The fund-raising activities for Royce’s Big Walk campaign kicked-off last week with more than $100,000 raised by an extraordinarily successful lunch at St Marys Leagues Club.

And the next day Royce Simmons and his wife Liane were special guests of Hawkesbury Race Club where the NSW Jockeys Association donated a cheque for $5000 on Hawkesbury Cup day last Saturday.

The jockeys’ link came via the long-term close relationship between Royce and former jockey Neil Paine who have been mates since their school days at Cowra.

When Paine, now on the Gai Waterhouse-Adrian Bott training team and a welfare officer for the association, mentioned Royce’s campaign to jockeys association president Kerrin McEvoy and CEO Tony Crissafi, they took little convincing to hop aboard.

“Royce was a couple of years above me in school and we have been mates since; he was at my wedding 34 years ago,” recalled Paine, who is also one of the guest speakers at the Lithgow Workers Club sportsman’s dinner on May 24.

“He’s loved his racing for a lot of years and is admired by a lot of people so this was a natural match. The $5000 still wouldn’t make up for all the dud bets Royce has had over the years – none of which came from me of course – but it’s going to a good cause at least.”

An audience of 300 attended the St Marys Leagues Club lunch which featured wonderful insights from Simmons with Newcastle Knights legends Mark Hughes and Danny Buderus, Panthers royalty Greg Alexander and Darryl Brohman, Great Britain all-time great James Graham, who Royce coached at St Helens, and coaching guru Tim Sheens. Master of ceremonies was former Sharks and NSW State of Origin player Alan Wilson.
“It was a fantastic event considering we only had four weeks to promote it and the size and response of the audience showed the standing Royce has in the community and within the footy fraternity as a lot of rugby league clubs were represented,” said St Marys Leagues Club CEO Rod Desborough.

“To fill the room at $2000 a table was wonderful. We’ll go through final figures soon but we’ll raise just over $100,000 for Royce’s fund.”

Simmons admits to have been a little overawed by the support by those who attended and the speakers’ tributes. His premiership-winning teammate Greg Alexander became quote emotional when he spoke of Royce’s dementia diagnosis and the influence his mate had on him early in his Panthers career.

Hughes and Buderus gave an insight to how the public so widely embraced the Mark Hughes Foundation which was launched after Hughes’ brain tumour diagnosis while Brohman and Sheens recapped on their strong relationship with Simmons who packed down between the two props when he moved into first grade way back in 1980. He later spent eight years as Sheens’ assistant coach at Wests Tigers.

Royce’s Big Walk will have it’s official (sold out) launch in the form of a VIP harbour cruise on Sydney Harbour this Saturday, organised by another Simmons’ teammate Lew Zivanovic.

His company Cabe and The Royce at Penrith (where Royce and Liane Simmons live) are major sponsors of Royce’s Big Walk.

More on that to come.