Widnes Vikings have confirmed that new signing Kato Ottio has passed away at the age of 23.
Ottio, who was tipped to become one of the star signings of Super League 2018 after impressing for Papua New Guinea in the World Cup, was set to travel to the UK to begin life with the Vikings this week before tragically passing away.
He was on a road run with the PNG Hunters on Sunday when he collapsed, and he sadly passed away at the Pacific International Hospital in Port Moresby.
Ottio, along with new Widnes signing Wellington Albert, were due to travel to England on Thursday, although Albert’s arrival is now expected to be delayed.
“We will make sure Wellington is in the right mind before he leaves here,” head coach Michael Marum told NRL.com.
“It is going to be difficult because they come from different parts of the country and different customs. For them to be coming back with the right mindset is going to be tough.
“All the players in our squad, we are going to have to do a lot of work with them to make sure they are mentally OK.”
Widnes CEO James Rule said: “We are devastated to learn that Kato Ottio has passed away this afternoon. 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.
“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. 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 said: “To receive this tragic news is heart-breaking. 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.”
All at League Express would like to offer their thoughts and condolences to Ottio’s family and loved ones at this tragic time.