Wairarapa United football coach Phil Keinzley is hoping the conviction of his star player Pita Rabo on a charge of assault will not affect the Fijian striker's chances of remaining in New Zealand.

Rabo, 34, has been three times convicted of drink-driving since 2005 and this week was sentenced for assaulting his partner, having earlier pleaded guilty to punching her in the face as she lay on the ground.

Keinzley, who was only yesterday released from Wairarapa Hospital, where he was recovering from car crash injuries, said he hoped the hero of last year's thrilling Chatham Cup win would be able to remain in Wairarapa.

Rabo has been living in the region for several years but is not a naturalised New Zealander.


He works as a roofer and has several times succeeded in renewing his work visa.

"It would be a huge loss to Wairarapa football and to myself if he was to go back to Fiji," Keinzley said.

He said Rabo was Wairarapa United's best player and, although not the team captain, was the "natural leader on the field".

Keinzley said Rabo was recognised as the man who clinched Wairarapa United's win in the Chatham Cup last winter by scoring the second and winning goal over Napier City Rovers, but his contribution to soccer went back much further.

"He has played over 100 games for Wairarapa United and is the reason we made it into the Central League really."

Rabo was sentenced to 50 hours' community service on the assault charge when he appeared for sentence before Judge Chris Tuohy on Wednesday.

He was also ordered to undergo six months supervision and, to have alcohol counselling and to attend a family violence prevention course.