Melbourne Rebels make key re-signing for 2018

Scott Pryde Roar Guru

36 Have your say

    The Melbourne Rebels have continued to bolster their roster for the 2018 season, announcing the re-signing of star back rower Amanaki Mafi.

    The Japanese international, voted players’ player at the Rebels in 2017, will stay with the club for a second year after spending the first part of his career at Bath, before being loaned to the NTT Shining Arcs in the Japanese top league.

    Mafi said it was an easy decision to re-sign with the club.

    “It was an easy decision to re-sign with the Rebels, since I’ve arrived everyone has made me feel welcome and my family and I love it here in Melbourne, it’s a great city and my second home,” Mafi said.

    “I’m looking forward to next year because there is more I want to achieve with the club and we’ve got some great young players so I think the Rebels will have a great season.”

    Mafi was one of only three Rebels players to start in all 15 games during the just completed Super Rugby season, leading the competition for runs with 184 and running more metres than any other forward with 1378. He also had 30 offloads and 48 tackle busts during the season.

    The No.8 made his debut for Japan during 2014 and has gone on to play 16 matches. He has been named man of the match once and also was part of the team who caused the upset of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, overcoming South Africa.

    Melbourne Rebels CEO Baden Stephenson said he was a key member of the Rebels squad and the club were happy to have him back for 2018.

    “We’re thrilled that fan favourite Amanaki has chosen to remain with the Rebels in Melbourne for another year after a standout first Super Rugby season generated plenty of interest,” Stephenson said.

    “Amanaki was the most dominant forward in the Australian Conference and quickly established himself as a highly respected member of the Rebels squad with his consistent hard running and physical presence in the backrow a highlight in every game this season.”

    Mafi is currently playing in the Japan top league with the Shining Arcs and will return to the Rebels in January once the season concludes.

    Scott Pryde
    Scott Pryde

    One of the mainstays of The Roar, Scott Pryde has written over 1,800 articles covering everything from rugby league to basketball, from tennis to cricket. You can follow him on Twitter @sk_pryde.

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    The Crowd Says (36)

    • August 9th 2017 @ 12:40pm
      Hannes said | August 9th 2017 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

      Cheika selected only one #10 in the Wallaby side as there are not enough regular Australian #10s playing Superugby. In the unlikely event that the ARU manage to cut a team, isn’t it critical that players playing for the remaining four franchises are illegible to play for Australia? Mafi is a great player but is playing for Japan. Just another illustration of why culling a team is a step in the wrong direction.

      • Roar Guru

        August 9th 2017 @ 4:42pm
        Train Without A Station said | August 9th 2017 @ 4:42pm | ! Report


        Your team this year had Peter Grant (SA Capped), Marcel Brache (USA Capped), Lewis Carmichael (Scotland U20 capped), Isi Naisarani (not yet eligible) and Semisi Masirewa (not yet eligible).

        Sit down.

        • August 9th 2017 @ 6:53pm
          Hannes said | August 9th 2017 @ 6:53pm | ! Report

          It underscores my point. There are not enough players to choose from today with 5 franchises. If you axe another,as you propose, while franchises field players that does not qualify for Wallaby selection, you will make it even worst – about 20% worse! How do you cover for injuries if players do not regularly play at the top level.

          Again it is clearly a step in the wrong direction!

          Lay down.

          • August 9th 2017 @ 7:40pm
            Paul D said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:40pm | ! Report

            I’m not in support of cutting any team, but you’ve arrived at some pretty strange conclusions.

            The problem with a lack of super rugby quality players is not related to how many super rugby teams, but the quality of the pathways to super rugby. Doesn’t matter if you have 3, 5 or 10 Super Rugby teams.

            We now have the NRC to plug the hole. Should have been there years ago but it is what it is.

            • August 9th 2017 @ 7:51pm
              Sam said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:51pm | ! Report

              I wish the NRC had been in place for the season immediately following the 2003 RWC. I still count that has one of the greatest opportunities lost, either that or the 2006 Commonwealth games. Etihad Stadium was full for both days it would have been a great way to leverage the sport into new markets.

              • August 10th 2017 @ 12:15pm
                Nicolai said | August 10th 2017 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

                TOTALLY AGREE!!!!

            • August 10th 2017 @ 9:20am
              Hannes said | August 10th 2017 @ 9:20am | ! Report

              If the Force was cut last year how would players like Michael Ruru, Hardwick, RHP, Rona, Meakes and Anslie make their case for Wallaby selection. Also how many Wallabies was selected from NRC directly into the Wallabies without playing Superugby. #10 is a good illistration as both the Brumbies and Rebels regular 10s are not available for the Wallabies which leave only two 10s to choose from.
              I support a strong NRC, however the NRC feed the Superteams that in turn feeds the Wallabies. By having 5 teams and strong pathways there are so many more players to pick from.

