League fans help make Ottio's dream a reality

Former PNG Hunter Kato Ottio’s dream of providing his mother with a house came true last week – thanks to the huge generosity of the rugby league family.

His mother Joyce was presented with the home he had worked hard to provide on January 9; one year since the untimely passing of Hunter #29 and Kumul #269.

His former Hunters and Kumuls team-mates were also there for the opening of the house which also included the unveiling of his headstone.

This time last year; Ottio was preparing to take on a new adventure having signed with UK club the Widnes Vikings following a standout Rugby League World Cup campaign with the PNG Kumuls.

However; tragically, he was struck done while training and passed away.

The Vikings club paid tribute to their new recruit below (abridged version).

Remembering Kato Ottio – by Widnes Vikings

After a successful 2017 Rugby League World Cup campaign with his native Papua New Guinea, Kato had secured a deal with Widnes Vikings for the 2018 season, along with fellow PNG player Wellington Albert.

However, in January 2018, Widnes Vikings were shocked by the passing of Kato in PNG, just days before he was set to fly to the United Kingdom to embark on a new chapter of his life at Widnes. 

In response to his passing, the Vikings delivered a number of initiatives for Kato’s family.

This included a Crowd Funder page, with generous donations from fans of all clubs raising a staggering £11,435. This money will help to support Kato’s loved ones in the coming years. 

The club also dedicated their 2018 pre-season fixture against Whitehaven RLFC to Kato, with a bucket collection pre-game raising over £4,300. The first team squad paid tribute to their team-mate by observing a minute’s silence, whilst wearing shirts with ‘Kato 18’ on them, Kato’s squad number for the 2018 season. 

In addition to our efforts, the club were warmed by the outstanding response from the whole rugby league community to the tragic news of Kato’s passing. 

PNG legend, Stanley Gene, also was unwavering in his support of the club in their efforts to support Kato’s family. Gene helped to aid the Shirt Donation initiative the club launched, in which fans could donate shirts to the people of PNG. 

Further to this, Stanley worked as an intermediary between the club and Kato’s loved ones, and helped to ensure that the money raised makes an impact to those Kato loved, including the building of the dream house he imagined for his mother, Joyce. 

“I just want to say a huge thank you to the Widnes Vikings club for their never-ending support towards my family, it is truly wonderful and life-changing,” Ottio’s mother Joyce said.

“Words cannot describe how humble I am with your club’s help. I want to say thank you to you all for the support towards the building of my late son’s, Kato Ben Ottio, dream house. 

“I would like to say good luck and all the best for the upcoming season, and may God bless you all now and forever.”

Wellington Albert, Widnes Vikings first team star and former Hunters and Kumuls team-mate also spoke about his friend.

“Today is the 1st anniversary of the day that I lost you. For a time, I felt as though my life had ended too.

“I am full of sadness, Kato, that you are not here with me in Widnes.

“However, your influence still guides me through life now, and I still feel near to you every single day.

“What we shared as brothers will never die, it lives within my heart, and brings me strength and comfort whilst we are apart.

“My son, Jayston Kato, will also remind me of you in the many years to come. 

“May your soul rest in eternal peace. Until we meet again, my brother…”

*Read the full Widnes Viking tribute on their website here

*Photos via PNG Kumuls Facebook page