A local resident has helped create a new documentary following seven western Sydney teenagers as they trek the infamous Kokoda Trail with stars from the Panthers NRL team.
Krystyna Pollard, formerly of the Blue Mountains Gazette and now working as a producer with Television Sydney (TVS), recently trekked the Trail while working on Kokoda: In the Footsteps of the Brave, which will premiere on TVS, digital channel 44, on February 22.
Narrated by Panthers legend Phil Gould, the hour-long documentary follows the teenage boys from the Penrith area as they trek alongside Panthers coach Ivan Cleary, prop Tim Grant and new signing Jamie Soward.
The group completed what is normally a 10-day trek in just six days, sometimes trekking for up to 16 hours a day through the humid, mountainous jungle to get to camp.
“This was definitely the most physically and mentally challenging assignment I have ever completed,” said Ms Pollard.
“Trekking 128 kilometres through the jungle terrain in such a short space of time was difficult, and the fact you are working makes it even harder.
“But I had a very capable and experienced crew with me, so capturing the tears and triumphs along the way was made much easier.”
Led by Vietnam Veteran and NSW Upper House MP Charlie Lynn, the trek was the brainchild of former Panthers forward Brad Waugh.
Waugh now heads up Panthers on the Prowl, the community arm of the Panthers Group.
“The seven boys were chosen from local schools following a competitive application process,” Waugh explained.
“The boys were from a range of different backgrounds, had very different personalities and varying interests.
“There were not only seasoned athletes and school captains, but those who had really started to turn their school lives around after a rough start.
“The boys learned many things along the way, but mostly how to cope with a range of difficult situations and how to help others as a team,” Waugh explained.
But the trek was not without its drama; the documentary shows the highs and lows of a week spent coping in trying conditions, trudging through mud, and one trekker being evacuated after becoming gravely ill.
“From listening to the porters perform a ‘sing-sing’ to just hearing about what our diggers went through in WWII, it was an amazing experience,” said Ms Pollard.
“The boys who came along really did themselves proud, and I am pleased to have been a part of creating thisdocumentary.”
TVS CEO Rachel Bentley said the station broadcasts from the University of Western Sydney Werrington Campus, and was very pleased to be associated with the local initiative.
“Supporting the community is what underpins our work here at TVS and we were very pleased to be approached by Panthers Group to make this documentary,” she said.
“We are pleased to continue providing thoughtful local content across the Greater Western Sydney area.”
An exclusive red carpet premiere of Kokoda: In the Footsteps of the Brave will be held on February 9. For more information, contact Panthers on the Prowl on 4725 6420.
Kokoda: In the Footsteps of the Brave will screen on TVS, free to air channel 44, on Saturday, February 22 at 6.30pm.
It will be repeated at midnight and midday on February 24, and 5pm on February 27.