Japan international Amanaki Mafi has committed to the Melbourne Rebels for another season in a huge signing for the embattled Super Rugby club.
The Rebels are set to announce a deal with Wallabies halfback Will Genia but Mafi's signing is probably even more important following the departure of Wallabies backrower Sean McMahon to play in Japan.
In his debut season the hard-running No.8 was a shining light in the Rebels' disappointing year but Mafi said it was an easy decision to extend his deal with Melbourne.
Rebels chief executive Baden Stephenson said the club was pleased to re-sign Mafi, fending off interest from rivals including Japan's Super Rugby side the Sunwolves.
'We're thrilled that fan favourite Amanaki has chosen to remain with the Rebels in Melbourne for another year after a stand-out first Super Rugby season,' 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.'
According to SANZAAR statistics, the 27-year-old was second in the entire Super Rugby competition for runs, behind the Chiefs' Damien McKenzie, and ranked first in the forwards for run metres and offloads, and second for tackle busts.Tongan- born Mafi has 16 Test caps including representing at the 2016 Rugby World Cup.
'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,' said Mafi, who was voted the club's Players' Player.
Mafi's re-signing follows the announcement that the Victorian Rugby Union has taken over Melbourne's Super Rugby licence to secure the club's future.