Most footy club group chats are quiet this time of year but that hasn't been the case for the Forbes Magpies this week.
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Magpies players and supporters have been flocking to congratulate own of their own, Pio Seci, after he was named in the Fiji Bati side for this weekend's Pacific Championships Plate Final meeting with Papua New Guinea.
Seci, who played one NRL match for Manly in 2022 before joining the Magpies this year, hadn't made the final 17 for the Fiji side in any previous match this Pacific Championships and Forbes halfback and 2023 captain-coach Nick Greenhalgh said it was a thrill to see him finally get a chance.
"I think everyone involved with the club this year and all the guys that got an opportunity to meet him and play with him this year are really, really proud of what he's achieved," Greenhalgh said.
"We're really excited to see him run out there on Sunday. It's obviously great for him to get an opportunity and it's the final as well so there's no better way to go out there than representing your country in a final."
Back-rower Seci has been named on the bench for a Fiji Bati side that also includes NRL stars like Maika Sivo, Tui Kamikamica and Jahream Bula.
International rugby league is nothing new for the Magpies in recent years.
Former inspirational captain-coach Jake Grace played for Malta in 2017 after qualifying courtesy of his maternal grandfather's heritage.
Elsewhere, just last year Parkes Spacemen prop Tikoko Noke was named part of an extended Fijian squad while virtually every Group 11 and Group 10 club has had the honour of players representing the likes of Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands in years gone by.
"Everyone gets really excited when you find a high-profile player like that," Greenhalgh said of signings of Seci's calibre.
The Magpies are one of many bush footy clubs which have enjoyed success with players from neighbouring countries.
In 2018, Fijian Mosese Qionimacawa scored a double in the Magpies' Group 11 grand final win over Dubbo CYMS, his countrymen Epeli Uluinavacu and Nikola Sovatabua both signed for the club this year and Richard Fui has been travelling back to play for Forbes for a number of years and has helped others like Seci settle in at the club.
On top of that, 2022 outside Alvin Maungaati also played at the Pacific Championships for the Cook Islands.
As special as it is to have players hit the heights of Seci and Maungaati, Greenhalgh said it's about much more than that when they're around the Forbes club and community.
"We don't go out and just sign anyone off the street. Whether they're from somewhere in Australia or Fiji or New Zealand, we put a bit of time in and make sure they're the right sort of guys," Greenhalgh said.
"We make sure they fit in with the culture that the Magpies have and Pio and Richie are great examples of that.
"Obviously someone like Richie, he's pretty much a Forbes person now and we call him a local.
"People like that fit into what we represent and what we're about perfectly and that's why they'll be back in black and white next season."
Given his quality and reputation, Seci's first season at Forbes was slightly disappointing but there were mitigating factors.
He arrived in Australia late and missed pre-season and the opening few rounds, while a number of niggling injuries also impacted his form.
Greenhalgh said he also had "a bit of a stuff going on back in Fiji" but hopes are high the real Seci will be on show in 2024.
"Hopefully next year he can really hit his straps and show us really what he's made of and light the competition up and that's what we sort of expect from him," Greenhalgh said.
"I think there's been the handshake with Richie and they'll be back next season and hopefully he gets through this campaign with Fiji unscathed and has a rest at home and then comes back to town and does a full pre-season and then rips into 2024."
The Magpies will be coached by the halfback's father and former premiership-winning mentor Cameron Greenhalgh in 2024.
Nick Greenhalgh and Mitch Andrews led the side together this year but after the Magpies finished with the wooden spoon in the Group 11 pool the pair chose to not continue in the role.
Former NSW Country representative Andrews has since made the marquee move to Bathurst St Pat's.
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