Westpac NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler has revealed the spray he received from Penrith Panthers captain Royce Simmons after making his first-grade debut as a prodigiously talented teenager in 1989.
Fittler recalled the incident on Freddy and the Eighth for Wide World of Sports after discussing the on-field dispute between Penrith teammates Jarome Luai and Jaeman Salmon after the Panthers’ Round One loss to Melbourne, and whether he had experienced anything similar during his career.
The NSW coach said he had been selected on the bench by coach Ron Willey for the Round 21 match against Western Suburbs Magpies at Orana Park and after being injected into the game, came up with an innovative piece of play that led to a try to halfback Greg Alexander.
However, the celebrations were quickly cut short after Simmons caught up to him.
“My first game ever I played against Wests; I had a good game, I just found space, stepped through a couple of times,” Fittler said.
“The first time I went through, I chipped over the fullback, ‘Brandy’ (Greg Alexander) scooped it up and scored, that was my first touch.
“Royce Simmons sidles up next to me, because I did it from about the halfway line, and he said, ‘If you ever kick the ball on tackle three again, I’ll knock you out.’
“Because in those days, getting the ball up the other end was hard work, so he just pulled me aside, it was the first time I touched the ball, I’d only been to two training sessions, and he was going to punch me in the face.
“I went, ‘Righto’ and next time I ran through, I passed it.”
The Panthers went on to score a comprehensive 37-0 win over the Magpies that day, and Fittler and Simmons would also go on to forge a strong friendship that was cemented only further when the club won its first premiership in 1991.
The Westpac NSW Blues coach joined Simmons last year for ‘Royce’s Big Walk’ to help raise funds for dementia research and will return to take part again next month. Simmons is planning another 300km trek that will start this time in Dubbo on April 18 and end in Bathurst on April 29.