Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues mentor Brad Fittler has encountered some courageous men over his time as both a premiership-winning player and Origin-winning coach, but one stands out.
“Royce Simmons was the toughest person I knew,” Fittler told nswrl.com. “Everything he got was from effort.”
Simmons will next month embark on a marathon 11-day walk from his home town of Gooloongong to Penrith’s BlueBet Stadium (17-27 May).
Called ‘Royce’s Big Walk’ the 300km walk will raise funds for research and awareness of dementia – a brain disorder Simmons was diagnosed with late last year. Up to 480,000 people in Australia are living with dementia, which causes memory loss and cognitive disfunction over time.
Simmons, who played alongside Fittler for the Penrith Panthers inaugural premiership in 1991 and also represented Australia in 10 Tests, will be supported on the walk by True Blues and former Kangaroos and Panthers players.
Fittler is the special guest speaker at a Sportsman’s dinner at the Cowra Bowling Club after the 38km trek from Gooloogong to Cowra on 17 May – Day One of the walk.
“It fills me with joy when I see the energy around Royce,” Fittler said.
“It’s a reflection on him and a reflection on the game.”
True Blue and former Test backrower John Cartwright is another premiership-winning teammate of Simmons.
He is walking on Day Four – 30km from Carcoar to Fitzgerald Mount – and didn’t hesitate in signing up for the expedition.
“Royce has been, and always will be, one of my closest friends,” Cartwright told nswrl.com
“We went through a lot together as teammates and even when he became my coach. We also travelled the world together, having tough times as well as the best times.
“All of that culminated in the Panthers first Grand Final win in 1991. Later we became neighbours and business partners. So yes, we are very close.
“Rugby League is such a tough game but playing together in such a tough sport is the reason we form such close bonds.
“The game will now come together to help Royce raise money for this horrible illness. This is why we all love this game so much.”
Cartwright does find it mildly amusing that his friend chose a walk to raise awareness.
“When he was playing and coaching, if any of us ever walked on the field he would have kicked our arse,” Cartwright said.
Click here for more information and details on 'Royce's Big Walk', including how to donate, and how to keep up with event schedule.