Jake Grace has been a mainstay of the Forbes Magpies since linking with his junior club in 2015, but the black and whites will have to work out a way to win without their inspiration skipper for the next month.
Grace is on a belated honeymoon with wife Joelene and won’t return to the Magpies line-up until the penultimate round of the Group 11 season, when Forbes travels to Larkin Oval to take on Nyngan on August 5.
Grace missed last week’s 60-14 loss to premiership favourites Dubbo CYMS and that was the first time the club has been without the tireless lock since he sat out a 106-12 victory over Wellington in round nine of the 2016 season.
Since then, he’s played 34 straight games of first grade – and a reserve grade game in Nyngan when the club was short in 2017.
Coach Cameron Greenhalgh wasn’t prepared to use the absence of Grace as an excuse for last week’s heavy defeat at the hands of the Fishies.
But the Magpies do have to work out a way to win without their influential captain while he’s away, and fast.
Forbes plays the Jets in Narromine this week and then hosts second-placed Wellington, a loss in both of those games will spell the end of Forbes’ top three hopes.
“We were after a better result than that,” Greenhalgh said of last week’s 46-point loss to the premiers.
“We’re still missing both our centres, and they’ve been good for us this season, but we put a side together that I thought was capable of matching it with CYMS.
“We’ve had a talk to leadership group and we just weren’t there on Sunday.
“We knew it’d be tough, Jake has led side over the course of the last few years on the field.
“The boys respect him, he’s our main talker and he demands that respect. I’m not sure it was a factor though, we just need to be better.”
Forbes will be without strike centres Jarred Tyack and Richard Fui for Saturday’s clash with the Jets at Narromine too.
Those losses have been somewhat offset by the return of hooking duo Hayden Bolam and Jaiden Burke.
The pair was strong against CYMS and Greenhalgh said starting Bolam, the hooker for Forbes in the club’s 2016 grand final win, and bringing the “electrifying” Burke off from the bench was a crucial combination for the Magpies heading into the back end of the season.
Ethan Gaffney will play lock in place of Grace during the skipper’s time away.
“Ethan can play anywhere on the park, though, so there’s that flexibility there but we’ll push the side around and get it right,” Greenhalgh said.
“There’s pressure for spots at the moment, and the boys know that now especially after last week. A few of them might be a bit nervous.
“I’m sure we’ll go Narromine on Saturday all guns blazing.”