Royce Simmons, Panthers and Australian Rugby League legend
The Cowra-born, Gooloogong-raised Royce Simmons, was a tough and durable hooker with a touch of class who is arguably the favourite all-time player of most Penrith Panthers fans.
They loved his humble, larrikin character, his consistency as a player and his undying loyalty to the club he served in more than 400 games – 237 as a player over 12 seasons (1980-91) and 187 as a coach (1994-01) for eight.
‘Simmo’ quickly endeared himself to the Panthers’ faithful with his no-nonsense approach to the game and inspirational performances after he debuted in 1980 after joining the club from Cowra. He went on to become a vital part of their first premiership success in his last season of 1991, the Panthers’ premiership breakthrough with a bunch of tightly-bonded players who were locals or from the nearby bush like Simmons, Greg Alexander, Brad Izzard, Brad Fittler, Col van der Voort, Steve Carter, Mark Geyer and John Cartwright.
Who will ever forget his two determined tries and his celebrations in the ‘91 decider which intercepted the Canberra Raiders target of winning three straight titles. The 19-12 victory brought the Panthers their first top grade premiership in Royce’s last match as a player.
Simmons ended his playing career with 237 games for the Panthers, 10 State of Origin games for New South Wales and 10 Tests for Australia, including all nine Tests played in 1986 – three against the Kiwis and the five on the 1986 Kangaroo tour ( 3 v Great Britain, 2 v France). His selection made him the first Panther to represent the Kangaroos, in the club’s 20th season.
After stints with St Marys (briefly in 1992) then English club Hull (1992-94), Royce returned to Penrith as head coach in 1994 and navigated through the Super League war, his stint ending after the 2001 season. He worked under his former Panthers teammate Tim Sheens at Wests Tigers, combining to win that club’s only NRL premiership in 2005 before heading back to England to take over at St Helens who made the 2011 Super League grand final under his command.
In recent years, Royce has worked for the Panthers in the corporate area and continues to today.