On the rise but just short of finals action: Fitzroy’s promising 1982 season

After finishing 4th in 1981, Fitzroy had high hopes for 1982 although a number of commentators tipped them to be replaced in the five by the 1980 premiers Richmond.[i]  They eventually fell just short of playing finals, finishing 6th with 12 wins and a draw. It was an up and down season. The Roys lost three and drew one of their first four, won six of the next seven, dropped four in a row, won six games in a row, and then lost the final home and away game to eventual premier Carlton.


Veteran ruckman Ron Alexander’s return to WA was a major blow after missing only three games in six years, [ii]as was the loss of big man Rod Lewis for the season with a knee injury. Nevertheless, there were many season highlights including:


  • Mick Conlan winning the World of Sport Goal of the Year award for his Round 17 effort against Hawthorn;
  • Outstanding youngsters Paul Roos, Gary Pert and Richard Osborne making their debuts,[iii] and rookie Bradley Gotch also having a fine first season;
  • Fitzroy’s mid-season recruitment of controversial Gary Sidebottom was a major success.[iv] He played in seven games for six victories.
  • Courageous captain Gary Wilson securing 14 Brownlow votes from only 18 games despite persistent battles with injury.



Round 1: 20 March 1982

Fitzroy          4.3, 5.6,   9.10, 13.11 (89)

Richmond      5.1, 10.2, 13.6, 20.10 (130)

Best players: Wilson (25 disposals), Quinlan, Carlson, Rendell, Taylor, McMahon.

Multiple Goalkickers: Cox 3, McMahon 2, Parish 2.

The Roys played 1980 premiers Richmond in a standalone game (moved from Round two) to start the season, and suffered a disappointing loss.[v] Highlights included a fine early mark and goal by Parish.


Round 2: 27 March 1982

Fitzroy 2.2, 4.6, 11.8, 17.11 (113)

Carlton 4.5,  9.8, 13.14, 16.17 (113)

Best players: Wilson (28 disposals), Conlan, Hansen, Smith, Gotch, Parish.

Multiple Goalkickers: Wilson 4, Poynton 2, McMahon 2, Parish 2, Gotch 2.

This was a super comeback from six goals down, away from home, against the eventual premiers. The third quarter featured two excellent snap goals from first gamer Bradley Gotch. The final quarter featured exhilarating football from the dashing Roys. Wilson tapped the ball to Clayton who gave the ball to McMahon then back to Wilson for a brilliant goal on the run. This was followed by an outstanding run by Conlan resulting in a handball to McMahon to goal and reduce the margin to 12 points. Then Wilson handballed to Clayton who delivered to Coates to mark and goal. Conlan goaled from a free kick to bring the Roys to within 7 points followed by behinds from Quinlan and Wilson. At the 24 minute mark of the quarter, Coates snapped wide, and Wilson out-marked Jim Buckley in the forward pocket, and immediately played on to snap his 4th goal on his non-preferred left foot to give Fitzroy the lead by one point. Fitzroy had two chances to seal the deal: Carlson took three bounces down the left flank, but failed to make the distance, and then a Parish snap went out on the full.

With only seconds remaining, Greg Wells from Carlton was paid a controversial free kick for holding the man against Conlan, which the ABC commentator judged should have been holding the ball. The siren went whilst his kick was in the air. It failed to make the distance, but was punched through for a behind by Carlton’s Mario Bortolotto. The ball arguably should have been called dead, but the point was allowed, and the game was drawn.[vi]


Round 3: 10 April 1982

Fitzroy                2.3, 7.8, 12.12, 14.16 (100)

North Melbourne 3.4, 8.8, 14.9, 25.14(164)

Best players: Wilson (25 disposals), Quinlan, Hansen, Parish, Conlan, O’Neill.

Multiple Goalkickers: Quinlan 5, Wilson 2, Poynton 2.

The Roys led by 14 points half way through the third quarter, but then disappointingly capitulated.[vii]


Round 4: 18 April 1982

Fitzroy 2.9, 5.9,     9.14, 14.22 (106)

Sydney 3.3, 12.11, 15.17, 24.18 (162)

Best players: Gotch, Wilson, Smith, O’Neill, Poynton.

