Catherine Gaffaney is a general reporter based in Auckland.

Rugby player Losi Filipo quits squad

A young rugby player who was controversially discharged without conviction for assaulting four people had a "pretty challenging" upbringing and is "hugely apologetic" for what he did, the Players' Association says.

Losi Filipo was charged with assaulting Kelsey Odell, 22, her boyfriend Hayden Williams, 22, Greg Morgan, 21, and Olivia Samuel, 22.

The sentence caused outcry from Filipo's victims who say they will appeal the decision.

LISTEN: Norm Hewitt: Losi Filipo needs support too

Filipo yesterday withdrew from Wellington Lions 2016 Mitre 10 Cup squad under mounting public pressure.

Victims of the assault by Losi Filipo and his brother, from left, Hayden William, Kelsey Odell, Greg Morgan and Olivia Samuels, in Porirua. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Victims of the assault by Losi Filipo and his brother, from left, Hayden William, Kelsey Odell, Greg Morgan and Olivia Samuels, in Porirua. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The Solicitor-General is "looking into" the judge's decision, which took Filipo's promising rugby career into account, sparking allegations of a "double standard".

Speaking to Radio Sport, Players' Association chief executive Rob Nichol said the publicity around the sentencing had had a profound effect on Filipo.

"Everything that's going on, we felt in talking with him stepping out side the fame was the best game was the best thing for everyone involved," he said.

"He had a pretty challenging upbringing. Rugby was his opportunity and hopefully maybe down the track if things work out, it may still be his opportunity."

Nichol said Filipo had been accessing support.

"He is hugely apologetic for the situation he's created. If he works really really hard to get another opportunity like the one he's effectively walked away from, he could breathe confidence into decision makers."

Nichol disputed claims Filipo's sentencing would have had a different outcome if he hadn't played rugby.

"We've had [players] found guilty. I don't believe the courts cut the guys any slack whatsoever."

Kelsey Odell. Photo / Supplied
Kelsey Odell. Photo / Supplied

In a statement yesterday, Filipo said he had made a "huge mistake".

"I understand why the victims of the assault do not want to talk to me and have not taken up an offer of restorative justice, but I would like to publicly apologies for my actions and the damage they caused.

"I will continue to access the personal development and support structures I have engaged with over the past year.

"Though I cannot change what happened I recognise that I have been provided with a second chance and I want to continue use this opportunity to work hard."

Wellington Rugby chief executive Steve Rogers said the situation was unfortunate for everybody involved.

"Our first thoughts are with the victims of this assault. Wellington Rugby would like to extend our sympathies to the two men and women involved in the incident and reiterate the fact that we do not condone violence in any form.

"We would like to extend an offer of assistance and support to Greg Morgan, a member of our rugby community who we have learned will not be able to play the game due to his injuries."

Rogers said Wellington Rugby would continue to offer Filipo support.

"Wellington Rugby believes the best outcome for society would be for Losi to remain involved in the game of rugby. To that end we put support structures in place which we believe have already helped him make big advancements."

One of Filipo's victims, Kelsey Odell, said she suffers debilitating panic attacks after being punched in the face by the teenage rugby star.

"I had never experienced anything like that in my life. It was honestly horrible. It's really scary now even just walking into Porirua."

She was critical of the sentence handed down to the aspiring professional rugby player, effectively allowing him to escape without punishment.

"He's suffered no consequences. He's not remorseful whatsoever. They say he's remorseful but he isn't."

- NZ Herald

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