SYDNEY – Japan international rugby player Amanaki Lelei Mafi was released on bail Monday after appearing in court in Dunedin, New Zealand, charged with assaulting one of his Melbourne Rebels teammates, according to local media.
The 28-year-old Mafi was allegedly involved in an altercation with fellow Tongan-born player Lopeti Timani after the Rebels suffered a 43-37 defeat by the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday.
Timani, who has 12 caps for Australia, was not hospitalized but is reported to have received “moderate injuries.”
Mafi was reportedly charged with injuring with intent, which carries a maximum jail term of five years.
The loss, coupled with a 20-10 Sharks’ win over the Jaguares, cost the Rebels a spot in the Super Rugby playoffs.
Mafi was taken into custody by Dunedin Police on Sunday morning but released on bail under the condition that he does not associate with Timani. The Japan player will be able to return to Melbourne on Tuesday, and the matter has reportedly been adjourned until Aug. 3.
Rugby Australia and the Rebels issued a joint statement acknowledging the incident and said they will wait for the results of the investigation before commenting further.
“I am bitterly disappointed that an incident has occurred at the end of a season where we have taken pride in our on and off-field behavior,” Rebels CEO Baden Stephenson said. “We will respect the process and won’t be making further comments until all investigations have taken place.”
Mafi began his career with NTT Communications Shining Arcs in the Top League in 2014 and has won 21 caps for the Brave Blossoms since his international debut the same year.
The No. 8 joined the Rebels on loan last season and was voted 2017 Australian Super Rugby player of the year. He has made 30 appearances for the Southern Hemisphere club.