It is the news that no rugby league fan wants to hear, that a passionate player who we all saw only just very recently has passed away but tragically, the rugby league world and communities have lost Papua New Guinean international Kato Ottio who passed away this morning.
Reports initially filtered through via Instagram posts from two of his former Canberra Raiders team-mates (Elliott Whitehead and Jordan Turner) before his PNG Kumul team-mate David Mead followed suit.
Soon after, it was the news that many had feared that was confirmed by Ottio’s new club, the Widnes Vikings. The news was confirmed and it was official, Ottio had tragically passed away.
A young, budding player with a bright future, the recent PNG Kumul looked set to take his career to new levels, as Widnes CEO James Rule was left shocked by the news.
“We are devastated to learn that Kato Ottio has passed away this afternoon,” said Rule.
“Kato was an incredibly talented player, with a bright future ahead of him in Rugby League.
This news is all the more tragic, because Kato was due to travel to the UK this week to fulfil his dream of playing first-grade Rugby League.
We had been in regular contact with Kato and were excited to welcome a bright, excited and passionate young man, who had genuine potential for the future.”
Although the cause of his passing is unconfirmed, Rule makes mention of a possible health issue that arose in training as a potential cause.
“Having only learned this morning that Kato had developed a sudden health issue whilst training yesterday, we are in absolute shock to now receive this tragic news,” continued the Widnes CEO.
“We will be liaising closely with his loved ones to offer them our condolences and support at this difficult time. Widnes Vikings will, of course, be looking to celebrate Kato’s life and pay our sincere respects to someone who we believe would have become a hero at our Club.
Whilst we are coming to terms with this news, and still learning the full facts of this situation, we are unable to comment further at this time.”
Widnes coach Denis Betts also offered his deepest condolences and is disappointed that Ottio will not be able to play out of his dream of continuing as a rugby league player.
“To receive this tragic news is heart-breaking,” said Betts.
“All of us saw at the World Cup the incredible gifts that Kato had, and his potential to forge a great career in Rugby League.
Moreover, in all of our interactions with him, we found Kato to be a person of great character, who was excited to be following his dreams.
On behalf of the coaching team, staff and players at Widnes Vikings, I would like to offer our sincere condolences to Kato’s loved ones.”