Emerging Papua New Guinea and Canberra Raiders cult hero Kato Ottio keen to break into NRL
by: Chris Dutton
He’s the cult hero who hasn’t even played a game in the NRL, but Kato Ottio is determined to break into a star-studded Canberra Raiders back line to show he can live up to the hype.
The former Papua New Guinea volleyballer, Ottio, is racing the clock to recover from a torn anterior cruciate ligament to make his NRL debut.
Flying winger Ottio lit up the NSW Cup last season, scoring 29 tries in 23 games before his first year in rugby league came to a shattering halt when he injured his knee.
The 105 kilogram beast hopes to make his comeback in the first two months of the Raiders’ season next year and wants to compete with Jordan Rapana and Edrick Lee for a wing spot.
“I have to move on and I have to focus on my rehab to get better to put myself in a position to play next season.
“We’ve got some of the best backs in the NRL so I know it’s going to be hard to get a spot. But I just hope I can get back to my best and try to get that first game.
“I will work harder, I will work hard until I achieve what I want and that’s to make my debut. The time will come.”
Ottio was in Sydney on Wednesday to help launch the Auckland Nines pre-season tournament.
He was the odd man out given he hasn’t even played an NRL game and he was rubbing shoulders with premiership winners and State of Origin representatives.
But Ottio is tipped to be a wing sensation and he had hoped to use the Nines to help press his claims for an NRL call-up, but injury will delay his rise until at least round six.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart will send a development squad with a scattering of star power to Auckland as the Green Machine look to build on their best season in 20 years.
Reality TV winner Lou Goodwin and English recruit Jordan Turner loom as likely inclusions, while Stuart says he won’t bring a star out of retirement to join the squad.
“”[The Nines] is a different concept so that would be a good test and I’m looking forward to it,” Turner said.
“I’ve really got to just impress [in the pre-season and trials] and my main aim is to get into the [game-day 17] for round one against the Cowboys.”
Ottio is on modified training duties as he is eased back into action alongside Lachlan Croker, who also tore his anterior cruciate ligament last season.
Ottio won the winger of the year award in the NSW Cup despite not being able to complete the season. He stamped himself as a try-scoring freak and made 22 line breaks and 99 tackle busts.
“We’ve got guys like Joey Leilua, Jordan Rapana, Eddie and Jarrod [Croker] in the back line and they’re some of the best,” Ottio said.
“If anything happens when they get injured or on rep duties and I get a chance, I’ll take it with both hands and move forward from there.
“It will take time, but I’m willing to be patient and work hard to get that chance. I’ll miss the Auckland Nines but there’s plenty of time for me.
“I’ll play any time and anywhere that I get that chance to prove myself.”