AT THE END OF THE DAY | Forbes versus Parkes, the respectful rivalry

BIG OCCASION: Forbes and Parkes teams line-up to pay a minute's silence, while, inset, Forbes' under 18s, the Magpies first grade boys and Sally Dwyer and the Spacecats all enjoyed wins.
BIG OCCASION: Forbes and Parkes teams line-up to pay a minute's silence, while, inset, Forbes' under 18s, the Magpies first grade boys and Sally Dwyer and the Spacecats all enjoyed wins.

Look around, there’s not a patch of lawn in sight among the sea of blankets, or at the very least the groups of people draped under them.

It’s not that cold, though. Not by a long shot.

Still, cars, filled with people, line the top of the hill while those brave enough to battle the picture-perfect conditions line up at the canteen, 15-deep too – everyone’s heard about the Spacie Burger, no doubt.

It’s derby day at Pioneer Oval and the crowds have rolled in to watch another edition of the Queens’ Birthday long weekend clash between old rivals Forbes and Parkes.

Two towns, separated by a touch more than 30 kilometres but joined by the footy.

A love for it and, in this case, a mutual decision to loathe each other, for the duration of 80 minutes anyway. 

It’s fierce, it’s fast and, more to the point, it’s respectful. It’s one of the best rivalries going.

Rivalries are what drive sport, it’s why we care so much about our teams. Why we travel so far to watch them. Why we live and breathe every play.

You only have to look at State of Origin to see that, and while Forbes versus Parkes is obviously on a much much smaller scale, it’s just as tense.

If you’re a Spacemen, or a Magpie, it means just as much. In some cases it means more.

It’s why the Forbes girls gave it to Sally Dwyer all game, an old Magpie now back at home –  “she won’t pass”, they said each time Dwyer got the ball.

She did, though. And she then passed again, all the while scoring two tries, as well, to help the Spacecats continue their unbeaten run.

ON THE BURST: Parkes' Sally Dwyer. Photo: NICK McGRATH

ON THE BURST: Parkes' Sally Dwyer. Photo: NICK McGRATH

Play big – that was the message from Magpies coach Jason Kennedy to his under 18s troops ahead of a clash he says the boys in black and white have had circled on the calendar for months.

Play big, they did, storming to a 32-14 victory over a Spacies side many deemed untouchable in this year’s Group 11 under 18s title race.

Last week in Dubbo, Parkes battled to get a reserve grade team – one player was even prepared to make the 2700km round trip from Queensland just to help make up the numbers.

He didn’t have to, though, was told to stay up north.

But he made it for the game against the swoopers. Wouldn’t have missed it for the world, and neither would 20 of his mates.

One week the bare 13, the next an eight-man bench. If there’s a harder job in bush footy than coaching a reggies squad, than I haven’t seen one.

A stink, a few send offs and plenty of drop ball later – how good’s reserve grade? – and the Spacies get the job done, sneaking home in a thriller. 

And the top grade … want to know how much it means to them?

Forbes had its 2017 season ended by the Spacies in last year’s minor semi-final, at Spooner Oval. 

Ask a Magpie, any Magpie, a result like that just doesn’t go away.

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But that game marked the end of Forbes’ premiership defence. One the club waited 28 years to live, to breathe.

So a loss like that, it drives you. Pushes you through that tough off-season and, come game day, that pain, that hurt, that embarrassment, it’s all still with you.

Then, you use it.

Ask Mitch Burke. He was electric, which mightn’t come as a shock to some but considering the slow start to the season the Magpies have had, the fact it took a Spacies game for the Forbes boys to hit top gear says plenty about what last year’s exit at the hands of their arch rivals meant to them.

The young five-eighth scored a try, and should have laid on two more before eventually finding Staines for a four-pointer in the second half.

Burke admitted Forbes’ slow start had weighed on them, but the shackles are well and truly off now.

Ben Robinson was immense, Jake Grace tireless and Ben Maguire probing, while also coming up big in the clutch with an important tackle on a flying Nelly Daplen.

GET AROUND HIM: The Magpies swoop on Ben Maguire after he pulled off an important tackle in Sunday's derby. Photo: NICK McGRATH

GET AROUND HIM: The Magpies swoop on Ben Maguire after he pulled off an important tackle in Sunday's derby. Photo: NICK McGRATH

There’s some animosity there, too. Naturally.

The Spacies’ goal-post cam felt the brunt of that, though, after being ripped off its post and tossed into the fence by a Magpie. We won’t name names though, let’s just call him E Gaffney. No, wait, that might be too obvious. Let’s run with Ethan G.

Lucky the Spacemen’s digi dude used the camera’s protective case this week – must have had a hunch. It was derby weekend, after all.

And Parkes, well, the hosts played gallantly with 12 men for the best part of 50 minutes. They played wounded. They played tough.

A team that, a week earlier, conceded seven tries in a 56-42 victory was all of a sudden wall-like in defence, despite being a man down.

It wasn’t enough, but it might be next time. The hurt was there post game. No doubt Parkes will use it. And so the rivalry continues.

I’ve been involved with and covered a lot of rivalries in sport in this area.

The St Pat’s and Panthers one in Group 10 is as tough as they come, as is CYMS and Hawks up the highway.

Emus and City in the rugby, just as great to watch, while, back a few years now, there was no love lost between Bloomfield and Bathurst Souths in the hockey. 

But Forbes and Parkes, especially in the league, is a rivalry to behold. There’s so much pride; in the jersey, in the players, in the fans, but more so in their towns.

It’s impossible not to get swept up in.

But among it all, both clubs united pre-game to honour a legend of Western Division, Fred King, who passed away before Christmas.

Both teams, a few thousand of their closest friends and you could hear a pin drop.

Rivalries mean a lot in sport. They mean a lot to towns. This one’s a corker.