              • Roar Rookie

                August 10th 2017 @ 9:56am
                Paul D said | August 10th 2017 @ 9:56am | ! Report

                You’ve changed your argument now.

                The problem currently is that there aren’t enough No10’s right now of Super Rugby quality in Australia, hence both the Rebels and the Force employing players ineligible for Wallaby selection. The same can be said in other positions too perhaps.

                So, that means right now the presence of foreign players suggests the Super Rugby level of the progression pyramid is too wide and requires supplementing. How do the Force players you mentioned get put on the Wallaby radar? Well they first get put on the Super Rugby clubs radar, regardless of how many Super Rugby clubs they are, by playing the NRC.

                We are stuck in no mans land at present in that we haven’t had a proper pathway from club rugby to Super Rugby until recently so its benefits are yet to be fully realised. And until they are realised we need to have foreign players filling the gaps. Had the ARC not gotten the axe, we might not be needing so many Wallaby ineligible players, or player not up to the standard, to fill out our Super Rugby squads.

              • August 10th 2017 @ 12:24pm
                Hannes said | August 10th 2017 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

                “You’ve changed your argument now”
                My argument remains that if a Superugby franchise is axed, there will be less players that is eligible for Wallaby selection because the remaining franchises continue to sign players that are ineligible for Wallaby selection. What changed?

                “the presence of foreign players suggests the Super Rugby level of the progression pyramid is too wide and requires supplementing..”
                This is potentially a good counter argument, however note that the ARU did not change their restrictions on the recruitment of foreign players and that at least three Force players in TPN, Rona and Grant stated publicly that if the Force is axed that the may/will go overseas, return to NRL or retire respectively. I cannot see why there would not be less talent that is eligible for Wallaby selection when you cut a team. Foreign players like Grant are valuable as they help develop younger players like Meakes and Rona (if used in this capacity) and others could later become eligible to for the Wallaby selection (Lourens etc). We should not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

                “Well they first get put on the Super Rugby clubs radar, regardless of how many Super Rugby clubs they are, by playing the NRC”
                Note that players like Rona (and Pisi) that both played NRL and wanted to return to Perth did not play in the NRC and IMO would not be on the Wallaby radar if the Force was axed last year. There is also an argument that some players that played for the Spirit last year did to get a Force contract (Ruru, Meakes and others). It is debatable if we they would be on the Wallaby radar if the Force was axed last year.

              • August 10th 2017 @ 12:35pm
                Hannes said | August 10th 2017 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

                “We are stuck in no mans land at present in that we haven’t had a proper pathway from club rugby to Super Rugby until recently so its benefits are yet to be fully realised.”

                The pathways in WA rugby have been delivering players in 2017 and gain momentum with the Perth Spirit becoming more competitive in the NRC that had knock-on effects to club rugby. Axing the Force will take us deeper into no mans land as there will be no pathway to professional rugby in the 3rd biggest rugby state in Australia.

          • August 9th 2017 @ 10:05pm
            Train Without A Station said | August 9th 2017 @ 10:05pm | ! Report

            It doesn’t underscore anything.

            It just shows that you have no qualms with your team having a swag of overseas players but pipe up to complain when somebody else re-signs one.

            It’s professional sport, not local amateur rep teams.

    • August 9th 2017 @ 1:27pm
      jameswm said | August 9th 2017 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

      Where was Mafi before Japan?

      He is a gun.

      • August 9th 2017 @ 1:36pm
        Fionn said | August 9th 2017 @ 1:36pm | ! Report

        He’s the best player in Australia.

        • Roar Rookie

          August 9th 2017 @ 1:58pm
          piru said | August 9th 2017 @ 1:58pm | ! Report

          but not of Australia

          • August 9th 2017 @ 2:47pm
            cuw said | August 9th 2017 @ 2:47pm | ! Report

            yeah – already u dont have a decent 8 in auzzy and the onlyone who at least resembles an 8 is not fovored by the coach 🙂

        • August 10th 2017 @ 8:45am
          Jigbon said | August 10th 2017 @ 8:45am | ! Report

          Certainly the best number 8 playing here and certainly an absolute goer. Tragic he can’t be in our wallabies he would show a few how to play with a bit of dash.

          • August 11th 2017 @ 1:30pm
            MitchO said | August 11th 2017 @ 1:30pm | ! Report

            It is also a pity that Mafi isn’t in the Tongan team. I am sure they’d like to have him back. Personally I would prefer he played for the Sunwolves.

