Raiders players organising tribute to former teammate Kato Ottio

Sport. The Canberra Raiders have signed PNG international Kato Ottio to a two year contract. 26 February 2016. Canberra Times photo by Jeffrey Chan. SportRaiders training on Wednesday afternoon. Elliot Whitehead and Kato Ottio holding hands25 May 2016Photo by Rohan ThomsonThe Canberra Times

Canberra Raiders players are organising a tribute to their former teammate Kato Ottio after the 23-year-old Papua New Guinea international’s shock death on Tuesday.

The centre spent the past two years on the Raiders’ books and was England-bound after signing with Super League club Widnes Vikings following a stellar Rugby League World Cup campaign with the Kumuls.

It is understood Ottio was training in Port Moresby with players from Queensland Cup side PNG Hunters when he collapsed after a long running session. He was taken to hospital but fell into a coma and never recovered.

PNG Rugby Football League chairman Sandis Tsaka confirmed the Ottio passed away at the Pacific International Hospital in Port Moresby at 2am Tuesday.

After signing for Canberra in early 2016, Ottio established himself as a major part of feeder club Mounties and was named in the NSW Cup team of the year after scoring 29 tries in a standout debut season.

Steve Antonelli coached at Mounties last season and said he was still coming to grips with the tragedy after talking to Ottio about his future last week.

“I only spoke to him last week about his move to England and he was so excited to be heading over there, one door shuts and another one opens, it was a new adventure for him and I told him it would be great move and wished him all the best,” Antonelli said.

“He did his ACL at the back of 2016 and that took him a bit to get over but I think heading to the Super League would have really developed him further and he had a massive future in front of him.

“He was always cheeky to me because we became so close through Mounties and he’d have a giggle at me but it was always respectful and he always had a smile on his face.”

Ottio had only taken up rugby league just over three years ago, before the Raiders spotted the former volleyball star playing in the Queensland Cup in 2015.

“He wouldn’t say boo when he first came across then after 12 months we couldn’t shut him up – but the group loved him – he never had a bad word to say about anyone,” Antonelli said.

“He was a soft-natured and gentle kid with a cheeky side but a loving cheekiness, the type of player a whole group takes to and everyone is just massively in shock.

“Kato was always happy and bouncing around, I was talking to Blake Austin this morning and he said the world is so unfair and that only the good ones go early, it’s so true.”

Antonelli confirmed Austin was among a number of senior Canberra players organising a tribute in the capital to Ottio on the same day as his funeral in PNG.

Austin was one of several Raiders to come out in mourning and pay tribute to Ottio on social media.

“Shattered to hear the news about Katsy. Wasn’t a day he wasn’t smiling, gone way too soon. Prayers with all his family.,” Austin said on Instagram. Shattered to hear the news about katsy. Wasn’t a day he wasn’t smiling, gone way too soon. Prayers with all his family. ????A post shared by Blake Austin (@blakeaustin6) on Jan 8, 2018 at 12:31pm PSTWe are extremely shocked and saddened at the sudden passing of Kumul #269 Kato Ottio. PNGRFL statement: https://t成都夜场招聘/2oNkReWvpo#PNG#rugbyleaguepic.twitter老域名出售/Yz1OvFMWKM??? PNG Kumuls (@PNGKumulsRL) January 8, 2018

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