Rising NRL star Manase Fainu had one arm in a sling when he stabbed a youth leader in the back with his opposite hand during a frenzied late-night in a church brawl carpark, a court has been told.
Mr Fainu, 24, is standing trial in the Parramatta District Court where he has pleaded not guilty to wounding a person with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
On the opening day of his trial on Tuesday, the Manly Sea Eagles hooker denied stabbing Faamanu Levi in the back and above his right eye following a Mormon church dance in southwestern Sydney in October 2019.
Mr Levi, a church youth leader, was taken to hospital with a punctured lung and internal bleeding.
However, Mr Fainu’s high-profile barrister Margaret Cunneen SC told the jury on Tuesday that it was a case of mistaken identity and Mr Fainu had no quarrel with anyone at the dance.
Crown prosecutor Emma Curran told the jury that the brawl erupted in the carpark of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at Wattle Grove after an earlier argument inside.
The court was told that Mr Fainu arrived at the dance with friends, including Uona “Big Buck” Faingaa.
Ms Curran said CCTV would show Mr Fainu arriving at the dance wearing a black hat, black top, black tracksuit pants with a white stripe and with his left arm in a sling following shoulder surgery.
She said an argument broke out on the dance floor involving Mr Fainu, Mr Faingaa and two other people.
The group was called into a classroom and told not to fight on church grounds.
The Crown has alleged that Mr Faingaa responded by saying, “All right, we’ll take it somewhere else then.”
Mr Fainu and Mr Faingaa left and the court was told on Tuesday that CCTV showed Mr Fainu jumping a fence back into church grounds with several other men.
Ms Curran said the victim and several of his friends were standing in and around his car when they were approached by a group of five men, including Mr Faingaa, with one of them saying “let’s go, let’s go”.
It’s alleged that one man was punched in the face, sparking the wild brawl.
The Crown prosecution has alleged that one man, Tony Quach, saw Mr Fainu approach the group from behind.
“Tony will tell you, I expect, he saw the accused holding a knife, described as a steak knife, in his right hand with his arm bent at a 90-degree angle,” Ms Curran said.
“Tony also saw that the accused’s left arm was in a sling.
“Tony will tell you he then saw the accused step forward and swing his hand which was holding the knife into Levi’s back, striking him just underneath the shoulder blade.”
Ms Curran said it was alleged that Mr Fainu also cut Mr Levi above the right eye.
Mr Levi was treated at the scene before he was taken to hospital with internal bleeding.
It’s alleged Mr Fainu and his friends then fled the scene in a car after jumping back over a fence.
But Ms Cunneen disputed that Mr Fainu stabbed Mr Levi.
“There is a quite different version of events which will be put before you later on in this trial,” Ms Cunneen said.
She said Mr Levi wasn’t aware of who had stabbed him, that the brawl took place in a pitch black parking lot and it was over quickly.
She said Mr Quach’s evidence was in dispute and questioned whether he was reliable or had a reason to lie.
“(Mr Fainu) had no fight or quarrel with anyone,” Ms Cunneen said.
“He hasn’t got a problem with anyone there.”
The trial continues.