Mending ties: Banned Player Tales on New Role.

Keresi Maya officiates as an Assistant referee during the Fiji Bitter Wairiki Sevens Carnival in Taveuni yesterday.Picture: JONA KONATACI

A RUGBY player banned for punching a referee two years ago is making amends for his actions and has decided to take up the whistle.

Keresi Maya was a player with a promising future – he was a lock forward for the Naitasiri under-19 team, played for the Fiji U18 team and was earmarked for a three-year development scholarship with National Rugby League club the Cronulla Sharks.

But on August 29, 2020, it all fell apart.

It was during a match for the Naitasiri U19 side against Tailevu at Ratu Cakobau Park that Maya punched the referee and was handed a six-year ban from playing rugby in Fiji and abroad.

To atone for his actions and also stay updated with the changing laws of the game , Maya decided to take up refereeing. He was spotted at the 15th Fiji Bitter Wairiki 7s carnival as a fourth official – his first tournament on the other side of the field and as part of the Taveuni Rugby Referees Association.

The 21-year-old Maya was emotional when approached to talk about why he joined the association.

He said he was grateful to the Suva Rugby Referees Association for helping him be part of the 7s carnival.

“When I was told that I won’t be playing rugby for the next six years, I gave up on everything knowing that my rugby career was over,” he said.

“That was it, all my dreams of securing a contract and helping my family were crushed.

“I returned back home and helped my family with farming.”

With maternal links to Naselesele Village also on Taveuni, he said he regretted what he did and wished he could take everything back.

“All I can do now is focus on the future and seek forgiveness from all rugby fans, to the referee’s family and to FRU for my actions.

“I want to play rugby again, I will never give up and whatever God has in store for me I am grateful.”

Meanwhile, the finals for the men’s and women’s rugby 7s competition will be held today.

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