Regardless of the result in Sunday’s NAB Western Premiers Challenge, Forbes Magpies skipper Jake Grace will go out a champion.
A champion player and, more importantly, a champion bloke.
The father-to-be has confirmed he’s retiring at the end of 2018 with he and his wife Joelene expecting their first child in February.
The two-time Magpies premiership winner has led arguably the club’s best era in Group 11, with first grade glory in 2016 and this season, both titles coming in thrilling grand finals against Dubbo CYMS.
The first, in 2016, helped the Forbes club snap a 29-year premiership drought in the top grade.
Before his time in Forbes Grace also helped Albury Thunder to Group 9 titles in 2013 and 2014, meaning at the age of just 27 the Red Bend Catholic College alumnus has four senior premierships, and a grand final man-of-the-match award, next to his name.
It’s an enviable record, but come the start of next season Grace will devote his time to his growing family.
“I’ve been playing footy now for a while, since I was five, and given it everything … there’s going to be a different challenge now with a little tiger coming along,’ Grace said.
Forbes travels to Bathurst on Sunday to take on Group 10 premiers Panthers at Carrington Park, the clash Grace’s finale in black and white.
“I just want to make sure I’ve got enough time to be a good Dad,” he added.
“I’m not going to say I’m too old to play, it’s more about getting that balance right in your life.
“I could probably have a few more years to play, but with work and the little one I just want to make sure my priorities are in the right spot.
“The last thing I want to be doing is making footy a chore. For me, I didn’t want to try and juggle time. I just want to do what I enjoy and that’ll be having fun with my wife and the little fella.”
The Magpies’ 23-22 victory over Dubbo CYMS a couple of weeks ago booked the black and whites a spot in Sunday’s clash with Panthers, 2018 being the first year the Premiers Challenge has been staged.
Grace admitted to knowing next to nothing about Doug Hewitt’s side, one that stunned Cowra 12-10 in the Group 10 grand final on the same day Farren Lamb booted Forbes to its second title in three years.
“We don’t know how to prepare in terms of playing them, we’ll just prepare to play our best footy like we have the last two months,” Grace said.
“We’re excited to play. We’re going to be without a few players … but we’ll have a team there confident of playing good footy ready for the challenge.”
Forbes will be without forwards Ben Robinson, Brad McMillan and Jake Hadrill for the clash with Bathurst Panthers and while the departing skipper says the loss of such experience will hurt, he’s confident his club’s youth can step up.
I’m not going to say I’m too old to play, it’s more about getting that balance right in your life.Retiring Forbes skipper Jake Grace.
“We’ll prepare the best we can and give it a crack with whoever we’ve got,” he added.
The first grade premiers game will officially bring a close to the season, with three games on prior to the Forbes and Panthers match.
The premiership winning Magpies’ under 18s meet Panthers as well, while Bathurst St Pat’s and Red Bend go head-to-head in the under 16s. St Pat’s also play the Parkes Spacecats in league tag.
The first game kicks off at 10.30am, before the top grade clash at 2.30pm.