Former Super Rugby player pleads not guilty over teammate assault

'Oku taupoti 'i lalo ha fakamatala faka-Tonga

By Hamish McNeilly,

Ex-Super Rugby player Amanaki Lelei Mafi denies assaulting a teammate at a party after they lost a match against the Highlanders in Dunedin.

Mafi, 28, was charged with intent to injure Lopeti Timani on July 15, after their team, the Melbourne Rebels, lost 43-37 to the Highlanders in Dunedin the night before. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years’ jail.

A photo obtained by the Sydney Morning Herald showed 12-time capped Wallaby Timani with facial injuries after the alleged attack.

Timani and Mafi were reportedly drinking at a house in south Dunedin when things turned sour and Mafi allegedly attacked his teammate.

Both players were slapped with A$15,000 (NZ$16,300) fines for their involvement in the late-night bust-up.

The Dunedin District Court last month heard Mafi, now based in Japan, would have to return to court unless he had a successful meeting with his alleged victim.

Mafi was not in court on Tuesday morning, but defence counsel Anne Stevens told Judge Kevin Phillips that Mafi and Timani had tried to have a restorative justice conference.

A facilitator had found it “exceedingly difficult” to contact Timani, who is now playing rugby in France, Stevens said.

Judge Phillips expressed his frustration with the delays in the case, saying “it should be moved along one way or another”.

Stevens entered a not guilty plea on Mafi’s behalf and indicated he would seek a trial by jury, claiming self-defence.

Mafi and Timani would continue to try and meet for a restorative justice conference, which Judge Phillips described as “highly unusual” given Mafi’s not guilty plea.

The judge remanded Mafi on bail until the case is heard in November.

Mafi represented Tonga at the 2009 under-20 World Cup in Japan and, after moving there for rugby, was selected for Japan’s national side by then-coach Eddie Jones in 2014.

The No.8 played in the 2015 World Cup, including during Japan’s memorable 34-32 upset of South Africa.

He was signed by English club Bath but left under a cloud in May 2016 after what the Bath Chronicle reported was an altercation with the club’s head of sports medicine.

Mafi signed with the Rebels in August 2016.

Sometimes when a business is growing, it needs a little help.

Right now Kaniva News provides a free, politically independent, bilingual news service for readers around the world that is absolutely unique. We are the largest New Zealand-based Tongan news service, and our stories reach Tongans  wherever they are round the world. But as we grow, there are increased demands on Kaniva News for translation into Tongan on our social media accounts and for the costs associated with expansion. We believe it is important for Tongans to have their own voice and for Tongans to preserve their language, customs and heritage. That is something to which we are strongly committed. That’s why we are asking you to consider sponsoring our work and helping to preserve a uniquely Tongan point of view for our readers and listeners.

Latest news

Related news