            I am comfortable with Japanese players spending time in an Aussie, Saffa or Kiwi squad for development but Mafi is developed now. Be nice if he went back to the Sunwolves. Nice that a few Aussies are in NZ squads too. Hope some of them come back .

      • August 9th 2017 @ 2:46pm
        cuw said | August 9th 2017 @ 2:46pm | ! Report

        Mafi’s rise to fame is very interesting. apparently he has been in japan since 2010.

        he suddenly appeared in the national team at 8 displacing both Ryu Holaini and Hendrick Tui . Ryu used to be the starting 8 as the senior pro while Tui mostly played off the bench.

        I think it was Eddie Jones who selected Mafi and made Tui a 6 and Leitch the 7.

        i was hoping with Leitch going to wolves from 2018 , both Tui and Mafi will follow …..

      • August 9th 2017 @ 2:49pm
        Hannes said | August 9th 2017 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

        I think he was born in Tonga with Mafi as surname. Saw him play for Bath and would make the WB run on side.

        • Roar Guru

          August 9th 2017 @ 4:53pm
          John R said | August 9th 2017 @ 4:53pm | ! Report

          Yeah he’s from Tonga originally.

          The Rebels have a casual video interview with him up on their social media channels.

          He and Lopeti played rugby together back in high school, Lopeti was his captain!

    • August 9th 2017 @ 2:43pm
      Sam said | August 9th 2017 @ 2:43pm | ! Report

      He’s a great signing. Sad we’ll never see Timani, McMahon and Mafi combine.

    • August 9th 2017 @ 5:39pm
      Harry said | August 9th 2017 @ 5:39pm | ! Report

      More depressing reading. Reasons to be despondent …
      1) Even with him in the side, the Rebels won one game the whole year and were basically an embarrassment
      2) This player is not even Wallaby qualified.
      3) The Rebels are the biggest drain on Australian rugby, which is at its lowest ebb anyway. ARU need to axe them, and pronto. If Melbourne’s handful of rugby fans are fair dinkum, they’ll stick to the NRC side and support the Brumbies, and rebuild anyway.

      Anyone else depressed with the ARU’s social media bombardment? Features the 94 Gregan tackle of Wilson and Burke scoring at the MCG in 98 FFS …in other words no highlights from this century.

      • August 9th 2017 @ 8:12pm
        cuw said | August 9th 2017 @ 8:12pm | ! Report

        @ Harry

        i agree with the core argument BUT i do not agree ur rant only at Rebels.

        if u look at the 5 super squads , everyone has players not eligible for auzzy.

        just off the top of my head :

        Brumbies have prop Nic Mayhew from NZ who played with Blues in 2016. also Cubeli ( who left now) from Argies. also Hawera from NZ.

        Force have Naisarani (Fiji) Stander (Saffa) Lowrens (saffa) Ruru (NZ) Grant (Saffa) Brache (USA) Peni (Cook islands) Rona (nz)

        Reds have Tui (Japan)

        Tahs have Tavavo (NZ)

        rebels have Dom day (wales ) Retallick (NZ) Mafi (Japan) Volovola (Fiji)

        some of these have to wait at least 2+ years to qualify for auzzy ( like Hawera for eg). that is assuming they will stay in aussy and not go back to nz to play in miter 10.

        • Roar Rookie

          August 10th 2017 @ 11:01am
          piru said | August 10th 2017 @ 11:01am | ! Report

          CUW – Rona, Ruru and Louwrens are all eligible for Wallaby selection, it’s not quite the same thing (can’t speak for the other franchises but I’m sure some are in the same boat)

          • Roar Rookie

            August 10th 2017 @ 12:30pm
            piru said | August 10th 2017 @ 12:30pm | ! Report

            Actually Peni is too

        • Roar Rookie

          August 10th 2017 @ 11:31am
          Paul D said | August 10th 2017 @ 11:31am | ! Report

          Not that the notion should be entertained, but Ta’avao is eligible through his mother.

          The Waratahs are the only Australian franchise that currently does not have a single ineligible player

        • August 11th 2017 @ 1:44pm
          MitchO said | August 11th 2017 @ 1:44pm | ! Report


          I don’t think Lowrens is much more African than DHP and RHP. Pretty sure he has spent of lot of years over year but he did go back and play curry cup for his development.

          Naisarani is from Fiji but he is very young so he’ll have been in Qld and now Perth from at least a teenager. Stander and Brache are both Saffa’s as is at least one Force prop. Ruru is a kiwi but has been over here a while.