Multiple Goalkickers: Gotch 4, Wilson 3, Poynton 2, Roos 2.

A heavy defeat sent the Roys to the bottom of the ladder. Future champions Gary Pert and Paul Roos made their debuts having 12 and 10 disposals respectively. Roos scored two goals, but was dropped for Round 5.[viii]


Round 5: 24 April 1982

Fitzroy    5.10, 9.10, 15.14, 18.19 (127)

Essendon 2.1,   9.3,   12.6, 15.12 (102)

Best players: Wilson (33 disposals), Quinlan, Lawrie, Rendell, Pert, Murnane.

Multiple Goalkickers: McMahon 4, Quinlan 4, Rendell 2, Conlan 2.

Finally a victory against the highly rated Bombers. Quinlan was dangerous all day, drilling two goals from 60 metres out, and another a fine snap directly from a throw-in early in the 3rd quarter. McMahon iced the game with three majors in the last quarter. Murnane, Conlan and Pert controlled the centre line. [ix]


Round 6: 1 May 1982

Fitzroy          1.2, 5.4, 8.11, 12.19 (91)

Collingwood  4.3, 8.5, 11.6, 13.10 (88)

The Winners Rebooted: Episode 12, 1982:

Best players: Gotch, Parish, Lawrie, Rendell, Conlan, Foster, Carlson.

Multiple Goalkickers: Roos 3, Gotch 3, McMahon 2, Conlan 2.

The Roys trailed all day against lowly Collingwood at Victoria Park, but came home with a wet sail to win a close one. Fourth gamer Peter Foster was decisive in the victory with his strong marking and sure handball.[x] Shortly afterwards he was cleared to the Bulldogs where he carved out a fine career.

The last quarter was tight. Paul Roos took a fine mark and goaled to bring the Roys back within six points. Then Mick Conlan, who had been quiet for three quarters, kicked two quick goals mid-way through the last quarter to reduce the deficit from 14 to two points: the first following a fine pass by Parish, the second on the run following a handball by Lawrie. Terry O’Neill and Peter Foster took fine overhead marks as the game kicked into time on, and then McMahon snapped truly at the 26 minute mark to grab Fitzroy a five point lead. Parish took a match saving mark deep in defence to save the game just before the siren went.


Round 7: 8 May 1982

Fitzroy     4.4, 8.10, 13.14, 19.14 (128)

Hawthorn  6.3, 10.7, 13.7, 17.15 (117)

Best players: Francis, Rendell, Quinlan, Lawrie, Parish, Everett.

Multiple Goalkickers: Roos 4, Quinlan 4, McMahon 3, Gotch 2, Foster 2.

An excellent victory over top of the ladder Hawthorn. Rendell dominated in the ruck with 45 hit-outs and 19 disposals, and Clayton and Everett performed important tagger roles on Hawthorn stars Wallace and Matthews. [xi]. In a tight last quarter, scores were level at the 23 minute mark before a fine handball by Thornton enabled McMahon to goal. McMahon added another from a free kick, and then young Roos snapped to seal the game. The Roys were now back up to 8th on the ladder, and only two points outside the five.


Round 8: 15 May 1982

Fitzroy      3.3, 7.11, 9.16, 13.21 (99)

Melbourne 7.4, 10.7, 20.12, 25.14 (164)

Best players: Gotch, Rendell, Conlan, Wilson.

Multiple Goalkickers: Conlan 3, Wilson 2, McMahon 2.

A disappointing loss to 10th placed Melbourne.[xii]


Round 9: 22 May 1982

Fitzroy  6.5, 11.6, 17.10, 25.12 (162)

St Kilda 2.5,  9.9, 12.15, 16.19 (115)

Best players: Roos, Quinlan (27 disposals and 11 marks), Rendell, Conlan, Murnane, Gotch.

Multiple Goalkickers: Roos 7, Quinlan 5, Conlan 5, Gotch 3.

