Hindmarsh recalls Kokoda track journey
After walking the Kokoda track in Papua New Guinea, former Parramatta hard man Nathan Hindmarsh isn't so sure he would have volunteered for the campaign if he'd been a soldier in 1942.
Hindmarsh, his comedy sidekick Bryan Fletcher – both former Australian Test players – and other Fox Sports personalities 'The Professor' and Jessica Yates, walked the 96km track over the mountains of the Owen Stanley Range last year to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign.
The toughness of the terrain and the weather conditions made him reflect on whether he would have been able to commit to the task.
"I asked myself if I would have done it if I were in their shoes as an 18-year-old, and I can't see myself putting my hand up if I was in that position," Hindmarsh told Big League magazine.
"It was a different time, and I don't think I would have even let my kids enlist if I was a parent back then.
"The journey itself was more physically taxing than I could have ever imagined. Most treks last 10 days, but due to logistics, we did it in five-and-a-half.
"It hits you from the get-go and it only gets tougher from there."
Hindmarsh says the beauty of the PNG highlands - with its friendly villages - hide the fact this is no stroll in the park.
"Once you get out of the jungle canopy, the burning heat is relentless and it sits on you the whole time," Hindmarsh said.
"When you're carrying 20kgs on your back with the sun beating down on you, it's tough.
"The rain made it muddy in some sections, but I didn't mind when we had a heavy storm because it washed all the mud away and left bare rock and tree roots which made it easier to climb.
"I didn't learn too much about myself, but I can now start to appreciate what the Anzacs went through.
"Our conditions were nothing like what they went through. They endured torturous walks, brutal storms and heat, had nothing to eat and couldn't stop for a rest.
"We could take our shoes off at the end of the day and eat a muesli bar and drink water whenever we wanted to. We got to sleep at night."
Hindmarsh and Fletcher made a pact to try and replicate the Diggers experience by carrying the heavy packs, living on dried beef and biscuits for rations.
"But that wasn't possible," Hindmarsh said. "Water was very important and it had to be treated with water cleansing tablets.
"If you were low on water, it would take several hours to get the tablets to work and you couldn't go far without hydration. That was a luxury the Anzacs were never afforded."
Despite all the hardships, Hindmarsh will come back – but take longer to complete it next time.
"I'll definitely take my own boys and do it again over 10 days so we can enjoy the experience a little bit more," he said.
"I'm proud to say that rugby league does its part to honour our heroes, and I urge anyone who can to do the trek.
"It was a bucket list moment of mine, and I'm glad that we could tell a story that hopefully helps people learn about such an important part of our nation's history."