Widnes' Wellington Albert offered support after Kato Ottio's death
Last Updated: 09/01/18 2:03pm
Wellington Albert has been offered support ahead of his move to Widnes after the sudden death of former team-mate Kato Ottio.
Albert was due to fly to England with Ottio on Thursday to take up his contract with Widnes but is now set to delay his departure as he comes to terms with the tragic news that rocked the game of rugby league.
Ottio, 23, who was signed by the Vikings after helping Papua New Guinea reach the quarter-finals of the 2017 World Cup, passed away at the Pacific International Hospital in Port Moresby in the early hours of Tuesday morning local time after collapsing due to a "sudden health issue" during an eight-kilometre road run with his former PNG Hunters team-mates.
"He called up and said he wanted to come and train with us," Hunters and Kumuls coach Michael Marum told NRL.com.
"He collapsed and was taken up to the hospital but they couldn't help him. Wellington didn't train but he went to the hospital. All the players were there. It was emotional."
Footage was posted in PNG of Marum and the Hunters players wearing their 2017 Grand Final t-shirts at a gathering outside Ottio's family house, from where his body was taken to a funeral home.
The players were clearly distraught and Marum said many of them would need support, including Albert, who was due to share a house in Widnes with Ottio.
"We will make sure Wellington is in the right mind before he leaves here," said Marum.
"Currently his mind is not right so we are trying to give him assistance. Not only Wellington but the other players as well."
Widnes coach Denis Betts said he was yet to speak to Albert but the club would do whatever was necessary to support the former Penrith Panthers prop.
Club officials had been furnishing the house Ottio and Albert were going to share when they learned of the sudden death of the Kumuls speedster, who played all four of his country's matches at the 2017 World Cup.
"I am still in shock," said Betts. "I spoke to him on Saturday and he was excited about coming to play for us.
"It's hard to believe because we had just got bedding and other things like crockery today for the place where he and Wellington were going to live.
"To get this news is devastating, and our thoughts are with his family."
Ottio made 32 appearances for the Hunters before signing for Canberra in 2016 and scored 29 tries in 23 matches for their feeder club, Mounties.
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart said: "Receiving the devastating news this morning knocked me for six.
"It was hard to believe given the age of Kato and how I remembered him here, I am really lost for words.
"Kato was an important part of our club and very close mate to all our boys and staff."