Stalwart Jersey Reds player Apakuki Ma’afu has confirmed that he has played his final game as a professional and will be leaving the Island this summer to return to Australia.
The popular centre, who joined the Reds in 2016, will not feature in the remainder of the Greene King IPA Championship season, having received an 11-match ban as a result of two incidents in last Saturday’s match against Ealing Trailfinders and the resulting disciplinary hearing.
Having already made the decision to hang up his boots at the end of the season and return Down Under with his family, Ma’afu will be unavailable for the Reds’ final five games of this season’s Championship campaign.
Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon said he was disappointed that one of the key players in his squad wouldn’t be able to finish on his own terms.
‘We accept the verdict of the disciplinary panel, and the acceptance that neither of the incidents being considered was intentional,’ he said. ‘Kuki is very apologetic about the fact that an opposition player was seriously hurt, and everyone at Jersey Reds appreciates that World Rugby is seeking to make the game safer and reduce head injuries.’
Biljon paid tribute to the three-times capped Tongan international for his contribution during his time in Jersey, which included captaining the side in 2019/20 and a try-scoring role in the 2019 Siam Cup.
‘Kuki has been a model professional and one of the key players in our squad,’ he said. ‘He showed fantastic commitment and determination to battle back from a serious knee injury in pre-season in September 2019 in order to get back into the match-day squad for our opening league match against Saracens last month.’
Pictures: Sue Armes (above) and Ollie Pinel (below)