          Grant is a saffa with family in Perth. We have wanted him a while and he is good buy. Plays some first grade club rugby as does/did Ruru and so is good for WA rugby.

          Peni and Rona both grew up here. They did not migrate for rugby.

          I may be speaking of that which I know nothing but I reckon if I was Stander or Brache being not good enough to make the senior Boks and not being good enough to be a senior SR player with a saffa team I would love the opportunity for rugby to be my ticket out of a country with SAs crime rate.

      • Roar Pro

        August 9th 2017 @ 9:33pm
        ols said | August 9th 2017 @ 9:33pm | ! Report

        “in other words no highlights from this century.”

        There have been some?? 😉

        • August 9th 2017 @ 11:49pm
          Realist said | August 9th 2017 @ 11:49pm | ! Report

          I agree that ineligible players should not be allowed to be picked for Super Rugby squads however disagree the Rebels should be the team cut.
          This season and about 3 seasons ago aside – the Western Force have been historically the most embarrassing franchise in Australian rugby. The Rebels were thrown by the cull and didn’t have a coach or leadership group strong enough to galvanise the players under these circumstances.
          The Force and their legacy of stodgy play should be removed as quickly as possibly with Wessells transferred over to Melbourne asap.
          Twiggy Forest’s 11th hour PR stunt is exactly what it is.
          Nothing will save the Force. It purely a case of far too little and far too late.

          • August 10th 2017 @ 9:18am
            wag said | August 10th 2017 @ 9:18am | ! Report

            Not really, Realist !!

            While the Force have played a forward-oriented game in the past (under such coaches as Mitchell, Foley & Graham) they played a refreshing brand of Rugby this year under Wessels and his assistants.
            They clearly grew into season, thrashing the Reds (twice) and the Horrortarts (40 – 11) , by playing expansive Rugby.

            The only thrashing that they received was on returning to Perth after travelling “around the world” via Argentina & South Africa. Other defeats were close, esp. later in the season.

            Perth is the ONLY place in Aust. where Rugby is growing ! Do you see the number of Junior and other players that the Bayswater Club paraded on Fox’s Kick & Chase on Tuesday night?
            On a %/population basis, the Force have more fans than the Eastern Conferences — and they are much more passionate, creating a much better atmosphere than the 1/4 full stadiums in the other States.

            Also Perth is geographically best suited to play matches for ALL Super Rugby Conferences in making the trip to or from South Africa.

            Long Live The Force !! (From Queenslanders !)

          • Roar Rookie

            August 10th 2017 @ 11:02am
            piru said | August 10th 2017 @ 11:02am | ! Report

            7 Force players in the people’s choice team of the year

            seems the fans disagree with you “Realist”

      • August 10th 2017 @ 12:22pm
        Nicolai said | August 10th 2017 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

        Harry the fans/members/supporters of the team that is cut will go back and support the teams they supported before the Rebels and Force were created — AND seeing that Melbourne and Perth is full of expats the support/money will go to South Africa, New Zeeland and the UK – NOT to another Super Rugby club in AUS.

        YES NRC and the local clubs will still be supported

        • Roar Rookie

          August 10th 2017 @ 12:29pm
          piru said | August 10th 2017 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

          +1 Nicolai

        • August 10th 2017 @ 9:00pm
          Hannes said | August 10th 2017 @ 9:00pm | ! Report

          After this farce, if they cut the Force I am done with rugby.

      • August 11th 2017 @ 3:34pm
        wyn said | August 11th 2017 @ 3:34pm | ! Report

        Harry – if us Rebels supporters are fair dinkum we’ll support the Brumbies. Now why on earth would we do that unless the Brumbies move to Melbourne? I spent 20+ years of my life in CapeTown and supported my home team, the Stormers. When I moved to Melbourne I had no local team to support for 10 years until the Rebels came to town and when they did come, I became a member. Before that I favoured my old home team. If we lose the Rebels, it once again becomes just another game on pay TV me. I have a connection with CapeTown and no connection with Canberra (except that they take my taxes) so why should I support the Brumbies ahead of the Stormers. The Aussie derbies are crap anyway and not worth watching when compared with NZ and SA games (Mitre Cup and Currie Cup included)

    • Roar Guru

      August 10th 2017 @ 9:28am
      HardcorePrawn said | August 10th 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

      A great re-signing for the Rebels, but there’s still no word on whether they will be allowed to play in SuperRugby next year. I presume Mafi could end up loaned out somewhere, or reduced to only playing NRC matches for the Melbourne Rising.
      This situation is beyond farcical.

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