Rugby League

NRL: Canberra Raiders cast eye over PNG Hunters forward Kato Ottio in training deal

The Canberra Raiders are casting their eye over a PNG international who has only been playing rugby league for the past 12 months with the potential of handing him a second-tier contract next season.

Kato Ottio arrived in Canberra on Monday to begin a training deal with the Raiders during the pre-season.

The 21-year-old can play on the wing, in the centres or in the second-row and has impressed coaching staff with his natural athleticism.

Ottio, who is 1.92 metres and tips the scales at 106 kilograms, represented his country in volleyball before being spotted at a rugby union sevens tournament last year.

He trialled with the PNG Hunters and played 19 games in the Queensland Cup this year, catching the attention of Raiders recruitment manager Peter Mulholland.

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"Peter Mulholland brought him in for some training and he's got some skill in him," Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said. "He's a little bit of project and it's a good opportunity for him.

"All his physical statistics show he's a great athlete."

Stuart said Ottio had a "really good opportunity" to secure a second-tier contract with the club, but they wouldn't be putting any pressure on him.

"We're not getting any real great goals for him as yet, we'll let him find his feet," Stuart said.

"The physical side of it is quite a shock to him, but he's handling it very well.

"If we can turn him into a footballer, more the better."

The Raiders could give Ottio his chance in the Auckland Nines tournament in February before their two pre-season trial games.

An NRL contract would cap a massive rise for a player who was only given a train and trial deal with the Hunters this time last year.

PNG Rugby League interim chief executive Shane Morris said Ottio had improved in leaps and bounds since he was spotted at the end of last year.

"We saw him play volleyball and in a game of rugby union sevens, so asked him to come into our camp," Morris said.

"From there, he impressed with the ability to play wing, centre or second row.

"We've done a fair bit of work on him with his ball skills and his running technique.

"Hopefully he grabs this opportunity with both hands and it leads to bigger and better things.

"It's a credit to Kato the athlete he is and he would be a great asset to the Canberra Raiders."

Ottio is one of the first players spotted by Mulholland since he joined the Raiders at the end of October.

Mulholland has previously worked in recruitment at Penrith, Canterbury, Newcastle and the St George Illawarra Dragons.

He replaced David Hamilton, who has joined the Gold Coast Titans.

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