Watch: Where's Taumalolo? Tongan coach says he was too heavy for plane - 'they had to offload' him

Tongan rugby league coach Kristian Woolf has hilariously revealed the reason that Jason Taumalolo missed the squad's initial flight to their homeland - the superstar was too heavy for the plane.

Taumalolo, 24, will link up with the Tongan squad later today, having not travelled with his teammates yesterday.

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For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

Speaking to 1 NEWS, Woolf explained the reason for his star man's absence.

"We all got on the plane... then they decided that there was too much weight on the plane," he said.

"They had to offload a couple of guys and unfortunately, one of those was Jason."

"It was a funny one."

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Ata Hingano, Tui Lolohea and Sione Katoa spoke passionately about what returning to the island means to them and their family. Source: 1 NEWS

The Tonga team are visiting their homeland before the Rugby League World Cup. Source: 1 NEWS

The Titans centre has been in Tonga for two weeks, but was at the airport to welcome his teammates. Source: 1 NEWS

"It's a proud moment," said the Wests Tigers half as he arrived in Tonga today ahead of the Rugby League World Cup. Source: 1 NEWS

Half of the Tongan squad arrived in Tonga today with Jason Taumalolo and rest set to arrive tomorrow Source: 1 NEWS

It sounds incredible but it's true. The superstar forward will arrive in Tonga later today. Source: 1 NEWS


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'I have not sexted anyone' declares Sam Burgess amid Rabbitohs scandal

South Sydney star Sam Burgess has hired celebrity lawyer Chris Murphy to pursue defamation actions after being cleared of any wrongdoing over the lewd photo scandal.

The Rabbitohs said no player had broken club or NRL rules after a complaint was made by a woman alleging Rabbitohs players exposed themselves to her via Facebook in May.

Not long after the NRL club released their statement, Burgess revealed on Twitter that he is now exploring legal avenues over the saga.

"I have not sexted anyone. I fully cooperated with the inquiry as I said I would. I have engaged lawyer Chris Murphy to pursue my remedies and he has retained defamation lawyers," he said.

"I have given a full account to the Inquiry and answered every questioned asked. It's now in Mr Murphy's hands. The next move is up to him. I have nothing more to say at this stage."

The woman, who was believed to be on holiday in South Africa, was this week interviewed by NRL integrity unit investigator Karyn Murphy but declined to be quizzed by a five-person panel.

"Based on a thorough review of the available evidence before it, the panel was not satisfied that any South Sydney player engaged in any actionable misconduct resulting in a breach of their NRL playing contract, the NRL rules or the SSFC code of conduct," the club said in a statement.

A spokesman for the NRL said based on the information available, the NRL was satisfied with the position the panel has reached with respect to the allegations against players.

"If any additional information emerges it will be considered," the spokesman said.

It was widely reported it was Burgess' social media account that was used to communicate with the woman following a win over the Warriors in Auckland.

Two players were believed to have exposed themselves to the woman, who complained to the club via an anonymous email over a period of three months between May and August.

The matter rocked the league last week when News Corp Australia published the images, and named Burgess as the owner of the social media account.

It overshadowed the Rabbitohs' semi-final win over St George Illawarra, and has since dominated headlines ahead of their grand final qualifier against the Sydney Roosters on Saturday.

An emotional Burgess also fronted the media this week, where he thanked his wife and family for their support and said he was "happy for the truth to come out".

The panel comprised ARL Commissioner Lea Drake, club chairman Nick Pappas, club staffer Emily Grant, chief executive Blake Solly, and Murphy.

Murphy has previously represented former NRL Canterbury star Hazem El Masri when charges of domestic charges against him were dropped in 2016.

He is also currently representing Australian actor John Jarratt, who has been charged with raping a woman over 40 years ago.

Sam Burgess takes on Sonny Bill Williams
Roosters v Rabbitohs. NRL rugby league match. Allianz Stadium SFS, Sydney Australia. Thursday 7 March 2013. Photo: Paul Seiser/PHOTOSPORT
Sam Burgess takes on Sonny Bill Williams. Source: Photosport


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Tonga coach backing Andrew Fifita for Test match captaincy

Andrew Fifita has emerged as a shock Tonga captaincy contender after skipper Sika Manu was ruled out of next month's historic rugby league Test against Australia with a knee injury.

