Powerhouse forward Steve Mafi will join the Super Rugby club for two years from English premiership giants Leicester Tigers.
Mafi, 25, who played two seasons with the NSW Waratahs before signing with the Tigers in 2010, will fill the big hole left by Hugh McMeniman who has moved to Japan.
The 118kg and 201cm blindside flanker/second rower is a former Australian Schoolboy and Under-20 representative. He grew up in Sydney and has played 10 Tests for Tonga.
During his 85-game spell at Leicester he won the Players’ Player Award in 2012 and was a member of their 2012-2013 Aviva Premiership-winning side.
Mafi said he was excited about returning to Australia and Super Rugby.
“It’s great to have the opportunity to come back to Australia to play with the Force and be closer to my family,” he said.
“I’ve always had an eye on coming back to play Super Rugby and I’m looking forward to working to get my opportunity next season. The grounds in the UK are heavier than they are in Australia, and I’m looking forward to playing some attacking, running rugby.
“I’ve followed Super Rugby while I’ve been away, and the Force has improved a fair bit in the last few years and I can’t wait to be able to contribute to that.
“I’ve played with guys like Wykesy [Sam Wykes], Ben McCalman and Nathan Charles in the Australian Under 20 squad, so it’ll be great to play with them again as well as against a lot of others that I know as well. I played under Foles at the Waratahs too, and it’s always good to know the coach wherever you’re playing.
“Wykesy’s also told me a lot about the culture at the Force and shown me around Perth a bit, and I know it’ll all work very well for me.”
Coach Michael Foley says Mafi will add further potency to an already powerful Western Force pack.
“Our forwards played well this year and the addition of Steve will complement the existing strengths in our pack for next season,” he said.
“Steve’s growth – both physically and technically – over the last four seasons at Leicester Tigers has been tremendous. He’s always been a powerful ball carrier, but has also now developed a good understanding of the tight elements of the game. These attributes place him in a position to challenge for both number six and lock.”