Widnes Vikings centre Kato Ottio has died at the age of 23 after suffering “a sudden health issue” in training.

Ottio joined Widnes from Canberra in December and was part of the Papua New Guinea side which lost to England in November’s World Cup quarter-finals.
Kato Ottio
He was due to travel to the UK next week in preparation for the start of the Super League season in February.

“Kato was an incredibly talented player, with a bright future,” Widnes chief executive James Rule said.

PNG Rugby Football League chairman Sandis Tsaka said Ottio had died in hospital in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, and further details would be released at a later stage.

We found Kato to be a person of great character, who was excited to be following his dreams

Ottio won six caps for Papua New Guinea, scoring one try in four appearances to help them reach the last eight at the 2017 World Cup.

He represented his country playing volleyball before signing for Raiders in 2016, only two years after taking up rugby league.

Although he was unable to break into Canberra’s NRL side, he was a regular starter for their feeder club – the Mount Pritchard Mounties – in the New South Wales Cup.

“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,” Widnes head coach Denis Betts said.

“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.”

Huddersfield centre Jordan Turner, who played with Ottio in Australia, said on Instagram: “Devastated to hear the news of Kato’s passing, some very fond memories with him from my time in Canberra.

“Legend of a bloke. Will be truly missed and was a Super League star in the making. My thoughts go out to his family. RIP Brother.”

State of Mind would like to pass on our sincere condolences to all family, friends and team mates