Growing up, David Kolibasoga looked up to Jonah Lomu as a hero.
As a Fijian boy, seeing someone he could relate to become a legend in the sport David also wanted to pursue a career in, was inspiring. Knowing Lomu had overcome many challenges in his life was both relatable and encouraging.
“I watched him quite a bit when I was younger, I wanted to be like him,” the Year 11 Raukura student said.
Today, the 16-year-old continues Lomu’s legacy after being named the inaugural recipient of the Jonah Lomu Scholarship, which is a full-fees boarding scholarship that will run for up to three years at Rotorua Boys’ High School, awarded to an outstanding student. Raukura is the only secondary school in New Zealand to provide the scholarship, launched by Lomu’s wife Nadene and his sons Brayley and Dhyreille.
“It’s an honour to be the first.”
Receiving the scholarship has been life-changing for David, allowing him to return “home” after his life was turned upside earlier this year.
David started his secondary education at Raukura in Year 9, but when his mum died he had to relocate to Auckland to live with his uncle in the middle of term two of this year. He was just 15 when his single mum died, losing his biggest supporter.
“Before my mum passed away she was like my number one supporter,” he said.
David said his mum wanted him at Raukura and he was grateful to be able to return to a place that “feels like home”.
“I’d rather be in the hostel here than anywhere else.
“I feel safe and comfortable and confident here [at Raukura] as well.”
Ultimately, David hopes to pass each year with Excellence and receive a rugby contract when he leaves school. He said his mum always knew rugby was his dream and not having her around anymore was motivation to succeed.
Nadene said David was a stand-out applicant for the Jonah Lomu Scholarship, having outstanding achievements academically and in sport and his compassion within the community.
Last year, David was one of two students praised by police for helping a woman in distress, escorting her to safety and alerting police.
“It is evident that David has an immense desire to achieve while striving to be a positive influence and helping those around him,” Nadene said.
“His positive attitude in aspiring to do better; to be better, shone through in his application and despite being faced with some very difficult trials and tribulations throughout his life, David has embraced them all, choosing not to give up but to keep striving to reach his dreams.”
Nadene said Jonah was the youngest in All Black History, the first global superstar who changed the face of rugby and continues to inspire people on and off the field and David now carried Jonah’s name and honour. She was confident he would represent the name well.
“I believe David will represent our Jonah Lomu name with mana and distinction.”
She congratulated David for his selection as the recipient of the Jonah Lomu scholarship and thanked Raukura principal Chris Grinter and the Raukura team for making this possible.
“I know Jonah would be honoured and I'm truly grateful to be part of helping David be another step closer to achieving his dreams and all that he desires.
“This is what Jonah and I were working towards; however I'm saddened he isn't here with us today to see how he continues to inspire us all." - Nadene Lomu