Saturday, May 12, 2018

Canberra Raiders keeping Kato Ottio's dream alive

The Sydney Morning Herald
By Caden Helmers
12 May 2018

Kato Ottio had a smile that could light up a room, and you would be hard-pressed to find a photo of him that doesn't show it.
Kato Ottio had a smile that could light up a room.
He arrived at Canberra Raiders headquarters with one goal - earn enough money to build his mother a house in Papua New Guinea.
Sia Soliola modelling the jersey that will be auctioned off for the Kato Ottio memorial fund.

At first he was almost silent - he knew little English and was a long way from home. But he was embraced by the club that is now working tirelessly to "keep his dream alive".
The Raiders were rocked when Ottio died of heatstroke in January, two days before he was due to fly to England to join the Super League's Widnes Vikings.
Now the club is paying tribute to Ottio through its indigenous round jerseys, which will bear his name on the inside collar when the Raiders face the Cronulla Sharks at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.
The jersey was unveiled after an indigenous smoking ceremony at Raiders headquarters and boasts the handprints of players from different backgrounds.
It is the name on the inside collar that will be on Raiders prop Sia Soliola's mind when he enters the playing arena.
"He was really quiet when he first came, as expected, but he really grew group on the group," Soliola said.
"With a lot of the photos you’ve seen, he just never stopped smiling. In 99 per cent of the photos that everyone would have seen of Kato was when he was smiling, because that’s just the kind of character he was.
"He loved a good time, enjoyed anybody’s company, and he always liked to joke. He was actually a bit of a practical joker which was always nice to see. A couple of years after he was quite a cheeky fella which was actually pretty cool.
"For someone like Kato who was minimal in his English and still learning the game, taking him away from PNG and the groups he was used to, to come down here and achieve all the things he did and made a real big impact in terms of who he was.
"It’s awesome that the club can promote and take one step further in doing this for Kato and keeping his dream alive, making it more of a reality."
Ottio's presence was felt from the field to the boardroom, with Raiders chief executive Don Furner exploring the possibility of launching a scholarship for a rugby league player from Papua New Guinea in Ottio's honour.
"Honestly everyone really liked him, he was just always happy. It’s unbelievably tragic," Furner said.
"To be honest he would have been an NRL player with us the following year, but he did the knee and it was a pretty bad knee reco and he probably needed a bit more time.
"We thought it wouldn’t hurt him to go to England, do a year or two over there, and then keep our eye on him. He’d come a long way from being a volleyballer.
"He was very good over the first two years and gained confidence after the knee reco. It would have been a fantastic story. It’s just very, very sad but I know his family are very grateful for our continued efforts."
The jerseys will be auctioned off in the second memorial dedicated to Ottio after the club held a memorial service led by the Capital Wantoks following the round two clash with Newcastle.
The Raiders flew Ottio's his mother Joyce and siblings Ahulo, Opao and Helai to Canberra for that game and coach Ricky Stuart says the Kumuls flyer will always be a part of the Green Machine.
"Knowing the club how I do, it won’t be the last time we help the family," Stuart said.
"Kato was a very special member of the Canberra Raiders and I know that we will continue to support that family for a long time ahead. That’s what makes our club so great."

Donate to the Kato Ottio memorial fund here.


Sunday: Canberra Raiders v Cronulla Sharks at Canberra Stadium, 4.10pm.

Tickets from Ticketek.

Raiders: 1. Jack Wighton, 2. Nick Cotric, 3. Jarrod Croker (c), 4. Joseph Leilua, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Blake Austin, 7. Aidan Sezer, 8. Iosia Soliola, 9. Siliva Havili, 10. Shannon Boyd, 11. Joseph Tapine, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Josh Papalii. Interchange from: 14. Ata Hingano, 15. Luke Bateman, 16. Charlie Gubb, 17. Dunamis Lui, 18. Liam Knight, 19. Michael Oldfield.
Sharks: 1. Valentine Holmes, 2. Sosaia Feki, 3. Jesse Ramien, 4. Ricky Leutele, 5. Edrick Lee, 6. Matt Moylan, 7. Chad Townsend, 8. Andrew Fifita, 9. Jayden Brailey, 10. Matt Prior, 11. Kurt Capewell, 14. Joseph Paulo, 13. Paul Gallen (c). Interchange from: 15. James Segeyaro, 16. Avagalu Seumanufagai, 17. Jack Williams, 18. Kurt Dillion, 19. Braden Uele, 20. Briton Nikora.

Caden Helmers is a sports reporter for The Canberra Times

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