Sporting legends and community get behind Royce’s Big Walk and fund-raising events

Royce Simmons NRL Trophy

Some of rugby league’s biggest names, communities from Goolagong to Sydney, and big business have jumped behind the campaign of Penrith Panthers’ favourite all-time player Royce Simmons to support dementia research and rugby league in the bush.

Both will be the recipients of Royce’s Big Walk, a 300km trek the former Panthers skipper and Australian Test hooker, when it gets underway on May 17. Five major fund-raising evenings, a junior coaching clinic, barefoot bowls and ‘meet the people’ event at his hometown of Gooloogong are included in the itinerary.

Several of footy’s biggest names will join ‘Simmo’ on the walk or at fund-raising functions including former Australian captain Brad Fittler, Queensland greats Allan Langer and Gene Miles, former Panthers teammate and four-time premiership coach Tim Sheens, Tigers legends Paul Sironen, Steve Roach and Garry Jack (Simmons’ 1986 Kangaroo tourmates) plus Simmons’ fellow grand final winning heroes Fittler, John Cartwright, Barry Walker, Steve Carter, Joe Vitanza, Paul Smith and Paul Dunn.

Also joining Simmo in his campaign is fellow local-cum-good Andrew Farrar and fellow Bulldogs greats Chris Mortimer and Greg Brentnall, Panthers legend and premiership-winning captain Craig Gower and his teammate Martin Lang, Wests Tigers greats Robbie Farah and Chris Lawrence who Simmons coached while at the Tigers, Bulldogs ‘top dog’ Terry Lamb, Great Britain international prop James Graham and others.

A special partner on the road will be fellow local Kurt Fearnley, the two-time Paralympic gold medal winner who grew up in Carcoar.

Most will take their turns as special guests speakers at a series of functions being held in Canowindra, Cowra, Blayney, Bathurst, Lithgow and Katoomba during Simmons’ 11-day walk. These and other events were the idea of Royce so he could help raised much-needed funds for footy clubs in the area where he played his junior football.

It is a rare opportunity for sports fans in the region to rub shoulders and listen to the history-making memories and anecdotes from so many top names in the sport.

Simmons revealed in January that he was last year told he was suffering from dementia (Alzheimer’s disease) at age 61 and soon after set about organising the walk to raise funds for, and awareness of, dementia. He will channel funds to Dementia Australia to go to much-needed research.

“The support has been unbelievable,” said Simmons. “From people in the street to former teammates and friends from within the game … all over the place.

“When I’m just walking around the place (from Penrith to the foot of the Blue Mountains during daily training walks) people yell out encouragement, which is appreciated.

“At the Panthers’ game at Bathurst (the round 3 clash with Newcastle at Carrington Park), I had to walk around the ground to do an interview and it took me forever because people wanted to chat and ask how they could help and give their support.

“I hope plenty come along to the events we have planned along the route because those funds will go to junior rugby league. A lot of clubs have been doing it tough since COVID hit and, other than the functions being great nights, every dollar raised will go to a good cause.”

Ultra-marathon efforts are not new to Royce Simmons, who walked the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea in 2018 for Panthers On The Prowl and ran five marathons in five days in west Yorkshire in 1992 to raise funds for Hull FC, the club he was coaching at the time. Yet, he says the upcoming trek is his most important, and the cause the most far-reaching.

“Other than it being more personal because of my situation with dementia, it’s the most important because of the impact the disease is having on society, and it’s only going to get worse,” he said.

“Only those who are impacted, or people close to those impacted, really understand the effect dementia has on families. It’s the second biggest killer in Australia and the largest for women.”

The walk will finish at Bluebet Stadium just before kick-off of the Panthers-Cowboys clash on Friday, May 27 when Royce and his family will do a lap of the playing field, to a predicted emotional standing ovation.

The walk and fund-raising schedule is listed here, with details of how to buy tickets.

For more information and background, how to donate and to keep up with event details, go to