Vodafone Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei says he will pay tribute to his childhood hero Jonah Lomu throughout the 2016 Telstra Premiership season.

Like many kids growing up in South Auckland in the early 1990s, Vatuvei idolised Lomu, often sporting hairstyles inspired by the All Black legend.

While the haircuts changed over time the level of admiration didn't, and following Lomu's sudden death last week Vatuvei spoke about his plans to remember him next season.

"I will definitely be paying tribute to him after my tries in 2016, and I have also asked Jonah's cousin if I can shave the number 11 into my eyebrows like Jonah used to," Vatuvei said.

"If his family are OK with it then I will be doing that for the whole year as a tribute to Jonah. That's something little I can give back to him and his family.

"It will be a mark of appreciation for him, to show what he meant to me and to the whole of New Zealand."

After Vatuvei played his 200th NRL game this year, the Vodafone Warriors approached Lomu – a known lover of rugby league who came close to shifting codes on a number of occasions – to be a surprise guest to make a presentation to 'The Beast' on field after the match.

That special moment on the Mount Smart Stadium turf will now serve as Vatuvei's enduring memory of his hero.

"I am so blessed that Jonah made it to one of my games and presented me with my 200-game jersey," Vatuvei said.

"It just made my day – I almost broke down in tears to be honest – it was a dream come true to see him. 

"When you are a kid you really look up to your idols and as you get older you tend to go away from that, but I really still look up to him in terms of how humble he remained right through.

"He was someone everyone feared on the field, but off the field he was just a lovely person. That is the kind of person I always wanted to be."

Last week Vatuvei joined a number of current and former Vodafone Warriors in paying tribute to Lomu on social media.

  • This story was first published on nrl.com
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