Rising star Paul Roos dominated with seven goals from eight kicks at full forward as the Roys easily beat lowly St Kilda.[xiii]


Round 10: 29 May 1982

Fitzroy   9.5, 14.7,   19.10, 25.11 (161)

Geelong  5.4, 12.10, 15.13, 19.18 (132)

The Winners Rebooted: Episode 17, 1982:

Best players: Wilson (16 kicks, 8 marks and 7 goals), Murnane, Parish, McMahon, Rendell, Lawrie, Carlson.

Multiple Goalkickers: Wilson 7, McMahon 6, Roos 3, Gotch 3, Quinlan 2, Carlson 2.

The Roys led most of the day, but Geelong got to within 8 points in the final quarter before a late flourish sealed the game.[xiv] Wilson drilled a great goal on the run for his 5th, and Parish passed to Quinlan who bombed a long goal. Then Murnane handballed to Wilson who took one bounce and delivered a brilliant pass to Quinlan for his second. Finally, Wilson took a smart mark, and scored his seventh for the game.

Highlights of a big scoring first quarter included a long goal by Carlson, a magnificent tap from Wilson to Carlson who goaled, a right foot snap by Parish, a snap by Gotch, and a mark and goal by McMahon.


Round 11: 5 June 1982

Fitzroy     7.7, 12.10, 16.15, 23.22 (160)

Footscray  4.2, 8.5, 12.7, 16.12 (108)

Best players: Lawrie, Francis, Carlson, Parish, Wilson, Gotch.

Multiple Goalkickers: Quinlan 5, Conlan 4, Wilson 4, Roos 3, Thornton 2, McMahon 2, Parish 2.

A comfortable victory over bottom placed Footscray placed the Roys in 6th position, only two points outside the five. [xv]


Round 12: 12 June 1982

Fitzroy     6.7, 10.8, 11.11, 17.16 (118)

Richmond 4.7, 10.8, 17.11, 23.18 (156)

Best players: Wilson (26 disposals), Murnane, Parish, Rendell, Quinlan.

Multiple Goalkickers: Quinlan 3, Thornton 2, Francis 2, Conlan 2, Wilson 2.

The Roys started well against second placed Richmond, and jumped to a 24 point lead in the second quarter. But they were not able to sustain the effort despite Garry Wilson’s lethal shirtfront on Jim Jess. [xvi] One highlight was a great shark by Wilson off a pack in the third quarter followed by a handball to Murnane for a goal.


Round 13: 19 June 1982

Fitzroy                 2.1, 7.8, 10.11, 11.21 (87)

North Melbourne  3.1, 5.2, 13.7, 13.10 (88)

Best players: Francis, Wilson, Parish, McMahon, Rendell, Coleman.

Multiple Goalkickers: McMahon 3, Wilson 2, Clayton 2.

A narrow loss to 5th placed North Melbourne which would prove costly for finals contention. The Roys booted ten behinds in a row in an inaccurate final quarter. [xvii] Second quarter highlights included a low skimming pass by Wilson to McMahon resulting in a goal, and a fine snap by Parish.


Round 14: 26 June 1982

Fitzroy 7.5, 10.8, 14.12, 16.16 (112)

Sydney 4.0,  9.2, 14.7, 20.13 (133)

Best players: Wilson, Serafini, Parish, Murnane, Gotch, Francis.

Multiple Goalkickers: Wilson 3, Conlan 3, McMahon 3, Gotch 2.

The Roys led by 35 points half way through the second quarter, but fell away in the second half for their third loss in a row to the 7th placed Swans. [xviii]


Round 15: 3 July 1982

Fitzroy    0.2, 2.8, 2.11, 7.12 (54)

Essendon 6.3, 11.4, 16.9, 21.13 (139)

Best players: Clayton, Rendell, Parish. 

Multiple Goalkickers: Parish 2.

Future star Richard Osborne made his debut, but secured only three disposals as the Roys copped a thrashing from the fourth- placed Bombers at Windy Hill. The Roys 4th loss in a row left them 14 points outside the five.[xix]


Round 16: 17 July 1982

Fitzroy         4.6, 7.11, 9.16, 10.24 (84)

Collingwood 2.2, 7.5,  8.10, 9.10 (64)

Best players: Quinlan (22 disposals, 7 marks and 8 hit-outs), Francis, Rendell, Sidebottom, Murnane, Harris.

