Lopeti Timani  is awaiting a visa to fly to France so he can play for Top 14 club La Rochelle. Picture: Hamish Blair/Getty
Lopeti Timani is awaiting a visa to fly to France so he can play for Top 14 club La Rochelle. Picture: Hamish Blair/Getty

Thought I was going to die: Melbourne Rebel's assault claim

DEPARTING Melbourne Rebels star Lopeti Timani has opened up on the brutal fight that has rocked Australian rugby, claiming he thought he was going to die in a fearsome attack.

Timani alleged he was brutally assaulted by Rebels teammate Amanaki Mafi and his older brother - in an attack that started at the home of Mafi's brother, but resulted in Timani being chased to a nearby park, forced into a car and driven around south Dunedin.

Mafi has been charged by New Zealand police over the incident and faces a maximum five-year jail sentence.

Lopeti Timani was left with a severely bruised face after being assaulted by teammate Amanaki Mafi.
Lopeti Timani was left with a severely bruised face after being assaulted by teammate Amanaki Mafi.

As was revealed by The Daily Telegraph during the week, the fight was sparked by an insult Timani flung the way of a female relative of Mafi.

The teammates had been drinking at the house of Mafi's brother when Timani made an allegedly derogatory remark in the presence of Mafi's sister.

Timani alleged he was being pinned down as Mafi repeatedly punched him in the face.

"I said, 'Mate, why are you doing this to me?" Timani told Fairfax Media on Saturday.

"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?'" 

Amanaki Mafi has been charged over the alleged assault. Picture: Adam Binns/AAP
Amanaki Mafi has been charged over the alleged assault. Picture: Adam Binns/AAP

"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."

After the initial attack, Timani said, he called his older brother - Sione - who is based in France.

Sione Timani stayed on the line and listened to the events unfolding on the other side of the world, until Timani's phone cut out when he was bundled into the car.

Timani said he escaped the pair when they pulled up at red light and he was able to flee the car and run 200m down the road before hiding in nearby bushes.

Timani (right) has opened up on his harrowing ordeal. Picture: AAP
Timani (right) has opened up on his harrowing ordeal. Picture: AAP

Sione Timani reportedly phoned police stations and hospitals around Dunedin, which led to police officers going to the Rebels' team hotel. There they finally caught up with the rattled star, who had managed to catch a cab.

As part of Mafi's bail conditions, he is not allowed to have contact with Timani.

Mafi appeared in Dunedin District Court and did not enter a plea.

He was released on bail and returned to Melbourne, but is expected to head to Japan within days to start a new contract with Top League club NTT Communications Shining Arcs.

The case was adjourned until August 3, at which time Mafi will have to enter a plea, although he won't have to appear in person.

Both players have been fined $15,000 by the Rebels for violating an order not to go out drinking after their loss to the Highlanders.

Timani is also leaving the Rebels, and is awaiting a visa to fly to France so he can play for Top 14 club La Rochelle.

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