Defending Group 11 premiers Forbes may have lost inspirational skipper Jake Grace for 2019 but they’ve picked up a player Magpies’ coach Cameron Greenhalgh says is capable of filling that void.
And then some.
The Magpies have swooped on Irish international Josh Toole, the former Bathurst St Pat’s gun moving home to his family property at Bedgerabong.
Toole represented Ireland at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup and played NSW Cup with Illawarra and Mount Pritchard before having a season in England in 2018 with Betfred Championship outfit Sheffield Eagles.
The Eagles were keen for the dynamic centre to remain in England for 2019 after a brilliant season for the Sheffield club, where Toole was narrowly pipped for the club’s player of the year award by winger Ben Blackmore.
But the 29-year-old Toole said it was time to head home.
“I’ve just moved home closer to the family,” Toole said, Forbes set to head into the 2019 Group 11 season as defending champions after downing Dubbo CYMS 23-22 in last year’s decider.
“I’ve watched some highlights on the Western Rams page, it looks pretty good.
“I’m not expecting to return to any easy competition. I’m expecting it to be tough.”
Which, you’d imagine, Toole can handle, given he’s played at the highest level.
Ireland played against Australia in the 2013 World Cup pool stage, the Wolfhounds going down 50-0 against the Kangaroos at Thomond Park, Limerick, but it’s an experience Toole won’t forget in a hurry.
He marked up against Jarryd Hayne in that match.
“That was a massive experience at the 2013 World Cup, I played against Australia and learned a lot of things,” Toole added.
“Six weeks over in England … I’ve been pretty lucky.”
Experiences he plans on passing on to the Magpies’ best, which will include a stack of last year’s under 18s premiership-winning squad, too.
“Obviously there’s good depth and I think most of the boys have hung around so we should go well,” Toole said.
“If I can help them with a few things I’ve learned a long the way … I’ll obviously help them out there.”
Toole last played senior bush footy as an 18-year-old with Bathurst St Pat’s in Group 10, helping his junior club to a memorable premier league premiership in 2008.
The Magpies coach, Greenhalgh is confident the former St Stanislaus College student will bring a wealth of experience to his playing group in 2019.
“He’s a fellow we haven’t seen much of around Group 11 … but I think the energy and the professionalism he’ll bring to us will be really valuable, especially if we do lose Jake for the year. Josh will be capable of filling that role.”
Forbes began training on Tuesday night.