Multiple Goalkickers: Quinlan 2, Conlan 2.

Rugged big man Gary Sidebottom joined the Lions a week earlier, [xx] and played one game in the reserves before having an immediate impact in a comfortable win against 10th placed Collingwood. According to a Sunday Press report, he ‘provided Fitzroy with much needed height, physical strength and aggression’.[xxi] Second quarter highlights included a fine mark and goal by Francis, and a classy left foot snap by Quinlan.


Round 17: 24 July 1982

Fitzroy      7.4, 15.5, 21.5,   27.8 (170)

Hawthorn  6.6, 10.9, 17.11, 18.15 (123)

Best players: Quinlan, Coleman, Conlan, Parish, Hinchen, Thornton, Pert

Multiple Goalkickers: Conlan 6, Rendell 5, McMahon 4, Murnane 3, Quinlan 2, Wilson 2.

An outstanding effort by the Lions to upset 3rd placed Hawthorn at VFL Park. Mick Conlan starred with six goals including Goal of the Year. Rendell kicked five playing as a key forward due to an injury, Quinlan was excellent in the ruck with 28 hit-outs plus 24 disposals, and Parish dominant throughout with 30 disposals.[xxii] Third quarter highlights included a barnstorming run by Conlan to goal, a fine snap by Wilson, and a sharp snap by Carlson from a tight angle.


Round 18: 31 July 1982

Fitzroy      7.5, 12.11, 17.15, 24.19 (163)

Melbourne   1.5, 5.8, 9.12, 13.15 (93)

Best players: Rendell (22 disposals and 26 hit-outs), Quinlan, Sidebottom, Conlan, Carlson, Gotch, Coleman, Harris, Francis.

Multiple Goalkickers: Conlan 4, Carlson 3, Sidebottom 3, Gotch 3, Coates 2, Quinlan 2, Francis 2, Poynton 2, Harris 2.

The Roys easily won their 3rd game in a row against 9th placed Melbourne, but remained 10 points outside the elusive final five.[xxiii]


Round 19: 7 August 1982 

Fitzroy  3.6, 10.11, 15.14, 21.16 (142)

St Kilda    1.3, 3.4, 6.9, 11.12 (72)

Best players: Rendell (25 disposals, 12 marks and 34 hit-outs), Lawrie, Parish, Thornton, Wilson, Quinlan, Gotch, Sidebottom, Conlan.

Multiple Goalkickers: Quinlan 5, Conlan 4, Wilson 4, Gotch 4.

An easy win over bottom placed St Kilda, but still 10 points outside the five. Gary Sidebottom was again impressive with 17 disposals and six marks. The Age noted perceptively: ‘Sidebottom has given Fitzroy much needed strength around the ground. He has the physique and the temperament to take on the mantle of Fitzroy’s enforcer’.[xxiv]


Round 20: 14 August 1982

Fitzroy  6.5, 9.7, 13.10, 15.15 (105)

Geelong  2.2, 2.8, 3.14, 5.18 (48)

Best players: Lawrie, Sidebottom, Carlson, Rendell, Hinchen, Parish, Gotch.

Multiple Goalkickers: Sidebottom 3, Quinlan 2,  Carlson 2, Wilson 2, Murnane 2, Gotch 2.

The Roys meritoriously won their 5th game in a row against 8th placed Geelong at Kardinia Park, but finals were now mathematically out of reach. Gary Sidebottom excelled against his old side.[xxv]


Round 21: 21 August 1982

Fitzroy    3.3, 8.9, 12.14, 19.17 (131)

Footscray 2.2, 2.3, 5.6, 12.11 (83)

Best players: Rendell (23 disposals, 8 marks and 39 hit-outs), Parish, Conlan, Sidebottom, Quinlan, Hinchen, Pert.

Multiple Goalkickers: Sidebottom 6, Quinlan 5, Conlan 5.

The Roys won their 6th game in a row against the 11th placed Bulldogs leaving them six points outside the five with one game to go.[xxvi] Second quarter highlights included a mark and goal by Quinlan, a lovely goal on the run by Pert, and Sidebottom grabbing the Sherrin from a ball-up to goal. Third quarter highlights included Quinlan running into an open goal, and two strong marks by Sidebottom resulting in goals.


