Royce on his last big walk, Kokoda Track in 2018 with Panthers On The Prowl.

Royce on his last big walk, Kokoda Track in 2018 with Panthers On The Prowl.

Penrith Panthers rugby league legend Royce Simmons has been preparing for months by walking for four hours through Penrith and the Blue Mountains just about every morning to have himself ready for his mammoth 300km trek that will start from quiet little Gooloogong tomorrow and end before a potential capacity crowd at Bluebet Stadium on Friday, May 27.

The 62-year-old premiership-winning hooker and former NSW Blues and Kangaroos hero will set off from the country town he left for rugby league’s big time in early 1980. His father George was the local butcher and ‘Simmo’, whose junior career had started at Canowindra, was well known through the district as a young footballer of great promise.

More than four decades later, Royce shocked the league fraternity early this year when he announced he had been diagnosed with dementia. In typical selfless and single-minded drive, he decided to embark on the fund-raising walk with Dementia Australia the recipient of his efforts, with the aim of raising much needed funds for and awareness about the disease.

Royce said today he was overwhelmed by the support from so many people at different levels and is looking forward to the arduous physical challenge that will be made easier by the incredible array of sporting celebrities who will take turns to walk by his side.

Andrew Farrar
Brad Fittler

They include Brad Fittler, the teenage whiz kid who played in the 1990 premiership victory beside Simmons and went on to extraordinary success, and Andrew Farrar, the three times premiership winner with the Bulldogs, a mate since their teens and cousin of Royce’s wife Liane. They will walk out of Gooloogong alongside Royce.

He will be later joined by Paralympic legend Kurt Fearnley and rugby league elite like Wally Lewis, Gene Miles, Allan Langer, Steve Roach, Paul Sironen, Garry Jack, Terry Lamb, James Graham and former Penrith teammates including John Cartwright, Steve Carter, Paul Smith and Paul ‘Nobby’ Clarke.

The campaign was launched with a Sydney Harbour cruise, organised by another former teammate Lou Zivanovic, which netted around $300,000. Already over $80,000 has been received in public donations.

“I’ve been blown away by the support from the person on the street to people within rugby league and business,” said Simmons.

“I first thought I’d do the walk and pick up some donations in a bucket along the way. I’ve honestly been amazed by how it’s grown and I’m so grateful.

“Now it’s up to me to get on the road and live up to my side of it all – get through 300km and finish at the stadium on what’s going to be a pretty big night with two form teams in the Panthers and Cowboys doing battle.”

Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe AM said Royce’s courage and generosity in sharing his story, and his commitment to raising funds, is truly inspiring.

 “We are so grateful to Royce for everything he is doing to raise awareness of dementia and support the work of the Dementia Australia Research Foundation,” Ms McCabe said.

 “The determination, energy and generosity Royce has displayed will make a long-lasting difference to people living with dementia, their families and carers, right across Australia.

 “On behalf of Dementia Australia, I’m wishing you the very best of luck as you Royce as you undertake this incredible walk and thank you again for all you are doing to raise awareness and much-needed funds for such an important cause.”