Rebels star pleads not guilty to assaulting teammate

Amanaki Mafi at Dunedin District Court in July. Photo: ODT file
Amanaki Mafi at Dunedin District Court in July. Photo: ODT file
A plea of not guilty has been entered and trial by jury elected on a charge following an alleged attack on a team mate by a Melbourne Rebels rugby player.

Amanaki Lelei Mafi (28) was arrested following the alleged attack on fellow forward Lopeti Timani in South Dunedin after his side's loss to the Highlanders and subsequent exit from the Super Rugby competition in July.

The Japanese international was charged with injuring with intent to injure and within days, photos emerged of the complainant sporting two black eyes on his return to Australia.

Mafi, currently on bail in Japan, did not appear in the Dunedin District Court this morning when the case was called.

Lopeti Timani is currently playing in La Rochelle, France.

In mid-August counsel Anne Stevens told the court that a possible restorative justice meeting looked set to proceed. Timani's lawyer would provide contact details for his client and an independent facilitator would arrange the conversation between the international sport stars.

Today, Mrs Stevens said contacting Lopeti Timani had proved difficult. But a private restorative justice facilitator had spoken to him last Thursday and to Amanaki Mafi on Monday this week.

As yet a plea had not been entered, Mrs Stevens said, indicating the plea would be not guilty and trial by jury elected.

Judge Kevin Phillips adjourned matters to November 15 for a case review hearing.

He also said non-association between Maki and Lopeti Timani was would be lifted for any restorative justice process.

Mafi's appearance was excused today and is also excused on November 15.

Earlier, the pair were each fined $AU15,000 as a result of the late-night episode, for breaching team protocols and management instructions.

"Notwithstanding that both Amanaki Mafi and Lopeti Timani were finishing at the Rebels this season and heading overseas to continue their playing careers, it is only appropriate, given the seriousness of the incident, to sanction both players with a significant fine," Melbourne Rebels Chief Executive Officer, Baden Stephenson said at the time.