Round 22: 28 August 1982

Fitzroy 2.3, 9.4, 12.7, 17.9 (111)

Carlton 6.2, 11.6, 17.9, 23.12 (150)

Best players: Francis, Harris, Wilson, Roos, Clayton, Conlan.

Multiple Goalkickers: Conlan 4, Sidebottom 3, Quinlan 2, Roos 2.

The Roys winning run was broken by the eventual premiers Carlton in the final round.[xxvii]


Top Ten Fitzroy Best and Fairest

Matt Rendell 167

Bernie Quinlan 116

Garry Wilson 100

Les Parish 98

Michael Conlan 56

Bradley Gotch 54

Grant Lawrie 51

Terry O’Neill 42

Lee Murnane 39

Scott Clayton 35


Top Ten Fitzroy Goal kickers

Bernie Quinlan 53

Michael Conlan 52

Garry Wilson 40

Bradley Gotch 38

David McMahon 37

Paul Roos 26

Garry Sidebottom 17

Michael Poynton 13

Leigh Carlson 12

Peter Francis 12

Lee Murnane 12

Les Parish 12

Matthew Rendell 12



Fitzroy were universally regarded as the best team outside the five in 1982, and coach Robert Walls was buoyant about their prospects for 1983 given the emergence of multiple talented youngsters.[xxviii]  Club chairman Keith Wiegard was equally optimistic, predicting that Fitzroy would aim for a premiership. [xxix]  This prediction would prove to be not too far off the mark: https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/so-close-to-the-holy-grail-a-personal-reflection-on-fitzroy-football-clubs-1983-season



[i] Mike Sheahan (1982) ‘Lions’ challenge’, The Herald, March; Alf Brown (1982) ‘Believe me, Lions have it’, The Herald, 19 March.

[ii] Russell Holmesby (2020) The Death of Fitzroy Football Club. Hardie Grant Books, Melbourne, pp.54-55; Jim Main (2007) Fitzroy. Bas Publishing, p.206.

[iii] Holmesby. The Death, pp.56-58.

[iv] Holmesby. The Death, pp.55-56.

[v] Rick Sturt (1982) ‘Cloke and dagger day for Tigers’, Sunday Observer, 21 March; Geoff Slattery (1982) ‘Early but ominous start to the business’, The Age, 22 March.

[vi][vi] Ian Cover (1982) ‘We were robbed’, Sunday Observer, 28 March; Geoff Slattery (1982) ‘Premiers share big day’, The Age, 29 March.

[vii] Rick Sturt (1982) ‘Rebound for Roos’, Sunday Observer, 11 April; Mike Coward (1982) ‘Lions pay for their lapse of memory’, The Age, 12 April.

[viii] Mike Coward (1982) ‘Lions hit by Sydney blitz’, The Age, 19 April.

[ix] Barry Akers (1982) ‘Quinlan takes the wind out of Bombers’, The Age, 25 April.

[x] Terry O’Halloran (1982) ‘Magpies in the dumps again’, Sunday Observer, 2 May; Mike Coward (1982) ‘Woods ready for a burial’, The Age, 3 May.

[xi] Howard Leigh (1982) ‘Roys are roaring again’, Sunday Observer, 9 May; Gerry Carman (1982) ‘Hawks beaten at their own game’, The Age, 10 May.

[xii] Peter Wilmoth (1982) ‘It’s a grand old feeling’, The Age, 17 May.

[xiii] Stewart Murrihy (1982) ‘Lions come roaring back’, Sunday Observer, 23 May; Peter Wilmoth (1982) ‘Time takes toll of Jezza’s youngsters”, The Age, 24 May;

[xiv] Terry O’Halloran (1982) ‘Wilson roars back at knockers’, Sunday Observer, 30 May.

[xv] Stewart Murrihy (1982) ‘Bulldog owners losing patience’, Sunday Observer, 6 June; Trevor Grant (1982) ‘Fitzroy has the last laugh’, The Age, 7 June.

