"Jonah was like one of the family"

By Numia Ponika-Rangi

Rereata and Ngaire Makiha's relationship with Jonah goes back many years to when he was still just a young schoolboy.

When he was at school he played alongside Rereata's sons for the Weymouth Rugby Club way before he became an All Black.

Mr Makiha says, “Jonah was at Wesley College with my children and that's where I first saw him play. He became good friends with our children and he would often visit over the years. So I got to know him well.”

Mr Makiha recalls the time when a well-known rugby player came to their humble club and plucked Jonah away.  He says, “When the boys played for Weymouth, that's when Eric Rush spotted him. Eventually, Rush ended up taking him overseas to help him develop him and the rest, as they say, is history.”

Mr Makiha credits one of his sons for Jonah's over the top bulldozing style of play which he become famous for worldwide.

“After he made the All Black squad, he would come to our home and practise stepping the trees and shrubs with my son Denny. My son would say to Jonah, stop trying to step and just bulldoze over the top,” explained Makiha.

Jonah played two world cup tournaments, the second in 1999, while still afflicted with the kidney disease known as Nephrotic Syndrome.