Widnes Vikings player Kato Ottio dies aged 23

Rugby League star Kato Ottio has died at the age of 23 after suffering a “sudden health issue” in training.

Ottio signed for Widnes Vikings in December and had been due to travel to the UK this week for pre-season training.

The Papua New Guinea international was part of the side which lost to England in the 2017 World Cup quarter-finals.

In a statement, Widnes Vikings head coach Denis Betts said: “To receive this tragic news is heartbreaking.

“All of us saw at the World Cup the incredible gifts that Kato had, and his potential to forge a great career in Rugby League.

“Moreover, in all of our interactions with him, we found Kato to be a person of great character, who was excited to be following his dreams.

“On behalf of the coaching team, staff and players at Widnes Vikings, I would like to offer our sincere condolences to Kato’s loved ones.”

England Kallum Watkins (L) is tackled by Kato Ottio of Papua New Guinea

Image: Ottio played against England in the 2017 World Cup

Ottio, who played primarily at centre, earned six caps for Papua New Guinea, scoring two tries at international level.

He signed for Canberra Raiders in February 2016 and played for the club’s feeder team, the Mount Pritchard Mounties.

He was also a former volleyball player, winning gold at the 2013 Pacific Mini Games as a member of Papua New Guinea’s squad.

Widnes Vikings chief executive James Rule said everyone at the club was “devastated” by Ottio’s death.

He added: “Kato was an incredibly talented player, with a bright future ahead of him in Rugby League.

“This news is all the more tragic, because Kato was due to travel to the UK this week to fulfil his dream of playing first-grade Rugby League.

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“Having only learned this morning that Kato had developed a sudden health issue whilst training yesterday, we are in absolute shock to now receive this tragic news.

“Widnes Vikings will of course be looking to celebrate Kato’s life and pay our sincere respects to someone who we believe would have become a hero at our club.”