Ottio Eyes Raiders Debut In 2017
He only moved to Australia last year, but Raiders cult hero Kato Ottio says he is ready to slot into Canberra's star-studded backline should an opportunity present itself.
The 22-year-old Papua New Guinean was a standout in the Intrust Super Premiership last season, scoring 29 tries from just 23 appearances on the right wing to earn a spot in the competition's Team of the Year.
Unfortunately for the Mounties star, his season came to a premature end after he suffered a serious injury to his right knee in the qualifying final, ruling him out of his side's charge to the ISP grand final.
Ottio knows it won't be easy fighting his way into a backline that boasts the likes of Joey Leilua and Jordan Rapana, but is adamant he wants to make his NRL debut in Ricky Stuart's side next year.
But before he can worry about that, Ottio must overcome the knee injury that will see him miss at least the first six weeks of the 2017 Telstra Premiership season.
"I was contesting for the ball and then I landed awkwardly and that's when I did my knee," Ottio told NRL.com at the launch of the Auckland Nines.
"I know after I did it I was frustrated, but it is what it is. It happens in the game and there's nothing we can do about it.
"It’s slowly getting better. I'm just doing my rehab and working hard. Hopefully I'll be back by Round 7 or 8.
"I've set goals all my life, and playing top grade is one of my key goals. I'm working hard every week to try to achieve it."
Having moved to Australia in November, 2015, Ottio's meteoric rise has taken the rugby league world by storm; a feat even more remarkable given his sporting background.
Before he cracked it in rugby league, Ottio was a member of the PNG national volleyball team; a sport far removed from the 13-man code.
The 22-year-old – who started his professional career with the PNG Hunters – grew up like most Papua New Guineans with a love for rugby league.
Despite several obstacles standing in his way, Ottio and his friends still found a way to play the game they cherished so dearly.
"I used to go to the fields and play with the boys back home," he said.
"Back home we didn't have balls so we played with containers. It didn't matter though because we all loved rugby league."
Now that he has established himself as a serious contender for a first grade spot in 2017, Ottio wants to repay his number one fan.
"Playing top grade is my number one goal, but aside from rugby league, my main priority is to build or buy my mum a house," he said.
"My mum is back home with my four siblings. My family – especially my mom – they have been the ones who always motivate me. I always dream about things that I want to achieve in life, and they always try to help me as best they can.
"I just want to make her happy by giving something back to her."
This article first appeared on NRL.com