The Sea Eagles star has pleaded not guilty to wounding a person with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, affray and recklessly causing grievous bodily harm in company over the incident at a church dance in Wattle Grove, a suburb he has been banned from visiting while on bail.
Fainu appeared via video link from Parklea Correctional Centre, wearing a prison-green T-shirt.
The Crown stated that three witnesses identified Fainu as the stabber, although his barrister, Richard Pontello QC, told the court the identification was an issue given it was an “all-in brawl between two groups in the dark”.
The court heard that, despite recently undergoing shoulder surgery, Fainu scaled a fence to retrieve his sling after the stabbing.
The stabbing victim is in a stable condition, but Justice Rothman warned that “a couple of millimetres either way and it could have been (fatal).”
“As close to murder as you can get,” Rothman said. “But for a little grace, it could be a homicide charge.”
The criminal case is next set down for mention on December 16, but is unlikely to be heard until the middle of next year. Given Manly is without a specialist No.9 after releasing Apisai Koroisau – who was in court to support Fainu – to the Panthers, the club is looking at contingency options.
Levi has emerged as a player of interest and could be signed onto a one-year deal. Despite still being contracted to the Knights, the New Zealand international has been given permission to explore his options.
Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler, football manager John Bonasera and teammates Moses Suli, Jorge Taufua, Addin Fonua-Blake, Apisai Koroisau and a large contingent of family members assembled inside or outside courtroom 11A in a show of support.
Suli is Fainu’s closest childhood friend, while Koroisau has labelled Fainu a future Sea Eagles skipper. When the decision was announced, many of Fainu’s supporters hugged each other in relief.
Hasler had previously visited Fainu when he was in remand in a bid to lift the spirits of his star No.9. The two-time premiership-winning coach has a reputation for backing his players, as evidenced by the support he extended to Dylan Walker during his own court proceedings, in which he was ultimately found not guilty of assaulting his partner.
Bonasera remained hopeful Fainu would pull on the Sea Eagles jersey again at some point in 2020.
“We’ll continue to work with the NRL Integrity Unit and hopefully yes, that’s the case,” Bonasera said.
Fainu’s manager, Mario Tartak, was also present. The agent is currently serving a suspension from the accreditation committee, but insists he has resolved the issue that led to him being stood down.
“It is a great relief to the family,” Fainu’s lawyer Elias Tabchouri said of the outcome. “At this stage it is very early stages. We are still very confident in our client’s innocence and we will continue in that regard.
“The level of support from the club and all associated with Manase all the way from the club to his manager and even the NRL, everyone’s support has been fantastic for him. It’s wonderful and allowed us to get the result we have got.”
Adrian Proszenko is the Chief Rugby League Reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald.