Finals Week 1 – Geelong v Richmond: The game threw up many questions. The Cats had no answers.

 

 

I’m a big man; fit, strong and ready for the occasion. I’m the full forward. I kick goals for a living. I’ve just taken a mark about 46 metres out from goal, straight in front. No worries. I’ve kicked plenty from here before. Some really memorable ones, including an after the siren thumper from 55 out against Hawthorn to win the game a few years back. My team is struggling. The scoreboard is refusing to tick over. But this could change everything. If I kick this we can start to mount pressure on the Tigers, who have been all over us like ants on a cup cake.

 

So I go back, steady myself, take a breath, go through the routine, and kick the goal. Or, at least, that’s what I should have done. But what I actually do is hand ball the footy to a bloke standing flat footed about two metres away. He is a half back flanker not a full forward. He makes a living doing other things. He is immediately attacked by rabid Richmond players. His kick misses the target by about ten metres. Why did I do that?

 

I’m standing under the footy at half back. A Richmond player has just hacked the footy out of his backline. It’s a hit and hope kick. It will land with me. And I have plenty of options when I mark it. We can rebound, catch the Tigers off balance, and score a crucial goal. The ball floats a bit but I have it covered. It hits my arms and spills out. But I have time to recover. The ball is hopping around. I fumble, fiddle, faddle and fluff it. My mind is mush. The Tigers swarm and kick a goal. Why did I do that?

 

I’m at half back. The Tigers have us on the ropes, but we are still in touch. It requires a commitment to the cause from here. This is a qualifying final for goodness sake! When it’s my time to go I must go. A team mate kicks it out from our last line of defence. It hurtles at a pack of players. If I smash into the pack I can spill the ball. Or, even better, I’m a chance to mark it. We have the numbers around the footy. My team needs me. It’s my time to go. I run at the pack. Was I flat out? Could I have gone harder? I see a Richmond payer make position. I can take him out. But I need to run; to charge at him. I don’t. He marks it. They go into attack and score. Why did I do that?

 

I’m the coach. I have a good list and magnificent facilities. This team will make the top eight. I’m very confident of that. But to win the flag requires more than that. I must be bold. I must risk failure. And failure will end my career. That is the lot of the coach. I know that. How must I be bold? What must I do? I must pass up the easy trade option and go for the hungry youngster. I must build a team not a patchwork quilt. My players should be allowed to play. Bomber let Johnno play didn’t he? And Ablett. And Scarlett. And Chappy. And what about Max Rooke? The player every team needs.

 

But I don’t do this. I go for process. Safe, secure, easily explained process. If we lose, it must be because the players did not follow the process. If the Big Mac is sloppy, the cooks did not follow the process. Process driven coaching will get my team into the eight. And getting my team into the eight will get me a contract renewal. Maybe several? It’s a win-win isn’t it? My team is “successful” in a corporate sense, the stakeholders, sponsors, and local government are happy, the players get paid, the fans have comfortable plastic seats to sit on, and the team constantly finishes top four.

 

But processes fail under pressure. I need more than process. I need chemistry. But I don’t go for chemistry. That’s too intangible. I can’t grasp that. I can’t draw team chemistry on a white board. So, my players go into big games with process drilled into them. Process, process, process. It will take care of everything. If he has the ball, you stand over there. If they have the ball, you run over here. But what do I do if I have the ball? Good question. For starters, I shouldn’t have the ball. The team process insists that only a few players get the ball. The rest of us play a role. And what if I happen to get the ball and my team mates don’t follow the process? I’m standing here but a team mate is not standing there. What do I do? When I was twelve and playing with my mates in the under 13s I knew what to do. But now I don’t. I need to refer to page 13 of the team manual. What does it say again? What’s my hard-ball-gets ratio? Have I tackled enough? Do I need a score assist? Is my work rate at the acceptable level? Am I handballing too much? Do I kick it? Am I selfish if I take the shot.

 

So I get the ball, or the ball comes near me, or I need to jump at the ball, and my mind is mush. I do what I’ve been coached to do, which is to work shop my options. But I only have a split second to recall the drills. My opponent wants to kill me. The noise is deafening. Blokes are yelling at me. The umpire is chirping in my ear. I have the footy in my hands. I need to get rid of it. Who is near me? Give it to him, let him deal with it. He might be calmer. I’m not. I botch it. Repeatedly. The process has failed. Instinct is extinct.

