He set the competition alight in 2016 before breaking down at the most inopportune time – but nine rounds into the 2017 Intrust Super Premiership NSW, it’s a fresh beginning for Kato Ottio.
The PNG flyer crossed the stripe an incredible 29 times for Mounties last season, leading them to an historic minor premiership and undisputed favouritism for the major title. Unfortunately, however, Ottio never got to the 2016 Grand Final, which Mounties lost to Illawarra 21-20; he suffered an ACL injury in the opening week of the finals series.
It was a heartbreaking end to the season for a player who at the time was on course for an NRL debut, putting the 2016 Intrust Super Premiership NSW Centre of the Year back to square one.
“It happens in a game, you know, it is what it is,” Ottio tells NSWRL.com.au. “I just took it on the chin, then went back and had surgery and did all my rehab.
“I had to start all over again, so it’s good to be back again with the boys.”
Ottio’s return came via a 20-16 win over the Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon and while he didn’t score in his first game back, he contributed 189 metres and broke two tackles. It was always going to be a relatively slow start for the 23-year-old, but he is feeling good after his first hit-out.
“Well, to be honest, I was a bit nervous at the start,” Ottio admits. “But it is what it is.
“I’m feeling good, it’s good to be back again and playing on the field with the boys and get a run – and we got a win. All my preparation has went well with my injury and I feel good.”
If Ottio can return to full fitness and recapture the try-scoring prowess which saw him take the competition by storm last year, he seems destined to make the top grade at one point or another. The injury hasn’t dampened the Raiders-contracted player’s hopes of that eventuating.
“It (NRL aspirations) is the same still; I have the same feeling with me now,” Ottio adds. “I’m still working hard and hopefully I get a chance.”
Having represented Papua New Guinea on two occasions previously, the single game back was not enough to see Ottio selected for this Saturday’s Test against the Cook Islands at Campbelltown Sports Stadium. He will, however, take another one week’s break from Rugby League, returning in Round 10 when Mounties travel to Newcastle to take on the Knights on Saturday, 13 March.