It may be Nash Forgione's first year with the Dubbo Rhinos but it didn't take him long to become one of the club's most important players.
The versatile inside back moved from Geurie to the Rhinos prior to this season and made an immediate impact.
It is Forgione's relationship with coach Doug Sandry which initially drew him to the club and it is a decision he is glad to have made.
"Doug approached me at the end of last year when I was playing with Geurie and asked me to come across," he said.
"I was nearly going to stay with Geurie this year but he finally convinced me and it's been good.
"I really love the club, they've welcomed me with open arms and I feel really welcome there.
"The boys made me feel like I was part of the club straight away."
Sandry and Forgione have a history of working together throughout the Central West junior programs and the latter feels he owns his coach a lot.
"Doug coached me for nearly five or six years in the rep stuff when I was younger," he said.
"Basically he turned me from a forward into an inside centre or five-eighth.
"I owe him a lot for my footy and I thought I could repay him by trying to get the Rhinos a premiership in the next three or four years."
After back-to-back seasons failing to win a game and finishing with the New Holland Agriculture Cup, the Rhinos are back in the finals this weekend.
"To be honest, I always knew about the Rhinos but I didn't know about their history," Forgione said.
"They didn't win a game for a few years and when I got to the pre-season the boys told me about the situation.
"I was kind of nervous going into the season because I am a competitive footballer and no one likes getting smashed for the whole year.
"I kind of see myself as a leader and I got the boys to believe themselves firstly because then the results will come which they have been."
The Rhinos will travel to Mudgee on Sunday to take on the Wombats in a doe-or-die minor semi-final. The winner advances to face the loser of Saturday's major semi between Parkes and CSU.
All Central West Rugby Union competitions were suspended last weekend due to COVID lockdowns in the region and Forgione feels the week off was a good thing.
"Dougy rang me last week about what we should do about the Parkes game and we weren't really going to get a result out of it because we were always going to stay fourth," he said.
"I thought if we had the week off, we could rest up and hook into training.
"We could come into this weekend with a better attitude and hopefully get the win."
The last time the Rhinos and Wombats met the Dubbo side won at home, but Mudgee will be inspired on Sunday as it will be their last game at Jubilee Oval.
Forgione feels the Rhinos need to start fast against the Wombats to avoid playing catch-up footy.
"I think our biggest problem this year is that we are starting slow," he said.
"The first 10 to 15 minutes the opposition team get a good two to three tries against us and we are always chasing our tail.
"If we can control their loose players and forward pack I think we can unleash our backline."
Second grade will also play in the minor semi-final against CSU Bathurst for a chance to continue their season.
Kick-off is 3.15pm, Sunday.
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