Ex-Hull FC and St Helens boss Royce Simmons embarks on huge challenge following dementia diagnosis

It’s a terrible sentence to read and hear, but the news emerged from Australia earlier in the year that former Hull FC and St Helens head coach Royce Simmons had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

The 61-year-old, affectionately known as ‘Simmo’ has embarked on an incredible fundraising walk to raise money for the fight against the disease from his hometown of Gooloogong to Penrith which began yesterday, coinciding with the Panthers’ home clash with North Queensland.

The Panthers website started: “For a man whose memory is no longer his best friend, the moment Royce Simmons knew all was not right inside his head remains vivid in his mind.

“‘Simmo’ and wife of 40 years, Leanne, had just arrived at seaside Kiama just south of Wollongong for a weekend away. Royce sat in the passenger seat with his left arm in a sling after a shoulder replacement as Leanne walked to the cabin door with a bottle of wine and a bag of ice.

“Royce said to her, “When did you buy that?”. Leanne looked around, astonished, and replied, “We just stopped at the bottle shop; you sat in the car and watched me do it.”

“Simmons thought his wife was joking but she assured him she was serious.

“With that, the seemingly unconquerable Panthers legend decided he better have his brain checked. Weeks later he was summoned by neurologist Dr Craig Presgrave to discuss the results of a series of scans that had been conducted at his Kingswood clinic.

““The doctor said, ‘You told me you’d had a few concussions over the years; there are a couple of white marks which may have been from the concussions,’ and I’m thinking, ‘That’s good; just a couple of marks from concussions’.

““Then he pointed to another part of the brain and said, ‘Around here, that’s all Alzheimer’s’. It was like someone had knocked me off my feet. The rest of the appointment is just a blur; I was so shocked, even though in the back of my mind I was worried something might show up.

““One of my first questions was, “Well how long before I won’t even know my family.”

“Simmons is obviously aware that some may jump to conclusions and directly link his condition with concussions he suffered during his playing career but he says he has been given no evidence about the specific cause of his dementia.”

Simmons, who led St Helens to the Super League Grand Final, plans to walk almost 300 kilometres from his hometown of Gooloogong to the place in Penrith where his footy dreams were realised, now called BlueBet Stadium.

The walk departed from Gooloogong yesterday and Simmons will cross the finish line ahead of kick-off in the Panthers NRL game against the Cowboys on Friday May 27.

Please donate to Royce’s ‘Big Walk’ here.

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