 

Instinctive pressure, running power, free minds, brute strength, raw skill. These things win the game for the Tigers.

 

The Cats coach says after the game that’s it’s difficult to play when it no longer matters (ie, when the game is comprehensively lost). No, it’s not. There is a thing called pride that seems to escape him. What he really means is that it’s difficult to stick to a process when the game is lost. Especially a flawed process. A process that would leave Daniel Menzel out of the team. A process that suggests that a part time forward and natural centre half back could beat Rance. A process that is driven by bullish, dry, text book machinations. A process that strives for on-field blandness and succeeds stupendously.

About Damian O'Donnell

OK - which is the odd one out: Love the Cats and flannelette shirts, especially in winter. I get on extremely well with red wine. We just seem to hit it off. Love horse racing in Spring. Used to love cricket. Go to Stawell every Easter and contemplate life around the fire. Love water skiing, especially in summer. Love a great oil painting. Will read most things put in front of me. Thought 'The Sorpranos' was the best TV show ever made - by miles. Run an accounting practice in Melbourne's suburbs.

Comments

  1. Fragen von einem abrbeiter der leist?

    Where to hear for your Cats Dips ? C Scott coached a premiership in his first Season; was that good coaching or inheriting a great side?

    How a many more years does C Scott coach your team ? Does a returning G Ablett jnr mean instead of 2 champions carrying 20 others, 3 champions carry 19 others? Is 2017 a parallel to 1969 ?

    So many questions; so many reports.

    Glen!

  2. Peter Flynn says:

    Too right!

  3. Simple answer is in the names you listed. No stevie j, no Scarlo, no Chappy, no GA Jnr. Geelong needs to face the fact that a wonderful decade is over and your list is good but no longer great. The mistakes made on Friday are testimony to that. Trust me I’ve seen “good not great” Richmond sides succumb in similar fashion many times.

  4. Neil Anderson says:

    You are as angry about ‘ structure’ for the Cats Dips as I am about the Bulldogs fielding sides minus big marking forwards and backs. Unfortunately when the Cats play the Dogs,, structure plus the big men seems to win out for some reason.
    Beveridge let the Dogs off the chain to do their thing after the short reign of McCartney who was a structure -man. This suited the likes of Stringer and a few others building confidence and being backed by the coach.

  5. You may well have nailed it Dips. Are we to read that as, sack the coach? Or is it a, bring in a review of the Process appeal? It worked with Bomber’s tenure, although it could be said, with a strong degree of conviction, that that Golden Era coached itself. But crikey, you must be bleeding inside. Does the Process tell you which arm on which to wear your Handbag?

    I didn’t notice it the time, but Dermie picked it up on SEN’s Saturday morning review. When Ellis & Dangerman collided, several Richmond players went over to help Brandon up and dust him off. No one went near Patrick. I saw the same thing in the VFL semi Final on Saturday. A Casey player dragged down Shai Bolton in a tackle and two more Demon players gratuitously piled on top. In an instant those three were dragged off the pile by Tiger Players and had a few things explained to them, in blunt terms. The point being, touch one, you touch us all. You’re right; it’s instinctual. And it’s basic. My it’s not in the Manual is beyond me.

    I’d suggest it’s more than The Process; that process is the symptom of the problem down at Kardinia Park. I’d like to suggest that a city state within a city state, one that turned a building society into a casino back in the 80s, may have a cultural/image complex seeking instant gratification/fulfilment. And the blindness that comes with it. Could the Process just be a reflection of the Complex, and that the poaching of Mogg Creek’s Favourite Son was part of the Process? (The reality of the assumed benefits are that Adelaide took the 2017 Minor Premiership without him and they’re favourites for The Flag – and they flogged GWS without Sloane)

    The re-instatement of TSOG is an even more glaring example of the Complex driven Process. (Freud would have got around to clearly anylising that one once he’d properly sorted the Oedipus Complex, I feel sure) You’d have to question the reasoning that would risk further disrupting what appears to be an already disrupted lockerroom by hiring a player who has shown so little regard for his teammates — at two clubs now — and so much lust for his own advancement. That both are Brownlow Medallists may just be a coincidence.

    Speaking of Bomber’s tenure, do you see any similarity with his near sacking, and the reprieve by the review process, to the situation at Tigerland? Dimma’s dismal 2016, preceded by three lame Elimination Exits, had convoys of chook manure lorries coming up from the Peninsular and heading for Me Bank Oval. They’re now taking up a subscription to cast him in bronze beside Hungry Bartlett. (Dusty’s memorial may well sit beside captain Blood’s)

  6. Dips this is superb. I have watched the CAts at the G this year and last and wondered what the problem was. I was ready to blame the ground, but I think you have nailed it.

    Then Danger tries to win the game on his own, a sort of Warne-esque having a go. But at least he does. So comic results but you wonder why only he senses the need for risk?


    I worked with a guy from 2013 on. big Cat fan. plays up here. completely convinced back then that C Scott could not coach. and lamented that the 11 Flag would obscure that. not saying he is right. but he is!

  7. The kids have worked it out. It was the Lucky Frog they got with their Maccas meal before the game. Didn’t read the fine print: it was a Richmond frog.

    I’m still working it out – but agree with you on process. I’d just like to observe a see ball/get ball approach a la Geelong v Adelaide – Stevie J’s final game. And a la S. Motlop’s final quarter on Friday night. And the license to take the game on given to everyone.

  8. Absolutely nailed it Dips process get sick and tired of hearing and watching it the other point is I thought that the Cats last 6 were going to better than the tigers I was wrong

  9. Dips – it seems I do not have to add to the misery of other Catonians but I have said from 2012 that C. Scott does not have a Plan B let alone a Plan C.

    Last year it was 35 & 14 who stood up against Sydney. This year 35 and yes, 14 should not have played

    The cats on some of the paintings at The Art Exhibition opening in Mildura on Wednesday night had more G & D.
    Oh well, most of up will front up again this Friday.
    PS. PJF is Marvin Vaas available this week – at least he probably doesn’t read the Adee.

  10. steve todorovic says:

    As I Tiger fan of over 50 years, I fully feel the pain all you Cat’s fans are going through. I’d like to add that there was a confidence amongst the Tiger faithful that Scott had shown his full hand back at Kardinia Park a month ago. Dimma Hardwick held his. There was also a very firm belief that once the Tigers got the older and slower Cats onto the wide expanses of the MCG and away from the sardine can of an oval the Cats call home, they could expose them. It took nearly 3 quarters, but that they finally did. From the moment Nick Vlastuin went back, took ownership of the situation and kicked truly from 50 metres out, The Tigers kicked ten goals to the Cats two. One of those was a charity to Tom Hawkins, who did what he normally does when he attempts a mark and flings himself forwards and the other a junk time goal to Harry Taylor. Meanwhile, Dusty took the entire stadium and all those watching on TV, on an imperious and majestic masterclass, that only the very elite of our game can do. Joining him were his hard working and inspirational skipper, whose brilliant late goal elicited a response from his teammates that showed their love for him, the forever under-rated Jack Riewoldt ( 50 goals for the 7th time in the last 8 seasons…he scored 48 last year in a team that finished 13th) who has battled 2 defenders so many times this season, allowing his team mates time and space and of course the pillar of the Tiger defence, Alex Rance. The Tiger faithful knew that Harry would not be a bother twice in a row. In Rance, the Tigers hold the kryptonite to the Swan’s main weapon, Buddy Franklin. The 13 wins in a row was yesterday’s news. This Richmond team was younger ( average age 1.3 years younger than the Cats), faster, more determined, more skilled and more united than any of the other teams that the Cats had beaten in the preceding 11 years. It will stay that way for a while. The balance of power has shifted and as a Richmond fan, may I say that it’s long overdue.

  11. Steve brilliant comment. And very accurate.

    Wrapster (or should I now refer to you as Smugster), someone said to me today that nobody, but nobody, beats Richmond 12 times in a row and gets away with it Scott free. I’m very pleased for the Tiger fans but you need to win the big dance before the victory is declared.

    I want some honesty from Tigers supporters – hands up who wanted Dimma sacked 2 years ago?

  12. Well said, Dips.
    I reckon the Cats are a long way off it at present, and am not sure where the improvement will come from.

  13. Dips
    My honest comment – if the assessment of a good coach is that he gets results out of his playing group that exceed the expectations of most good judges, then Dimma has ticked the box in the majority of his years at Richmond. Two years ago he became the first Richmond coach since Tom Hafey to take us to the finals three years running. He’d taken a basket case list to a stable competent group on a steadily upwards trajectory over a number of years. It was a coaching style akin to Allan Border’s captaincy of a rebuilding Australian team in the 1980s. Win back respect and play to avoid defeat before thinking too much about victory. Yes, the finals defeats were gut-wrenching, there were other setbacks, yes there was fragility but i for one never had the sense that the general direction was wrong. So, honest answer is, no, I didn’t want him sacked. Last year was obviously a shocker, but my take on it was that it was evidence of a list that was well away from top drawer and a style of play that was a season past its use-by date rather than any major knock on the coach. I will admit that at the start of 2017 I was wondering what sort of result would be enough to keep Dimma in the job. I assessed it as 10-11 wins but, more importantly, clear evidence that the team, the list and the game-plan were moving in the right direction. I think he’s more than exceeded his KPIs, just as he did back in 2010 when he extracted six wins from a side that bookies were paying out on winning the wooden spoon in April, and most other years since.
    For what it’s worth I think Chris Scott’s biggest problem is to inherit a genuinely great group of players at their peak and being in command during their inevitable decline. No more, no less.

  14. Smugster indeed Young O’Donnell. And there’s plenty more to come. I’ve kept all the IOUs from the last 37 years Dips. Geelong Fans are just getting an early Christmas present.

    You want honesty, I was one who thought we needed two things at Tigerland: a new coach and on-field leadership. Now we have both, and you know what? It’s working. And it didn’t cost us a drop of blood. Just a lot of sweat and some straight thinking and plain talking.

    Now I’ve watched the replay a few times, but tonight I watched the national anthem line-up. I picked on the night that The Tigers stood with linked arms — a band of brothers — and The Moggies stood apart, but tonight I noticed just how far apart they stood. I had no idea the extent of the body odour problem at The Cattery; you should try some Rexona down there Boys.

    And the body language of the two coaches in that same segment told a story as well. The New Improved Dimma was relaxed and raring for the Contest. Twin Christopher looked more than tense. He looked like he was setting himself for the Post Match Presser. He knew playing Sellwood was desperation. He knew he wouldn’t be able to sell Harry Taylor as a shock trooper twice to the same buyer. He knew his troops had little appetite for the battle; why else would he drop the goal sneak Menzel? he knew the Process wasn’t working,

    (Be careful there Wrap, I know Dips has some pretty powerful legal friends; he mightn’t take kindly to you plagiarising his Process – Ed) I’ll gladly pay the royalty Oh Masterful Word Wizard – The Cattery and Cat Central no more. Proceeds Park has a ring to it.

    I’ve also watched the replay without sound. You get the full impact of the torridenss of the Contest in the silent version. The work around and in the packs was brutal – and telling. This match could have been all but over by the long break if The Tiges had been on target with half the chances they created. More to the point, Big Tomahawk looks more like a Keystone Cop with every watching. They should have Benny Hill music playing every time he goes near the ball.

    And to be honest, I’ve never been a fan of the Scott Bros, even when they were playing at Brisbane. Brad has a Rebuild in front of him in the Shadows of The Gasometer, and now it’s painfully obvious that Chris has the same task ahead of him down at Cat Central. This could be the makings of them. It will certainly test the mettle of The Pivotonian & Shinboner Faithful.

    And while I’ve got all you Catters there; hands up those lamenting their coach’s two year contract renewal? I just want to get it on the record Dips. In case you want go bring it up at some later date.

  15. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    Superbly written Dips,
    Can understand your pain and frustration. Was Hawkins playing on the wing?
    Way I saw it, both sides have a handful of stars and a number of ‘Good Ordinaries’. Richmond’s GO’s rose to the occasion, attacked the ball in numbers and backed their instincts. The Cats seemed to be looking for someone to provide the inspiration. Dusty did what Danger couldn’t do. The less said about your Ruckman…Very ordinary.

  16. So where does Geelong go in 2018, etc ? The recruiting of a super star, plus some handy types such as Stanley, Smith, Tuohy indicates they felt the premiership window was open around now, maybe in 2018. Who are the next generation of leaders coming up,and when they arrive @ the top of their game, who else will remain from this side?

    With Chris Scott having a less than impressive finals record post 2011, you really wonder how can/ when Geelong become a serious contender. They dispensed with top players they felt were past their best, a decision the jury remains out on. Do they now trade their way into premiership contention, whilst they can,and if so who is trade bait ?

    So many questions ? So many reports.

    Glen!

  17. We can fight back against Sydney.

    Blueprint to come – just consulting The Outer Brains Trust. And removing the Lucky Frog from the kit.

  18. State of mind is everything. The question I’d like to pose is what has happened down at Sleepy Hollow? Right throughout the season they were favoured to play off on TLSIS. Of course, there’s always the possibility they were beaten by the better side.

    Harmsie – “We can fight back against Sydney”? Are they your words or are you quoting from Process Manual?

    And Dips,-The Manual – has it got anything in it about getting the ball and doing something with it?

  19. Thanks Dips,

    I was going to write about my disappointment and anger but you’ve conveyed my thoughts….and then some. When Hawkins gave off that handball instead of having the shot, I looked at the Cats supporter next to me and we both said – we can’t win this game.

    Any chance we had was lost at selection – Hawkins plays up the ground and Menzel and Buzza have been critical options up forward. Without them there was nobody there.

    And why drop Menzel and retain Murdoch? The only good thin about Ablett returning is if they trade Murdoch to get him. Murdoch reminds me of Shane Watson’s selection as an ‘all rounder’. Cats desperately want a tackling/goal sneak forward and choose Murdoch for that role even though he constantly goes missing.

    Now where was I??? Oh yes, I have been concerned at Geelong’s lack of leadership. We have some undoubted talent in Henderson, Tuohey, Taylor, Hawkins, Duncan…but we lack inspirational leaders outside of Selwood and Dangerfield. When the chips are down, outside of those two, who has the ability to inspire the team. It’s not there. You can’t win finals without that. In our glory days, Scarlett, Ling, Chapman, Johnson would marshal the troops and put their hands up in big moments.

    I agree with your theory on process – and it explains why players look to handball when it’s their time to make a decision. Varcoe always looked confused at Geelong and I reckon Scott’s process didn’t help him. But we lack real leaders across the ground and that has been our undoing in September.

    I have never been a Scott fan. he deflects attention away from the soft underbelly and soft September performances by being “open” and hiding behind his thesaurus. I don’t care that we finish high on the ladder all year – I want to be proud in September. And putrid performances like that on Friday night leave me embarrassed and angry. Our year is done. I’ll be in the garden if you need me.

  20. Scott is contracted until the end of 2019 by the way

  21. Dangerfield has masked Cats bigger issues. The 8 next tier players are good but not great. Dangers game drops, No 14 not on, lose Caddy and bang it’s just another jobbing team. Cats need to rebuild the team, as Hawks are doing. Tigers were magnificent.

  22. Joe De Petro says:

    Dips, great writing. Your comments could apply to many teams, including the Tigers, whose coach has been obsessed with process for years.

    Footy is a business to a career coach. He will play the odds. He quickly forgets what is was like when he played.

    The Tigers have gone back to basics this year. they may not go any further but they have given us great joy.

    Good luck against Sydney. I hope your boys can regroup and tear them a new one.

  23. Yeah, love this Dips; the flesh still raw. A team cannot succeed without system/process and will not succeed upon it alone. Season’s not over yet, though.

    Watched a junior grand final yesterday that went to extra time – both groups of 11 year olds executing their team rules (and sometimes perilously not following them). In the end one team won because of (a bit of luck and) trusting themselves and their teammates (the winning goal came about as a player had the ball on the 50, saw the man on the mark was off to one side – he ran around him to the other and was able to get the ball close enough to goal for a teammate to get it and snap the winner. Just following the team rules, hitting and hoping would’ve been perfectly acceptable in that circumstance).

