Force snares Tongan ace
Force snares Tongan ace

Western Force have scored a crucial off-field victory to snare bullocking Tongan international forward Steve Mafi from English powerhouses, Leicester Tigers, for two years.

They successfully negotiated with the Australian Rugby Union to increase their overseas player quota and sign Mafi as their third marquee player.

_The West Australian _ revealed on Monday the Force had opened talks with the ARU about increasing their dispensation for two marquee and six development players.

Further overseas signings are on the cards and the Force are understood to be talking to a New Zealand winger. They have already re-signed marquee scrum-half Alby Mathewson, a Kiwi, for two more seasons when, under ARU rules, he would normally have been forced to leave this year.

South African second- rower Wilhelm Steenkamp is their other marquee player.

Blindside flanker Mafi, 118kg and 201cm, can also play second row and will fill the hole left by Hugh McMeniman who has gone to Japan.

He had one year left on his contract with Tigers, who he joined in 2010, but an agreement was reached during a recent visit to Perth.

Mafi, 24, born and bred in Sydney, represented Australia at schoolboy and under-20 level before being chosen for Tonga.

He was keen to return to Australia from Leicester when his first child was born in Sydney last year.

"It's great to have the opportunity to come back to Australia to play with the Force and be closer to my family," Mafi said.

"I've always had an eye on coming back. I played under Foles (coach Michael Foley) and it's always good to know the coach wherever you're playing.

"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."

Foley, who coached Mafi at the Waratahs, said he would add potency to the pack.

"Steve's growth, both physically and technically, has been tremendous," he said.

How the story broke yesterday

·Perth Bayswater utility back Dylan Timu has won the 2014 RugbyWA's player of the year award. He beat Wests Scarborough's Chance Bunce and Kalamunda's Ryan Black to take the PG Hampshire trophy.

The West Australian

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