A Fijian international who played in the NRL only last year has given rookie Forbes Magpies captain-coaches Nick Greenhalgh and Mitch Andrews a welcome boost.
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Greenhalgh has taken over the coach's role from his father, multiple premiership-winner Cameron Greenhalgh, alongside the club's star fullback.
There's plenty of pressure that comes with replacing the brains behind a title-winning side, but the signing of Pio Seci from the Manly Sea Eagles has created some fresh excitement around the 2022 Peter McDonald Premiership champions.
"Everyone always asks who we've signed and when his name gets brought up it's 'wow, how good is that?' and I don't think Forbes has ever signed anyone as big as that," Nick Greenhalgh said.
Seci made his NRL debut last season as one of seven players called into the Manly side following the pride jersey saga.
He played on the wing in that match against the Roosters while he was also part of the Fiji squad that contested the World Cup in the United Kingdom late last year alongside the likes of Viliame Kikau, Maika Sivo and Tariq Sims.
He's set to play second-row or in the centres for a Magpies side which produced a near-perfect grand final performance last September to defeat Dubbo CYMS and be crowned the inaugural Peter McDonald Premiership champions.
The Magpies have also lost Alvin Maungaati and Dawson Nanai from last season's squad but Seci is a marquee recruit and Fijian props Epeli Ulianavucu and Nikola Sovatabua have also been signed and will arrive at Forbes later this month.
Attracting recruits was the focus after locking down the bulk of the 2022 squad and a number of under 18s who are progressing out of the juniors.
Greenhalgh confirmed "about 85 per cent" of the squad that won the grand final will be back again. In another welcome boost, exciting second-rower Charlie Lennon will be sticking around for another full year after returning home from the Canterbury Bulldogs midway through last season.
"With a bit of hard work we'll be thereabouts again," the new captain-coach said.
Pre-season will start for the Magpies on January 24, while the first grade side will also contest the 50th anniversary West Wyalong Knockout next month as well regular pre-season matches against Temora and Bathurst St Pat's.
Not a huge amount is expected to change in the way the Magpies approach things under the new leaders, but Greenhalgh and Andrews will provide some fresh ideas of their own.
"We're pretty excited," the Western Rams halfback said.
"We didn't really know who was going to take it on after last year but me and Mitch got together and spoke about what we wanted do and where we wanted to go as a club and we thought there was no better time to take over from Dad after what we achieved last year.
"We're keeping the same bunch of blokes together and the time seems right to do what we did last year again and keep on going."
At 26 and 25 years of age respectively, Greenhalgh and Andrews will be among the youngest coaches in the 2023 competition but both have vast amounts of experience.
I reckon he's the best player in the comp by a long mile.- Nick Greenhalgh on Mitch Andrews
The pair are among a select few players in the Western Rams region who have represented NSW Country - Andrews played at the top level just last year - while the fullback has previously spent time with the Newcastle Knights and Greenhalgh enjoyed a successful stint with the Shellharbour Sharks.
"There is a bit of added pressure for us as players and the coach," Greenhalgh said.
"You want to be successful in both aspects but we're going from the hunters to the hunted as champions this year and I think that's got all the boys excited about the challenge.
"We'll have the boys ready to go, that's for sure."
The pair haven't sat down to figure out exactly who will take control of what aspects of the side in 2023 but a relaxed Greenhalgh said they will find their groove while adding he was excited to see what Andrews would do this year with a little extra responsibility.
"I reckon he's the best player in the comp by a long mile. When he's on, he's on," Greenhalgh said of his teammate.
"You can see a little bit of a difference last year in terms of attitude. When he spoke everyone listened and he's really matured.
"He really looked after his body last year and he only missed one game for us, and that's when he was away playing for Country, so the way he's matured is really, really impressive.
"As coach, I think he'll be able to guide those younger guys who played in the grand final last year but are still only 22 or 23.
"He's a great role model for the guys and for guys coming out of the 18s, Mitchy is pretty impressive."
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