  24. Great piece, Dips. When I read the first sentence I was assuming it was written in the first person and I thought “Dips has gone off his rocker. I’ve seen him. He’s none of these things.” That Hawkins handball nearly sent me back to the bar.
    It was a very charged atmosphere and that rattled the Cats, I reckon. The fumbling, kicking etc was bush league. Amazing we were in it at half time 3/4 time. Danger was rattled by that Cochin knock I think. Selwood not quite right. Dusty was great to watch late. How do you stop that fend-off?
    Menzel and Buzza in. Parsons and Motlop out. (Permanently for the latter. Never seen a player kick the ball to the opposition so regularly.) Blicav can go, too. Meteoric rise and mediocre peak in about 2014.
    The Wrap, your analysis of Geelong (we finished 2nd, which flatters us, but is nevertheless 2nd) would logically call for about 14 clubs to be smashed and recast as something else. But not the Tiges, they’ve got everything right? Jesus, a week is a long time in footy.
    I’ll be there Friday. But really… Swans by plenty.

  25. John Butler says:

    But are coach and players asking themselves these questions?

  26. Inspiration without process is fatal. Process without inspiration is futile.

  27. The Rioja’s will always make a deeper thinker of you Mr B. If you drink enough of it.

    The odds of meeting you in the Prelim?

  28. Paul Spinks says:

    Well surmised, Dips:

    The mindset is all wrong, but Scott doesn’t appear to be interested in the motivational aspects (I say at the risk of repeating myself as I’ve documented this in several posts-previous, even called for a review).

    The Menz decision was part mixed message and part defensive reaction. Rest him during the year then drop him for not working hard enough. Defensive because it was born about trying to stop the opposition rather than win the game.

    Am not completely ruling out Friday night – favouritism can have strange effects on a team, particularly this season. Can we hope last week was partly bye-bogey and that Richmond had too much momentum, not to mention fans who took roaring – or is that booing – to new highs?

    Neutral supporters hopping on the Tige bandwagon should read Greg Baum’s article in last Saturday’s Age – an entertaining, cautionary tale.

  29. Peter Flynn says:

    Too many confused introverts.

  30. At Geelong or The Almanac P?

  31. Confused – yes!

    From the grandstand there appeared to be moments where a Geelong player could have gone for the footy – because it was there to be grabbed – but was reluctant. Why is that? Thinking about instructions?

  32. On watching the game again I was surprised by a few things.

    Some Geelong players did try to take the game on but were thwarted by poor decision-making and poor disposal. Motlop kick – should have hit a player at centre half forward. Motlop handball – to Mackie. Motlop was one of numerous culprits. Flow was thwarted. Confidence was eroded and, given the significant factor of the Tiges superb defensive pressure, eventually lost. So hesitation takes over. Dips, how many times were the crowd yelling at the Geelong player with the footy to just get on his bike and move it quickly. But in the three second pause defenders had made up the 15m they needed.

    Watch any side with flow. Pace is an element. But the pace of decision-making is the bigger factor. Someone receiving a handball on the fly is a weapon. Marking and playing on is a weapon. Re confusion, it seemed only some Geelong players had that license at times. Or chose to use that license if indeed they did have it.

    Also, watch how slowly the overawed players moved. I wanted to get down to the ground and shake them. The Wayne Bennett dictum: you were good enough to get us here, go and show the world what you can do. That, I’m afraid, is partly coaching and perhaps what P. Flynn and Dips are getting at.

    I am still hopeful about Friday night.

  33. Look, I don’t want to start a sack the coach mantra, but that department certainly wouldn’t suffer from another review down at Sleepy Hollow. Remember what happened the last time you diid one. And you’ve got a couple of years to see if it’s working or not.

    Of course, the occasion may have overwhelmed a few the Caters. I remember how the booing at TPAO unnerved me when The Tiges ran out against Port Adelaide back in 2014, and I was sitting at home in front of the telly. The intensity in the stands at The G last Friday Night was scary. And I was amongst my own people. Maybe you should have shut up about the home ground anomaly and just bussed more people up from Flat Town.

    Other explanations are that you’re Hometown Bullies, or you may have to accept that your Self Belief was blown away by a team that had discovered theirs, and were enjoying every moment of it. I know I and 79,999 other LSPRF were.

    My impression John, is that Dips nailed it first off – Geelong seemed to be over thinking the game. Now that might bring us back too where we came in: a new coaching attitude. And if that entails a new coach, so be it.

  34. Peter Clark says:

    You’ve hit the nail on the head Dips. What was said in the Geelong rooms before Friday night’s game? Certainly not the words of John Kennedy: ‘Do. Don’t think.’ With such a poor record coming off a bye and in recent finals, obviously something in the motivation department is missing.

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