Trekking the Kokoda Track for up to 16 hours a day not only provided Penrith prop Tim Grant with a deeper appreciation for the Diggers who helped halt the Japanese invasions of World War II, but it allowed him and new teammate Jamie Soward to form a bond that promises to give the Panthers an extra edge.
Grant, Soward and their coach, Ivan Cleary, accompanied seven teenagers from the western suburbs on a trip intended to honour the feats of those soldiers who, in 1942, made a stand in one of the most inhospitable places on Earth.
The trio feature in the soon-to-be-released documentary Kokoda: In the Footsteps of the Brave, which is narrated by Penrith executive general manager Phil Gould and details the numerous challenges the group - drawn from Panthers on the Prowl, the community arm of the NRL club - faced as they completed what was normally a 10-day expedition in six.
Grant said the challenges helped him to forge a friendship with Soward, the former St George Illawarra pivot, because he displayed all the qualities of a ''good bloke'' even in the most trying of Papua New Guinea's conditions.
''He's a good bloke, nothing was too hard for him at all,'' said Grant of his new mate's approach. ''He's a real competitor and brings to us direction and leadership; things we need. He's the man for the job - along with Peter Wallace who has really stepped up at training. We had a number of good chats on Kokoda and found we have a lot in common.''
Grant learnt Soward boasted a huge supporter base in a remote village when he was urged by the locals to take a few kicks at goal in his muddied hiking boots.
''Jamie had a couple of shots,'' Grant said. ''They all wanted to know how he lined up the ball so he put on a show for the village and they loved it.''
Grant will open his season on Saturday when he packs down against Wests Tigers in a trial match at Camden.