Jake Grace has heard the whispers.
It’s been growing louder week-by-week among Forbes Magpies fans and many other in the Group 11 community.
The Magpies captain gives a small laugh and a nod when the words ‘it feels like 2016’ are mentioned.
Two years ago Grace led the Magpies on a stunning run to a drought-breaking title, finding form late in the year and winning a number of sudden death games on the way to a grand final victory over a previously-unbeaten Dubbo CYMS.
There may still be plenty of work to do this year to repeat that feat, but the Magpies made another statement on Saturday when trouncing fierce rivals Parkes in the minor semi-final, winning 42-16.
“We’re confident,” Grace said.
“The group of boys I’ve got has got plenty of self-belief and we’re playing our best footy.
“In saying that, we’re not worrying about the grand final or anything like that too much … I’ve said it before but every week is elimination and we’re just trying to put our best foot forward.”
67 | TRY! Forbes in again and they let loose! Biggest celebration so far today. Through plenty of hands and after threatening all day it’s Charlie Staines who gets his try. Lamb converts, 28-16 with 13 to go. Huge try, that one. #Group11pic.twitter.com/aqnxDRTr9Y— Nick Guthrie (@Nj_Guthrie) August 25, 2018
A huge band of Magpies fans made the short trip to Parkes’ Pioneer Oval on Saturday and while they were in full voice for most of the day, there wasn’t a whole lot to cheer about early.
Parkes, battling a number of injuries and seeking to stay alive in a season which began with five wins in the opening six rounds, began brilliantly.
The defensive effort was immense in the opening 20 minutes, the Magpies dominated possession but couldn’t make it count while running against a strong wind.
The Magpies forced a dropout on 22 minutes but Parkes managed to find touch, and from there they worked the ball downfield and opened the scoring through Jake Porter.
Three minutes later it was 12-0 as a shift to the left resulted in a try to winger Paul Kronenberg.
However, due to the sheer amount of defence they were forced to do early on, the Spacemen showed signs of tiring late in the half and the Magpies didn’t need any other invitation.
Teenage halfback Farren Lamb started to grow into the game but it was hard-running prop Ben Maguire who got his side’s first points, running straight and hard through a gap close to the line.
Right before the break, a Lamb grubber was fumbled by Parkes and the livewire number seven was alert enough to follow the ball through and plant it down.
His conversion made the scores level at the break and had the Magpies faithful in full voice, even outdoing the hometown crowd in terms of noise at times.
HT | TRY! Forbes again right on the bell! Magpies have come roaring back here! Lamb kicks, it’s fumbled by Parkes and Lamb is there to plant it down. He salutes to the Forbes fans, they’re in full voice. 12-all at the break. It’s something special when these two play. #Group11— Nick Guthrie (@Nj_Guthrie) August 25, 2018
While the first half was a physical slog and one in which momentum swung back and forth, the bulk of the second half was vastly different.
After a tight first 10 minutes, the Magpies burst into life when a shift to the left on the final tackle saw Ethan Gaffney score and the centre had a second just two minutes later following an ever faster and more slick spread saw him cross in the corner.
The Magpies gave the Spacemen a sniff when giving away a string of penalties and the home side capitalised, scoring through Porter to cut the lead to 24-16, but the final 15 minutes was one-way traffic.
Three converted tries late on was proof this Magpies side can do what many others have struggled to achieve this season, playing consistently for the full 80 minutes.
When the full-time whistle sounded the men in black and white went to celebrate with their overjoyed band of fans.
“That was perfect,” Grace said of climbing the fans and being with the fans.
“That’s what you play for and why you love it. To have a crowd behind you, it was Forbes versus Parkes today and our crowder was louder than their for most of it, which spurred our boys on.”
Parkes captain-coach Alex Prout lamented the fact so many of his players were either out injured or carrying niggles – forward Jay Slavin as ruled out after an injury at training during the week – but admitted Forbes was totally worthy of the win.
“It’s definitely disappointing … we’re down on a few troops but we knew we would have our backs against the wall and we did really well in that first half with our defence but we probably gassed ourselves and they had the wind the second half,” he said, the loss bringing an end to his first season at the helm.
“The score doesn’t reflect the game … I couldn’t ask for more effort from the boys.
“I really love the coaching side of things and don’t get me wrong, it is very frustrating, but that’s the job and you’ve got to deal with it. If the club is happy then I’m keen to go around again and I think we’ve built a good stepping stone for the years to come.”
- FORBES MAGPIES 42 (Ethan Gaffney 2, Ben Maguire, Farren Lamb, Charlie Staines, Aaron Mawhinney, Jake Haddrill tries; Lamb 7 goals) defeated PARKES SPACEMEN 16 (Jake Porter 2, Paul Kronenberg tries; Chad Porter 2 goals)