Mafi pleads guilty to Timani assault, makes $50,000 payment

International
by RUGBY.com.au staff

Former Rebels forward Amanaki Mafi has pleaded guilty to assaulting ex-teammate Lopeti Timani but avoided a conviction after making a $50,000 payment to the former Wallaby forward.

The assault, which occurred after the Rebels' last match in July, 2018 against the Highlanders in New Zealand, was finally resolved in the Dunedin District Court on Tuesday.

Mafi, 29, entered a guilty plea to one count of assaulting Timani with intent to injure after the pair, who grew up together in Tonga, were drinking together following the Rebels' 43-37 loss at Forsyth Barr Stadium. 

The court heard early the next morning Mafi objected to what he believed was inappropriate language being used by Timani in front of his female relatives, and challenged him to a fight.

Judge John Macdonald called it "an extreme overreaction", according to the Otago Daily Times.

Blows were exchanged in the house but after the pair were separated, Timani left the house fearing for his safety.

The Otago Daily Times reported that Mafi found Timani again in Bathgate Park and continued his violent assault, repeatedly punching him in the head. Timani believed he was also kicked, the court heard.

Mafi admitted to punching Timani and reportedly stopped punching Timani when he believed he had "had enough".

Police documents said Timani was "escorted" to a car but he fled the vehicle when it stopped at traffic lights.

Timani detailed in the wake of the incident that he feared for his life after the fight, which came after the pair went to the house of a family member of Mafi's.

The lock is now plying his trade in France with La Rochelle after leaving the Rebels at the end of the 2018 season.

Mafi currently plays rugby in Japan and was part of the Japanese World Cup squad.

The no.8 was excused from attending court on Tuesday and his lawyer argued against having a conviction recorded as it would likely mean his Japanese contract would be "ripped up", something she argued was disproportionate to his crime.

The court heard while an initial mediation meeting had been refused, Mafi had written a letter of apology.

Timani said in a victim impact statement that the ordeal had had a profound impact on him, both financially and emotionally.

He said he believed the assault and the concussive symptoms stemming from it could have shortened his playing career by a year, the Otago Daily Times reported.

Both players were fined $15,000 by the Rebels at the time for breaching team protocol and Mafi's $50,000 payment covers Timani's portion of that and also his medical bills.