Tonga coach Kristian Woolf is reeling after Manu suffered the season-ending injury in Hull FC's UK Super League last-round loss to St Helens just days after naming his initial 29-strong Test squad.

"That's devastating for the team. He's an integral part of the side, we will certainly miss him," Woolf told AAP.

"Now we have to look at someone filling that void."

North Queensland's Jason Taumalolo and Canterbury livewire Will Hopoate appeared favourites as fill-in skippers for Tonga's first clash against Australia after sharing the captaincy in Manu's absence in June's Pacific Test.

But Woolf believed Fifita had shown this year he could step up and lead the Mate Ma'a in the October 20 clash in Auckland.

"We have emerging leaders in the group like Jason Taumalolo and Will Hopoate but there are a number of guys who have real leadership potential like Andrew Fifita," Woolf said.

"He has certainly shown some leadership at the Sharks this year but it will come down to who we think is best suited."

Fifita has filled in as Cronulla skipper this year but appeared an unlikely Tonga captaincy choice after last month's post-try blow-up at the Sharks coach's box and a recent foul-mouthed podcast appearance.

However, Woolf said Fifita had become a spiritual leader for Tonga after inspiring others with his surprise 2017 World Cup switch from the Kangaroos to the Mate Ma'a.

Taumalolo followed his lead, switching from New Zealand, before Tonga made a dream run to the Cup semi-finals.

Woolf said it was inspiring for the team that Fifita and Taumalolo had committed to Tonga "for the long haul".

"They have made a massive impact, that is obvious to see," he said.

"It speaks volumes of those blokes as people the way they have taken a punt and made a sacrifice, and also the way people have wanted to be involved because of them.

"They are committed to Tonga and set for the long haul.

"Any success we have they can be proud of the contribution they have made."

Scott Sorensen - nephew of Kiwi greats Dane and Kurt Sorensen - is Tonga's latest convert after the Cronulla forward was named in the extended squad.

Woolf will name his final squad next month before taking Tonga on a 10-day camp.

Tonga's Andrew Fifita and Tevita Pangai Junior celebrate Rugby League World Cup win over the Kiwis at FMG Stadium in Hamilton. Kiwis v Tonga, Rugby League World Cup, FMG Stadium, Hamilton, New Zealand. Saturday, 11 November, 2017. Copyright photo: John Cowpland / www.photosport.nz
Tonga's Andrew Fifita and Tevita Pangai Junior celebrate Rugby League World Cup win over the Kiwis at FMG Stadium in Hamilton. Source: Photosport


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Sam Burgess cleared of wrongdoing in Rabbitohs sexting scandal

South Sydney star Sam Burgess has been cleared of any wrongdoing over the lewd photo scandal after the NRL club completed its investigations.

The club said no player had broken club or NRL rules after a complaint was made by a woman alleging Rabbitohs players exposed themselves to her on Facebook in May.

The woman was interviewed by NRL integrity unit investigator Karyn Murphy but declined to be quizzed by a five-person panel set up by the club last Friday.

"Based on a thorough review of the available evidence before it, the panel was not satisfied that any South Sydney player engaged in any actionable misconduct resulting in a breach of their NRL playing contract, the NRL rules or the SSFC code of conduct," the club said in a statement.

A spokesman for the NRL said that, based on the information available, the NRL was satisfied with the position the panel has reached with respect to the allegations against players.

"If any additional information emerges it will be considered," the spokesman said.

It was widely reported that it was Burgess' social media account that was used to communicate with the woman.

Two players were believed to have exposed themselves to the woman, who complained to the club via an anonymous email over a period of three months between May and August.

The matter rocked the league last week when News Corp Australia published the images, and named Burgess as the owner of the social media account.

The incident overshadowed the Rabbitohs' semi-final win over St George Illawarra, and dominated headlines ahead of Saturday's grand final qualifier against the Sydney Roosters.

An emotional Burgess also fronted the media this week, where he thanked his wife and family for their support and said he was "happy for the truth to come out".

The panel included ARL Commissioner Lea Drake, club chairman Nick Pappas, club staffer Emily Grant, chief executive Blake Solly, and Murphy.

Sam Burgess of the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Source: Photosport


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