James Rule, the Chief Executive of Widnes Vikings in a statement spoke about the loss of Kato and expressed the clubs condolences.
“On behalf of Widnes Vikings, the club that was proud to be welcoming him into its family, I would like to take this opportunity to reach out to our friends In Papua New Guinea, who we are united with in grief.
“Widnes Vikings have long recognised the incredible playing talent within Papua New Guinea. Our belief in the players of your nation was affirmed by the incredible performance by the Kumuls at the Rugby League World Cup.
“The strength and dynamism of PNG’s players, and the incredible backing of their supporters, was inspiring and everything that our game should be about”, the statement read.
Rule stated that the club believed that the best of PNG’s talent could be seen in Kato who he described as a young, strong and fearless player, who had limitless potential.
“He was someone who we believed could make a real difference to our team and become a star in the Super League. It was truly an exciting moment when we were able to secure his services for this season”.
“In all of our interactions with Kato, as we planned his move to our country, we found him to be a bright, excited and passionate young man. He spoke of his gratitude that Widnes Vikings had signed him, but we too also felt that same sense of appreciation, because he chose our club when he had many other options. We felt sure that he would enrich our playing group and go on to become a hero with our supporters”.
After announcing the signing of both Kato and his teammate Wellington Albert, Rule said the club was honoured to be inundated with thousands of messages from people in Papua New Guinea, telling them that they had adopted the club as their team.
“It has meant so much for us to gain the support of your great nation, a relationship that we hope will flourish in the years to come”.
Sadly, in the week that Kato was due to fly to the United Kingdom, we received the devastating news of his passing.
“None of us could have expected to receive this news and we are still coming to terms with this tragedy.
“In such sad times, it is inspiring to see the genuine kindness of so many people, the club has been been inundated by thousands of messages from people across the world, who have reached out to share their heartfelt condolences.
“The phenomenal response has matched the overwhelming tragedy of a young man, on the verge of living his dream, being taken away from us all too soon”.
Rule said that whilst Kato was yet to put on their famous shirt, he was, and will forever be, a Viking.
“As a club, we have committed to keeping his memory alive and to making a difference to his loved ones. Together, with our supporters, we are working hard to raise money to support his family at this difficult time”.
On Friday, Widnes Vikings will begin their pre-season fixtures with a minute’s silence, where supporters, players and staff will come together to remember Kato. This will be the first of a series of tributes that they will be paying to their fallen teammate.
“Widnes Vikings is a great club, with a proud heritage, and he will have a permanent place in our history”.
As for Wellington Albert, Rule assures that the club will be offering him the same warmth of welcome in their town as the people of PNG have offered them.
“Our players, supporters and coaching team are all looking forward to inviting him into our Vikings family, and will be doing everything possible to help him settle in our community. Widnes is a small, friendly and close town, and it will become a great home to him” he further assured.
“Widnes and Port Moresby are 9000 miles apart, but together at this time. Whilst we are separated by oceans, we are also united - not only in our sense of sadness but also in the future that we hope to share together.
“Kato’s memory will live on and our communities will forever be linked”.