Former Canberra Raiders winger Kati Ottio has passed away on the morning of January 9th, 2018 at the age of 23.
The outside back had recently moved to England from Canberra, signing a multi-year contract with Widnes Vikings following a breakout performance in the World Cup for PNG.
A statement from Widnes chief executive James Rule said that Ottio “had developed a sudden health issue whilst training yesterday”.
“We are devastated to learn that Kato Ottio has passed away this afternoon,” Rule said.
“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.”
Widnes head coach said Denis Betts echoed Rule’s thoughts on Ottio.
“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,” 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.”
Former teammates of Ottio have taken to social media, shocked by the news.