Canberra Raiders to fly Kato Ottio's mum from PNG for Newcastle Knights game
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Canberra Raiders to fly Kato Ottio's mum from PNG for Newcastle Knights game

The Canberra Raiders will honour Kato Ottio at their first home game of the NRL season. And his mother and siblings will be there.

In a moving gesture to the family of the former Green Machine flyer, the Raiders will fly Ottio's mother Joyce out from Papua New Guinea for their round-two game against the Newcastle Knights at Canberra Stadium next Sunday.

The Canberra Raiders will fly Kato Ottio's mother Joyce out for the home game against Newcastle next weekend.

The Canberra Raiders will fly Kato Ottio's mother Joyce out for the home game against Newcastle next weekend.

Photo: Jeffrey Chan, Fairfax Media

A memorial service will be held after the game, with both the Raiders and Knights players involved, and the Capital Wantoks will preform during and after the match, with Ottio's family also potentially on the field for the service.

The Raiders have helped raise $11,745 through their gofundme page for Ottio to help go towards buying his mother a house in PNG.

They're also looking at setting up a scholarship for PNG rugby league players.

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They'll wear a "cultural jersey" with Ottio's name on it, which will probably be for their round 10 game against the Cronulla Sharks at Canberra Stadium on May 13.

Those jerseys will be auctioned to raise further money for Ottio's memorial fund.

The news comes as a boost ahead of their season opener against the Gold Coast Titans on the Gold Coast on Sunday.

Raiders back-up hooker Craig Garvey and prop Royce Hunt dropped out of the 21-man squad on Saturday, with the pair playing in the Mounties' 22-20 victory over St George Illawarra in the NSW Cup in Wollongong.

The Gold Coast dropped Jai Whitbread and AJ Brimson out of their 21.

Garvey and Siliva Havili are the only fit specialist hookers in the Raiders squad, with Canberra coach Ricky Stuart opting to give Havili the start in the No.9 jersey against the Titans.

Raiders five-eighth Aidan Sezer will shift to dummy half to give Havili a rest, with playmaker Blake Austin on the bench in the utility role.

They're both covering the loss of England international Josh Hodgson, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the World Cup last year.

Hodgson will see the surgeon mid June and if given the all-clear would then be a "week-to-week" proposition to return to playing after that.

"I'd love to give it a round because it'd be great in my own mind just to know when I'm coming back so I have a target to go at," he said on ABC radio.

"But it's such a rough area that it's six months minimum. I have to see the surgeon at six months, which would be probably mid June and if he gives you the nod from then then it's just when you're ready to go.

"From mid June onwards it's going to be a week-to-week basis in terms of how I'm feeling and how the knee's going."

Hodgson backed Havili against the Titans and felt the Tongan international hooker would build into his role with the Green Machine.

The Gold Coast has been a happy hunting ground in recent years, winning three of their last four there.

Canberra are looking to kick their season off with a win as they look to bounce back into the NRL finals after missing the top eight last year.

"I think he'll go really well. He's settled in really well to the club and had a really tough pre-season," Hodgson said.

"He's got really fit in the time he's been here ... his combinations with the halves in particular's been pretty good.

"His decision-making and his skill, I was really impressed with ... it's a role that I think he'll build into. I think the first couple of games he'll do his job and he'll do it well."

NRL ROUND ONE

Sunday: Canberra Raiders v Gold Coast Titans at the Gold Coast, 6.30pm. Live on Fox Sports.

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Raiders squad: 1. Jack Wighton, 2. Nick Cotric, 3. Jarrod Croker (c), 4. Joey Leilua, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Aidan Sezer, 7. Sam Williams, 8. Junior Paulo, 9. Siliva Havili, 10. Shannon Boyd, 11. Josh Papalii, 12. Joe Tapine, 13. Elliott Whitehead. Bench from: 14. Blake Austin, 15. Luke Bateman , 16. Dunamis Lui, 17. Sia Soliola, 18. Charlie Gubb, 19. Brad Abbey.

Titans squad: 1. Michael Gordon, 2. Anthony Don, 3. Dale Copley, 4. Konrad Hurrell, 5. Phillip Sami, 6. Kane Elgey, 7. Ashley Taylor, 8. Jai Arrow, 9. Nathan Peats, 10. Leilani Latu, 11. Kevin Proctor, 12. Ryan James (c), 13. Bryce Cartwright. Bench from: 14. Mitch Rein, 15. Max King, 16. Will Matthews, 17. Morgan Boyle, 18. Joe Greenwood, 20. Tyronne Roberts Davis.

David Polkinghorne covers the Canberra Raiders, local rugby league, Canberra Cavalry, racing and cycling, along with every other sport, for The Canberra Times.

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