Mafi back for Rebels in 2018

The Melbourne Rebels have secured Amanaki Mafi for the 2018 Vodafone Super Rugby season after the powerful backrower signed a contract extension.

The highly sought 27-year-old Japanese international, named the Rebels 2017 Players’ Player, has agreed to a one-year extension to remain with the club for a second season.

Mafi has been a shining light in his debut Super Rugby season as one of the competiton’s leading forwards despite a challenging season for the Rebels on and off the field.

Melbourne Rebels CEO Baden Stephenson said the club was pleased to re-sign the club’s newest cult hero despite serious interest from rivals.

“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 one of three Rebels to have started and appeared in all 15 games this season, including his maiden Super Rugby try against the Waratahs in Sydney in Round 13.

Since his Super Rugby debut against the Blues in the opening round, the No.8 has had an immediate impact on the competition.

Mafi led the league for runs (184) and ranked first for forwards in the competition for run metres (1378m), offloads (30) and second for tackle busts (48). He also led the Rebels for minutes played (1145), line breaks and pilfers.

Mafi has represented Japan on 16 occasions, including in the most recent three-Test series against Romania and Ireland in June.

“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’s re-signing follows the announcement that the Victorian Rugby Union (VRU) has assumed control of the Melbourne Rebels licence to secure the club’s future.

Mafi will return to the Melbourne Rebels in January following the conclusion of Japan’s Top League.