In rugby league, any sport really, there’s only one thing harder than winning a premiership.
And that’s defending one.
The Forbes Magpies now know it too, having lifted the Group 11 trophy following last year’s remarkable 26-22 grand final victory over the previously undefeated Dubbo CYMS only to then battle somewhat during a tough title defence in 2017.
That battle hasn’t been tough every week, last Sunday’s 84-4 thrashing of Westside handing Jake Grace’s outfit some respite, but the coming month of footy will seriously test the Mapgies.
Grace knows it too.
The defending premiers’ begin what is essentially, if the fourth-placed black and whites want to finish in the top three, a run of must-win games against Macquarie in Dubbo on Sunday.
After the trip to Raiders’ territory this weekend, Forbes hosts Nyngan, travels to Cale Oval to play Narromine, then hosts rivals Parkes and Dubbo CYMS in consecutive weeks leading into the post season.
In reality, Forbes can only afford to drop one of those games if the Magpies want to position themselves to make another run at the title come late August.
Grace said, although last year’s run to the premiership was from fourth place on the ladder, this year’s Magpies want a top three berth come semi-final time.
And it all starts with Macquarie – a side Forbes knocked out of the title race in 2016.
“They’re tough at home. It’s a little bit of Magpies-Macquaire, that rivalry, but we’re looking forward to the challenge. We’re pumped up for it,” Grace said.
Macquarie’s an outfit tipped to do well in 2017, but one that’s battled expectation to sit fifth on the ladder.
“I think we’re in the same boat as them … we’ve underachieved. I’ve got no qualms in saying that,” Grace continued.
“For me as the coach, we’re not taking Macquarie lightly. They’ve got the potential to be a really good team.”
Grace said his goal was to “make sure we improve each week” leading into the semi-finals. Kick-off against Macquarie is at 2pm at Caltex Park, Dubbo.