Rugby League

Canberra Raiders take a punt on Kato Ottio, Papua New Guinea volleyball star

Until last year, Kato Ottio hadn't played a single game of rugby league.

Not that there was any doubt about his athletic ability. At 193 centimetres tall and weighing 105 kilograms, Ottio had already represented his homeland of Papua New Guinea in volleyball.

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But so quickly has he taken to his latest pursuit that he has now become a dual international after also representing the Kumuls.

The rapid rise was not lost on the Raiders, who have offered the 21-year-old a train-and-trial contract.

Chasing a dream: NRL hopeful Kato Ottio, centre, is hoping to land a contract with the Raiders.
Chasing a dream: NRL hopeful Kato Ottio, centre, is hoping to land a contract with the Raiders. 

It's still early days, but Ottio has impressed sufficiently to put himself in the frame for an appearance at the Auckland Nines.

"My goal is to play first grade, make it to the team and sign a contract for the Raiders," Ottio said.

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"That's my goal and aim, so I'm just working on it. Hopefully God answers my prayers and I can achieve it."

Should he do so, it will be one of the most unlikely progressions to the first-grade ranks. The PNG Hunters spotted him playing volleyball and rugby union sevens and invited him into camp.

This time last year he was on a similar deal to what he finds himself on in Canberra, but the centre-winger-back-rower impressed to the point where he was picked for the national side.

"I started playing rugby last year," he said. "I played volleyball and then I switched," he said.

"I feel my rugby league career is great for me. Playing for your country in any sport, it makes you proud of yourself and your family. Playing for your country and community, where you come from, is special.

"I played volleyball but I understand rugby league, pretty much, so I decided to switch. I came this far and I'm happy."

Now he has the chance to follow in the footsteps of other PNG-born stars Adrian Lam and Neville Costigan by making it to the NRL.

"I'm working hard in my training, making my times," he said. "I'm not here to impress anyone, I'm here to train and see where my efforts can take me. The staff and the boys are great, I am happy to be training with them."

Other Hunters players are also gaining attention from Australian franchises. Cronulla has picked up young half Warren Glare, while the Townsville Blackhawks have signed Willie Minoga, an aggressive forward dubbed the Raging Bull because his similarity to the playing style of Gorden Tallis.

"Kato is young and if he keeps improving, has a big future ahead of him," said Hunters strength and conditioning coach Jason Tassell.

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