PNG Kumul centre and Rugby League star, Kato Ottio, shockingly passed away this morning while recovering at the Pacific International Hospital.
He was rushed to PIH after collapsing while on a road run with members of the SP PNG Hunters on Sunday afternoon.
The young 23-year-old from Tatana, Koiari and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, began his short, but impressive Rugby League Career in 2014.
He was selected into the Hunters 2014-2015 train-on Squad from the Southern Confederate team.
He was the youngest to make the squad at only 19 years of age, and debuted as Hunter number 29.
A former Volleyball representative, his tall lanky physique proved to be trouble for his opposition on the field, as he hurtled towards their defence. He represented PNG in the 2015 Pacific Games, playing in the 9’s Competition, and winning a much-deserved Gold. At the end of his 2015 season, Ottio signed a one-year contract with NRL Club, Canberra Raiders.
He became an instant star in 2016 with Raiders feeder club, the Mounties in the New South Wales Cup, scoring in almost every match he played in, earning himself another year with the team.
He made his debut for the PNG Kumuls in 2015 during the Pacific Test as Kumul number 269 playing in almost every Kumuls match since then.
His 2017 season was clouded with injuries, and he spent half the year in rehabilitation, recovering from a knee injury.
He recovered in time to play in the Rugby League World Cup, where he was outstanding for the Kumuls. He was set to join the Widnes Vikings this year, and was to leave for England this Thursday. It is a trip, he won’t be making.
Family, friends, teammates and Fans were surprised at his sudden passing.
Social Media was flooded with Condolence messages from people across Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea Rugby League was crushed at Ottio’s passing. Coach Michael Marum spent the past three years with Ottio, and has played a major role in his success.
Marum said Ottio will always be remembered for his humility and consistency to training. Marum has suspended the Hunters’ preseason training for an indefinite period, till the team can be focussed and ready for preparations.
“It is not a loss, it is a great space that Ottio has left for PNG Rugby,” Marum said.
Ottio’s cause of death is still unknown and will be confirmed by Medical staff at a later date.