PAPUA New Guinea Hunters coach Michael Marum’s advice to Kato Ottio, who is on the verge of being signed on for the year by the Canberra Raiders, is simple – keep working hard.
Marum, who is considered one of the best coaches in the Intrust Super Cup, said the path to a National Rugby League contract was before the 21-year-old but that would depend on how hard he worked at training and in learning the game at the professional level.
“He’s got this opportunity with Canberra and now he’ll be playing for them this weekend in the Auckland 9s. He just has to keep working hard and stay disciplined and convince Ricky Stuart (Stuart) that he can play,” Marum said yesterday.
“Kato is a great trainer and follows instructions so I think he’ll develop his game over there.
“It doesn’t end here. He hasn’t made it yet. He has to keep going.”
The former Kumul forward is cautious about hyping players up preferring to take the surer road to success knowing full well that time and hard work is what is required to turn potential into something more.
PNGRFL chief executive officer Bob Cutmore, whose association with the country and rugby league stretches back to the early 1970s, said what Ottio and others needed to realise was that opportunities, especially for PNG players came rarely and needed to be taken firmly with both hands.
If it all works out for the 192cm, 107kg utility, PNG could have only its second home grown player in the NRL.
The first man to achieve such a feat was Marcus Bai in the mid to late 1990s with the Gold Chargers in his first stint and then at the Melbourne Storm where he won a premiership in 1999.
Pre-dating Bai, Kumuls Dairi Kovae (Canterbury Bulldogs), Bal Numapo (Canterbury Bulldogs) and Arnold Krewanty (Newcastle Knights) had brief stints playing for their club’s lower grades in the NSWRFL.
Ottio was used in several positions in his debut last year with the Hunters and is expected to offer Stuart the same value in Auckland off the bench as an impact player.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Ottio’s rise is that up until two years ago he was almost exclusively playing volleyball while dabbling in the odd rugby league match.
Meanwhile, Marum said Saturday’s match against the Penrith Panthers was about putting the previous eight week’s training and preparation to use and entertaining the fans at the National Football Stadium.
“I want the guys to enjoy themselves and play for the fans this Saturday. We’ve been training for the last eight weeks and we want to get on the field and play a game,” the 42-year-old said.
“It’ll be good to see how our new guys go.”
He said the goal was not necessarily winning but giving the squad a run ahead of the season opener on March 6 against the Souths Logan Magpies.
Despite naming the 23-man squad last week for the game Marum would not guarantee that he would use the full complement despite having the unlimited inter-change for the match.
In related news Panthers prop Sam McKendry will not be part of the team flying up on Friday.
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Downer Rugby League 9s World Cup
- PNG Kumuls 0 Australia 26
- PNG Kumuls 18 New Zealand Kiwis 18
- PNG Kumuls 23 USA Tomahawks 10
Pacific Test Results
201 9 - PNG Kumuls 28 Great Britain Lions 10
2019 - Fiji Bati 22 PNG Kumuls 20
2019 - PNG Kumls 6 Samoa 24
2018 - PNG Kumuls 26 Fiji Bati 14
2017 - PNG Kumuls 32 Cook Islands 22
2016 - PNG Kumuls 24 Fiji Bati 22
2015- Fiji Bati 22 PNG Kumuls 22
World Cup Results
Round 1 : PNG Kumuls 50 Wales 6
Round 2: PNG Kumuls 14 Ireland 6
Round 3 PNG Kumuls 64 USA 0
Quarter Finals : PNG Kumuls 6 England 36