Speaking exclusively to Fairfax Media Timani said he was attacked and bundled into a car.
The incident was sparked by a swear word Timani used in front of the Mafis’ sister.
“His brother tried to hold me as ‘Naki’ [Mafi] started punching me in the face,” Timani told Fairfax Media
“I said, ‘Mate, why are you doing this to me, I thought you were my teammate, I know your family, are you punching me because you’re angry because I said something offensive to your family?’
“He was just punching me and he said ‘because I’m telling you now I’m the man, I’m the man’. I thought they were going to kill me. I thought I was going to die.”
Timani alleges that Mafi and his brother dragged him into a car, with Mafi holding him by his jumper while his brother drove around Dunedin.
“I didn’t know where they were trying to take me. Naki was just swearing at me in the Tongan rude way. I decided if the car stopped at a red light I would run and try to get back to the hotel.”
Timani had been invited to dinner at Mafi’s brothers house after the Rebels game with the Higlandlanders. It was decsribed as a ‘relaxed atmosphere’, but the situation changed.
“He started throwing a punch at me … his older brother was standing on the side and at that time I thought he was going to stop us or tell Naki to calm down because I’d said sorry … then his brother decided he would punch me on my face, from the side, and then started bashing me and knocked me [down].
“I was trying to get back on my feet, to get off the ground, and I decided to run, because I felt something was wrong. I got out the door and ran. My face was bleeding and I was crying, so I called my brother, because I didn’t know who to call.”
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Timani believes the light from his phone while on the call to his brother Sione, led to him being spotted.
“I heard someone say, ‘There’s Lopeti’ … They chased me again and caught me and started bashing me and kicking me on the ground,” he said.
“[It was] dumb to be doing that [drinking],” he said. “Naki got offended because I said something offensive in front of his sister, so he started having a go at me, saying I was saying something rude. We had an argument, I was trying to tell him I was sorry and ‘I didn’t mean to make you angry or offend anyone’.
Earlier this week The Daily Telegraph printed photos revealing the extent of Melbourne Rebels player’s injuries.
The horrific photos show Timani with two swollen black eyes, barely able to open them.
?@telegraph_sport? backpage splashing with the horrific injuries suffered by ?@MelbourneRebels? star Lopeti Timani after allegedly being attacked by ?@SuperRugby? teammate Amanaki Mafi last weekend. https://t.co/OWM1KXzUNA pic.twitter.com/mY6PXipBi8
— Tim Morrissey (@timmorrissey) July 17, 2018
Amanaki Mafi faces a potential five-year jail term over the alleged attack and will face court on August 3, at which time he will be overseas with his Japanese top league club NTT Communications Shining Arcs. The Shining Arcs have issued an official apology for the behaviour of their star number eight, despite Mafi representing the Rebels at the time.
Mafi received bail which enabled him to leave New Zealand but he was ordered to refrain from having contact with Timani. He does not have to be present at the court hearing.
The incident soured the end of the Rebels season, hours after they lost to Highlanders in Dunedin. Mafi is an international recruit coming off contract with the Rebels. Having completed a two-year stint with the side, he is unable to re-sign for a third under foreign player restrictions but after this incident, the Rebels would likely have second-guessed keeping him around.
With Timani heading to France also, both players will likely not be with the team next year.