IT was very sad news when we first heard Panthers footy great Royce Simmons is battling dementia, at just 61 years young.
It was incredibly brave of him to stand up and share a very personal health diagnosis with the nation. I can’t imagine how scary it would be to be told that your future will be living in a world where you will not recognise the people you love the most.
To not know your spouse; your children and grandchildren; or you best mates. These are the people you know you can count on when times are tough, and whilst I know Royce will be surrounded by love and care, how very sad it is for him to be faced with the knowledge that he won’t know it.
But in typical Royce fashion, he’s not sitting around dwelling on it; he has realised how valuable the time is before the disease progresses.
To create awareness and raise money for Dementia Australia, Royce has completed a 300km walk from his home town of Gooloogong to Penrith.
“You have all the stats about people who suffer from dementia or die from it but you’ve got to multiply that by 10 or 20 people who suffer as well alongside them,” Royce said before he embarked on the walk.
“I want to help raise money for research as a mark of respect for the medical people who have worked so hard to find a cure or a successful treatment and all those people who suffer watching a loved one go down the path of losing who they once were.”
Well, he certainly accomplished that goal.
At the completion of the journey as he entered BlueBet Stadium, he’d already raised half a million bucks for Dementia Australia. A donation from the Panthers Board to the tune of $100,000 pushed him up well over $600,000.
“It is probably the most important lap of honour I’ve done,” Royce said as he greeted all the fans waiting to cheer him on at the stadium.
“I’m just trying to do everything I can, and I’ve just got to go back to, it’s not about me. It’s not about me.
“The walk from Gooloogong to here (Penrith) was just amazing, making so much awareness of what a terrible disease this is.”
Asked about how his legs felt after such a long walk, Royce quipped, “well they’re short and fat just like they’ve always been.”
Like everyone else I was shocked to hear of Roycey’s diagnosis, but I’m not surprised that he would recognise that his notoriety would give him an opportunity to raise awareness and funds for what is Australia’s biggest killer. Because that’s the way Royce rolls, pardon the pun. He’s a champion on every level possible; a footy great, a dedicated family man, an ambassador, a great friend and an all-round top bloke.
Roycey, if you’re reading this, we are so proud of everything you’ve achieved on this journey, and your Penrith friends and fans will always be here to support you in everything you do.