Manly Sea Eagles hooker Manase Fainu has told a jury he ran away scared from a brawl outside a Sydney church dance and still has no idea who stabbed a youth leader.
Fainu, 24, has pleaded not guilty to wounding Faamanu Levi with intent to cause grievous bodily harm at Wattle Grove late at night on October 25, 2019.
When the violent brawl erupted outside the event organised by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Fainu said he backed right away.
“I started back peddling, walking backwards,” he said.
He said he watched the fighting for about a minute or two, and ran away “scared for myself”.
“Were any words shouted?” defence barrister Margaret Cunneen SC asked.
“That’s why I ran. I heard ‘knife, knife’,” Fainu said.
Wearing a sling from recent shoulder surgery, Fainu said he felt “a bit depressed, bit down,” that evening not knowing whether he’d play football again for Manly.
Earlier he had been at a Guildford barbecue when his friend Uona Faingaa, known as “Big Buck,” asked him to drive to the charity event so he could pick up money owed from a concreter he worked with.
Fainu says he was not drinking and drove four men to the charity event, but waited outside.
“I felt a little bit inappropriate, it was a church dance and … I was wearing a long black tracksuit,” he said.
After about 10 to 15 minutes he noticed Big Buck and two others being escorted outside.
“I said sorry to the security guard for their behaviour and then we walked out,” Fainu said.
Before driving away Big Buck was angry and said ‘I didn’t get f***ing paid’, he said.
Fainu was told to drive to a Coles car park and then offered to retrieve the cash, saying his friend would not be allowed back inside.
CCTV footage played for the court showed four men following Fainu, who draped a white towel around his head.
This “security blanket” doused in cold water was because he had a headache, denying it was to hide his identity.
He led them to a fence to jump over, saying it was easier than walking around to the front gate.
On the way to the chapel the brawl erupted about 10-15 metres away from him, he said.
He denied holding, seeing, or knowing of a weapon being brought that evening.
After fleeing back over the fence he waited for the others inside the car.
When they arrived he asked what happened.
“They said nothing,” he said.
He did not like to involve himself with fights as his football training taught him to “walk away”.
The court was previously told Fainu had entered the dancefloor and was involved in the first fight before he was told “you don’t fight on church grounds,” and ushered outside with the others.
Crown witness Tony Quach said he watched Fainu later in the car park melee plunge a steak knife into the back of the youth leader.
Mr Quach said he had pushed the footballer who was wearing a distinctive sling and told him to “get out, stop, get out” before he stabbed Mr Levi in an upwards motion.
Crown prosecutor Emma Curran in cross-examination asked Fainu why he felt such responsibility to go and retrieve Big Buck’s money.
“I was the driver, I was a good friend. If I drive him there I drive him back,” he said.
But he had not spoken to his good family friend or any of the group since the alleged incident due to his bail conditions.