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Royce's 'Big Walk' is a winner once again

“As long as Royce keeps asking, I’ll keep coming.”

With those words Westpac NSW Blues head coach Brad Fittler started a trek by foot yesterday from Dubbo to Wambangalang with his Penrith premiership-winning captain Royce Simmons and fellow True Blue Andrew Farrar.

It was Day One of ‘Royce’s Big Walk’ to raise funds for both dementia research and to support local junior Rugby League clubs along the way.

The 12-day walk over 313km, with a variety of former players joining Simmons, finishes in Bathurst on Saturday 29 April for the NRL Panthers v Wests Tigers Round Nine game to decide this year’s winner of the Royce Simmons Cup.

Simmons has been diagnosed with the early stages of the disease, which causes memory loss and cognitive disfunction over time. More than 480,000 people in Australia currently have dementia.

Simmons walked 300km in May last year over 11 days from his home town of Gooloongong to Penrith’s BlueBet Stadium, and raised over $1 million.

“I did 40 kilometres last year but I’ve been wound back to 30 this year, thank god,” Fittler said before leaving Dubbo.

“But you’ve got to think of Royce because his steps are half the size of ours so he’s doing 60Ks beside me!

“Why did I come? Because Royce asked… as long as he keeps asking, I’ll keep coming.”

Fittler said dementia was an illness that touched many lives – not just footballers.

“When you hear it’s the biggest killer in females and the second biggest in males, you realise it affects a lot of people,” he said.

“Royce often talks of the pressure that’s brought on the people around someone with dementia. That’s one thing that is lost on most of us – it’s tough for those going through it, and also for the larger circle around them.”

Fittler said he owed Simmons for pointing out many life lessons.

“For me I came through as a young athlete and he was an older, wouldn’t say unathletic, but he had all the other qualities a footballer needed,” Fittler said.

“Certain times when I was coming through players like Royce would move me into line… things said in games, said in training, and said out of that environment that I still remember today – it’s guided me through.

“They were great times and there was a real care of people coming through the grades.”

Other True Blues like Paul Sironen, Terry Lamb, Garry Jack, Tony Butterfield and Paul Dunn will join Simmons on various stages of the Dubbo-Bathurst walk.

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Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to their elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.