Narooma area resident Tony Casu is about to tackle the epic Kokoda Track in honour of his grandfather who fought the Japanese on the track during World War II.
His grandfather was Roy O’Reilly from the Central West NSW town of Matong, who fought as a Bren gunner with the Australian 9th Division, the legendary “Rats of Tobruk” who held out against the Germans at the Battle El Alamein.
Then the division and his grandfather were brought back to Australia and fought on the Kokoda Track, finally finishing off the war fighting in Borneo.
“Walking in pop’s footsteps is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Mr Casu said. “The 9th Division came into it when the Japanese had come all the way down and could see Port Moresby. They held them and then turned them back.”
His grandfather like most “diggers” did not talk much about the war but did have a few stories about his time on the track and an opinion on the fighting qualities of the enemy soldiers.
“He said the jungle was so thick, you could hear the Japanese talking but not see them,” he said.
Mr Casu, who is general manager of the Narooma Sporting and Services Club, has embarked on an intensive training regime prior to his departure to Papua New Guinea on July 12.
He is going over with a group of six mates, including two of his school friends from Corowa in the southern Riverland where he grew up.
Assisting him or being “dragged along” in the training is his wife Nancy, who happens to be a local fitness instructor.
So far, he has climbed Mount Durras and Pigeon House Mountain, as well as Mount Dromedary, about six times, up and over to the old water works and back again.
He also recently completed the “Corn Trail” along the Buckenbowra River west of Batemans Bay, up and back on the same day, which took about nine hours.
Closer to home, he has been doing regular walks along the power lines between Kianga and Dalmeny, as well as Kianga to the Narooma lookout, while “the stairs at the Narooma Bridge have gotten a bit of a work out as well!”
The local Narooma RSL sub-branch and the Narooma Sporting and Services Club last year sponsored local young person Ben Potter, who walked the Kokoda Track as part of the Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge.
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