When Jake Grace went and watched a handful of Forbes Magpies games during the second half of the 2021 Group 11 season he did so at a distance.
"I watched a few of those games towards the back end and I stayed away on purpose," he said.
The former captain-coach was enjoying time away from the game, having last played after the 2018 grand final win, and didn't want to make things about himself.
The presence of the two-time premiership winner on the sidelines would have undoubtedly become a talking point and he would have almost certainly been asked to put the boots back on and help out a young, struggling side trying to find its way.
Forbes won just two games in 2021 - both of those over wooden spooners Narromine - and even before the final round of the regular season was cancelled due to reinstated COVID restrictions the Magpies were out of the Group 11 finals race.
For a club that had reemerged as a force and won titles in 2016 and 2018 it was hugely disappointing.
The lowlight came on Sunday afternoon at Apex Oval, where the mercy rule came into effect when the Magpies were thumped 66-6 by Dubbo CYMS.
Despite results like that and a lack of success, Grace wasn't celebrating his decision to step back from the game. If anything, it brought the itch back.
"It lured me in," he said.
"That bunch of boys, I wanted to be around them and give everything I could give. It's just awesome to achieve what we have."
What the Magpies did achieve in 2022 was a third title win in seven years.
Now the dust has settled on the 2022 season and Forbes' commitments are over after being knocked out of the Presidents Cup, it's time to take a look back at what the Magpies achieved.
Forbes went from the game's mercy rule to its major prize and while it's easy to say the return of the inspirational Grace made that happen, it's only one factor.
A major piece of the puzzle fell into place early, as coach Cameron Greenhalgh turned his back on a planned retirement and recommitted for 2022.
As someone who expects only the highest standard, 2021 was hugely frustrating for the Western Rams coach and this year was about putting things right.
Getting Grace and fellow veteran Brad McMillan to lace the boots up again was the next big win for the club.
They added much-needed steel and know-how to the squad but there was something else they provided that wasn't quite as tangible.
"There was the older heads who gave the young fellas belief," coach Greenhalgh said.
Those "young fellas" - the likes of Zeke Hartwig, Coopa Martin, Jordan Hartwig and Connor Greenhalgh - were also feeling more comfortable around the first grade squad when pre-season arrived after serving a tough apprenticeship in 2021.
"Belief is a big thing in footy. You could just tell amongst the players they're going to be up to the challenge," Greenhalgh said, looking back at the start of the year.
"As the season progressed you could just see they really wanted it and that was the difference."
It was clear to see early on the Magpies were a vastly different beast in 2022.
After a round one bye, the black and whites defeated top Group 10 contender Mudgee before crushing a rebuilding Wellington and then a Mitch Andrews hat-trick led them to a narrow two-point win over Macquarie.
There were some mid-season jitters and during one seven week stretch the Magpies suffered three losses - two of those to CYMS and one to fierce rivals Parkes - as well as a shock draw with Nyngan and just two wins.
A 56-point win over Cowra helped get back some confidence but a loss to Macquarie the next week threatened to derail the season.
The result hurt Forbes' hopes of a top two finish in the Group 11 pool, but injuries and discipline issues were even more painful.
Grace suffered a broken hand in the first tackle of the match but still produced a brave 80-minute performance, while star fullback Mitch Andrews noticeably struggled with a back injury.
Winger Apolosi Tanoa was involved in a number of heated moments and was handed a lengthy suspension following the match while another major injury suffered that day slipped under the radar.
Prop Jake Haddrill suffered a fractured jaw in the defeat and very few outside the Forbes club knew about that injury until after the grand final win.
"I had a couple of phone calls with a doctor and they said don't play, obviously," Haddrill said as he celebrated the premiership win.
"But I kept it quiet and I didn't want other teams finding out. My bite's been a bit off but ... I didn't want to sit on the sidelines come finals time. I wasn't doing that, no way.
"You've got to grow that extra leg and put the pain behind you when you get these big games. They only come along so often."
Halfback Nick Greenhalgh was also battling a hand issue for much of the back-end of the season but, much like Grace, shrugged it off and went on to play a key role in the clinical grand final win over CYMS.
"I think if you went through every player in this team everyone has some sort of injury," Grace added.
"The big thing is no one took a backward step. Whether it's a broken jaw or whatever it was, everyone kept turning up and wanting to be a part of it. No one wanted to miss out and I think that's why we're such a tight group. No one wanted to be on the sideline.
"It's not just 17 players who played that game, we're a team of boys who want to rip in. We're a community, we're a town, and we came over here again and got the job done."
It's easy to say every successful sporting side relies on mateship and unity but there's something special about the Forbes Magpies.
While places like Dubbo are divided and fans barrack for CYMS or Macquarie, the Magpies are a one-team town who always have the entire community around them.
Rugby league is almost engrained into the fabric in Forbes, and the sport is almost the first thing you think of when Red Bend Catholic College is mentioned.
Kids are brought up with rugby league around them and it sticks with them as they become adults.
There's a togetherness and passion for it and it spreads across the community and it only gets stronger at finals time.
"Our supporters were sensational," Grace said after the grand final.
"You would have heard when we came back after every try they were just lifting us and bringing us home and that's what it's all about.
"The Forbes community is all about our sport and the people in the town. We get behind each other and we generally do pretty well."
That sense of camaraderie is something Greenhalgh has been able to harness when motivating his team as well.
The word belief is mentioned over and over throughout the season and as the feeling grows in the community, it grows within the playing group.
"Footy is a strange sort of thing," Greenhalgh said.
"You've got to have the talent and all that but to feel up each week, especially at the end of the year, is a good thing.
I think that's where the word belief comes from, you know everyone around you is going to do their job as well. Everyone knew what they had to do rather than having to be the one player who has to win the game.
"We had 17 or 18 players who thought they could win the game and that's a big thing."
That feeling allowed the Magpies to play their best footy when it mattered.
Just like in 2016 and 2018 they made the trip across to Dubbo and knocked over a more-fancied CYMS side which had won the minor premiership.
In both of those seasons CYMS was unbeaten during the regular season while this year the Fishies only lost once, and that was back in the first round of the year.
But unlike 2016 and 2018, the 2022 grand final finished in a convincing win for Forbes.
This year Forbes outmuscled CYMS from the first minute to the last and controlled the bulk of the contest.
Andrews - who went on to be named Scott Weir medallist as man of the match in the grand final - was a more complete player compared to the teenager in 2016 and he said the feeling in the team was different, as well.
"This one, I didn't think we were as big as underdogs as then (2016)," he said.
"But we turned up and turned it into a dogfight and we didn't just win it in the last three minutes, we dominated from the get-go and took the game to CYMS and normally it's the own other way.
"It was only last year these boys put the mercy rule on us but this year, a bit of depth and a bit of belief and you never know what can happen."
The win marked something of an end of an era as Grace has already announced he'll retire while McMillan could follow and Haddrill is likely to return home and play in Condobolin next year.
But with Greenhalghs, Andrews and more young players coming though, as well as that mighty Magpies spirit behind them, who's to say they won't be there again next year?