19 Oct 2019

Another major setback for the Kiwis

6:31 am on 19 October 2019

Melbourne Storm prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona will miss the Kiwis three upcoming rugby league tests as punishment for his involvement in an ugly Bali brawl.

Kiwis player Nelson Asofa-Solomona in action during rugby league Test match between Kiwis and Tonga, held at Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand.  22  June 2019       Photo: Brett Phibbs / www.photosport.nz

Photo: Photosport Ltd 2019

The NRL and Storm also handed Asofa-Solomona a suspended $15,000 fine but he is free to play in round one next season.

Hewill miss New Zealand's match against Australia in Wollongong next Friday, as well as two tests against Great Britain during the Lions tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

It's a huge blow for the Kiwis, already without injured forwards Jesse Bromwich (toe) and James Fisher-Harris (pectoral), with the NRL delivering the bad news to the NZRL.

The international penalty is similar to that of retired Souths great Greg Inglis, who was stripped of the Kangaroos captaincy and missed two Tests against New Zealand and Tonga 12 months ago after he pleaded guilty to drink-driving.

The Storm and the NRL integrity unit both completed investigations into the hulking forward's role after shocking video surfaced of him throwing wild punches at a man outside a bar.

It emerged that the 23-year-old, on a post-season getaway with group of Storm players, was retaliating to teammate Suliasi Vunivalu being king hit.

Asofa-Solomona said he was in shock after seeing his close friend Vunivalu attacked inside the bar and was assisting him outside when "things escalated".

"At the time, I was worried about Suli, who had earlier been coward-punched in an unprovoked attack," Asofa-Solomona said on Friday.

"Suli is one of my closest friends and obviously I would never have reacted that way had he not been assaulted earlier inside the bar.

"Obviously looking back at that now I think 'Could I have went another way about it?', and yes I could.

"I could have picked up Suli and got out of there but at that point in time I felt I had to defend myself and my teammates."

The NRL issued a statement on Friday saying the penalties took into account Asofa-Solomona's cooperation into the investigation and remorse.

"The sanctions take into account evidence which showed a degree of provocation contributed to the incident, Asofa-Solomona's cooperation with the NRL investigation and the remorse he has shown," the NRL statement said.

"All clubs were advised prior to the start of the off-season that serious penalties would be imposed for all off-field incidents.

"The NRL expects exemplary behaviour from all players and any player who falls short of that standard will be sanctioned."

Vunivalu, who required stitches in his face, told News Corp he was lucky not to suffer more serious injuries.

"I didn't see it coming. I was lucky I didn't fall and hit my head because people would have been visiting in a coma from my hospital bed," Vunivalu told The Daily Telegraph.

"He (Asofa-Solomona) was just protecting me."

The Storm said that Asofa-Solomona accepted the sanctions despite Vunivalu being the initial target.

"We want our players to able to enjoy themselves, particularly when they are on leave and in their own private time," said Storm boss Dave Donaghy.

"Unfortunately, our athletes seem to have become a target in this instance, as evidenced by Suli being assaulted twice by coward punches.

"Our organisation will use this as a learning experience, and we'll address the matter with the entire playing group when they return from their leave."