The once-lauded NRL star, Manase Fainu, has proposed the theory that another individual may have been in possession of the knife during the violent skirmish outside of a church which resulted in him receiving a jail sentence. Fainu, aged 24, was handed an eight year sentence after being convicted of stabbing a young leader during a fierce fight outside a Mormon church dance in 2019.
It was concluded by the jury that Fainu thrust a steak knife into the back of Faamanu Levi near the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Wattle Grove in Sydney’s southwest. The ensuing damage included a punctured lung and severe internal bleeding for Mr. Levi, caused by a 10cm blade.
However, Fainu’s conviction was not brought to a conclusion there, with the former rugby star reportedly swinging the knife upwards and slicing a deep wound through the victim’s eyebrow. Despite these findings, Fainu entered a not guilty plea to the charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. He remains steadfast in his denial of the allegations.
Recently, Fainu stood before the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal to question the jury’s decision, which he has labeled “unreasonable”. His attorney, Mike Smith, emphasized the uncertainty surrounding the identity of the individual who held the knife at the moment of the stabbing. In an effort to uphold his client’s innocence, Smith suggested that the knife could have been held by another man during the attack, or that multiple knives were involved in the turbulent scene.
The prosecution was led by Emma Curran who argued that two eyewitnesses decisively identified Fainu as the wielder of the knife. A key witness, Tony Quach, stated he witnessed an enraged Fainu brandishing a steak knife while also sporting an arm sling. Quach further claimed to have seen the former Manly Sea Eagles player plunge the knife into Mr Levi’s back during the frayed dispute in the church parking area.
Smith, however, labeled Quach’s account as grossly inadequate and insufficient to deliver a guilty verdict. His contention rested on the evidence of another witness, Kupi Toilalo, whose narrative differed significantly, both in terms of events and positioning of the brawl participants.
Notwithstanding the detailed accounts of the two witnesses, Curran stated that the case was not entirely dependent on the testimonies provided by Quach and Toilalo alone. The guilt of the applicant was clearly established, she argued, beyond reasonable doubt. Curran also referred to the damaging CCTV footage of Fainu arriving and leaving the area as further proof of his guilt.
Fainu was considered a promising talent in the NRL, but the stabbing incident in late 2019 brought an abrupt halt to his promising career. A victim of his own actions, his future was snuffed out just as his potential was being recognized by legendary Manly Sea Eagles coach, Des Hasler, who believed Fainu imbued a ‘Superman Complex’ – a belief in his own invulnerability that was only magnified by the pressures of elite sport.
Notably, it was later revealed that Fainu had been sharing a cell in the Geoffrey Pearce Correctional Centre in Sydney’s northwest with fellow ostracized NRL player, Jarryd Hayne. The final verdict of the appeal hearing remains pending, to be delivered by Supreme Court Justices Mark Leeming, Natalie Adams, and Hament Dhanji at an undisclosed date.