It's the news all Forbes Magpies fans have been waiting for.
Jake Grace is back.
The club legend and great of bush footy has confirmed he's "100 per cent in" for the 2024 Peter McDonald Premiership season as the revival under returning coach Cameron Greenhalgh continues.
Grace won grand finals with the Magpies in 2016, 2018 and 2022 but took a year away from the game in 2023. Forbes struggled without him and a number of other departing stars and finished the season with the Group 11 pool's wooden spoon under captain-coaches Nick Greenhalgh and Mitch Andrews.
Already there's excitement around 2024, with the experienced Greenhalgh senior back in charge and Grace just one of a number of new signings already locked in.
"It's pretty exciting," the returning coach said.
"Jake Grace is 100 per cent in. We've been talking a little bit for awhile and he didn't know but then he just came back to me and said he was 100 per cent in and can't wait.
"It's good news."
Returning to the nest
As well as Grace, Forbes has secured the return of former top juniors Jack Hartwig, Tom Phillips and Jack Smith from the Canberra, St George Illawarra and Sydney Roosters systems respectively.
The club is also hopeful 2018 premiership winner Mosese Quionimacawa will be back after spending time with the Silktails in the Ron Massey Cup and Ipswich Jets in the QLD Cup.
Hartwig and Phillips will provide a huge boost to a forward pack which lacked depth for a lot of 2023 while Smith is comfortable at the back or in the halves and earned high praise when he was last in the region playing with Dubbo CYMS in 2021.
Smith could help fill the void left by Andrews, who's move to Bathurst St Pat's is one of the biggest of the off-season.
Despite losing a former NSW Country representative and one of the very best players in the competition, Greenhalgh is confident he's got players who can step up.
The versatile trio of Smith, Quionimacawa and Connor Greenhalgh are all in the mix while Tom Toohey shapes as the front-runner having already put in plenty of work during the off-season.
"Tom's put on a lot of muscle and he's a very big presence at the back," the coach said.
"He's looking a little bit like Mitch, a big body. There's a few options here so I'm not too concerned about filling that role."
Jake Grace effect
As well as Andrews, the Magpies will lose Fijian international Pio Seci, who's returning to Sydney, while they look set to miss out on the signing of 2023 premiership winner Jake Haddrill.
After winning the grand final with Forbes, Haddrill returned home to captain-coach Condobolin in the Woodbridge Cup this year and while there were conversations with Greenhalgh the hard-working forward will be sticking with the Rams.
While Haddrill would have been welcomed, the presence of Grace alone is a huge benefit for the Magpies.
Someone who makes those around him better and is a tireless force in the middle of the field, Grace will provide something the side lacked this year.
"We have got a lot of boys around the 20, 21, 22 years of age and the biggest thing to get them over the line is when you've got someone of Jake Grace's calibre, who never gives anything but 100 per cent," Greenhalgh said.
"A little bit of that experience, a little bit of a settling influence in the middle. Jake controls the middle and commands respect from everyone there.
"It's probably what they lacked a little. He's someone who can steady the ship and keep everyone focused."
Roughly 15 Forbes players are already doing pre-season work on their own while official sessions under Greenhalgh will start in late January.