creating a scoring opportunity for Josh Kronfeld.
Preparing to meet Jonah redefined how I worked. He was a magnificent athlete. It started me on a much more considered journey about augmented information and the ways in which we trained to play.
My Jonah moment for that game ended as I walked down the tunnel at Ellis Park after the game. I was fortunate to walk beside him for part of the return to the dressing room.
It was a profound teachable moment for me about the responsibilities performance analysts have to opponents as well as their own team.
This week I have been thinking how fortunate I have been to have crossed paths with Jonah.
Jonah Lomu (Frame grab)