[xvi] Terry O’Halloran (1982) ‘Twin tigers cut loose’, Sunday Observer, 13 June; Trevor Grant (1982) ‘Tigers win proves Taylor made’, The Age, 14 June.

[xvii] Rick Sturt (1982) ‘Roo duo slay Lions hopes’, Sunday Observer, 20 June.

[xviii] Howard Leigh (1982) ‘Swans fans pack dressing room after win’, Sunday Observer, 27 June.

[xix] Anon (1982) ‘Bombers tackle sad Lions’, Sunday Press, 4 July.

[xx] Gerry Carman (1982) ‘Sidey joins Fitzroy’, The Age, 2 July.

[xxi] Stewart Murrihy (1982) ‘Garry on side’, Sunday Observer, 18 July. See also Peter Wilmoth (1982) ‘Pies ammunition turns up blanks’, The Age, 19 July.

[xxii] Bob Crimeen (1982) ‘Tamed by the Lions’, Sunday Press, 25 July; Pete Carter (2020) Fitzroy’s Fabulous Centre. Mr Smudge Books, Perth, pp.119-122.

[xxiii] Trevor Grant (1982) ‘Lions on the way to finals’, Sunday Press, 1 August.

[xxiv] Bob Crimeen (1982) ‘So sad for Jezza’, Sunday Press, 8 August; Matthew Stephens (1982) ‘Lions look good too late’, The Age, 9 August.

[xxv] Michael Lovett (1982) ‘Lions chew up the cats’, Sunday Press, 15 August.

[xxvi] John Rice (1982) ‘Lions roar, not whimper’, Sunday Press, 22 August.

[xxvii] Tony Peek (1982) ‘Blues in with show says Parkin’, Sunday Press, 29 August.

[xxviii] Scott Palmer (1982) ‘Lions will roar in 83: Walls’, Sunday Press, 29 August.

[xxix] Weigard, Keith (1982) ‘Chairman’s message’ in Fitzroy Football Club 99th Annual Report 1982, p.3, see also p.6.


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About Philip Mendes

Philip Mendes is an academic who follows AFL, soccer, tennis and cricket. He supported Fitzroy Football Club from 1970-1996, and on their death he adopted the North Melbourne Kangaroos as his new team. In his spare time, he occasionally writes about his current and past football teams.


  1. Thanks for the memories, Philip.
    Enjoyable reading as always.

    I am intrigued that Paul Roos was omitted after his debut despite kicking a couple of majors.

  2. Thanks very much, Phil, a Fitzroy season that had some similarities to what was to come in 1984 (not George Orwell’s book).
    The one-point loss to North Melbourne in Round 13 was effectively an “eight-point game”, insofar as the Roys finished six points behind the Roos on the ladder.
    I’m not sure why the VFL scheduled the Fitzroy-Richmond clash as a standalone game to kick off the season, but they did the same with Carlton and Essendon in 1979.

  3. Nice to hear from you guys.
    Smokie: Paul Roos talks about his first game on pp.112-113 of his autobiography. He copped Rod Carter as his opponent, and hardly had a kick in two quarters before being taken off. They brought him back in the last quarter which was when he kicked the two goals. I imagine the Fitzroy coaches felt he was a bit raw and needed to bulk up more, but he progressed very quickly from there. I recall him already being a very important player with his high marking as the Roys marched to the Finals in 83.
    Pete – From memory the switched games were all about money. The VFL wanted to play the bigger games at VFL Park to attract a large crowd. They also probably wanted to muscle in on the cricket season (what’s new), and in those days, it was also about marginalising the VFA.

  4. Jarrod_L says

    Wonderful read as per usual Philip, thanks for putting in the work to make it so comprehensive. A nice window into a time slightly before us younger Roys supporters came to watch the side.

    Those early games against the ‘suburb sandwich’ rivals Carlton and Collingwood looked like rippers! (Shame about the draw though!)

  5. Shane Reid says

    Thanks Philip, I really enjoyed reading this (and do all of your reports). What a special team we had in the early eighties. The Collingwood win sounds a bit similar to the Lions last Thursday. Thanks for your well researched piece, great to have such a handy reference to some great names and great games from this era.

  6. Jarrod and Shane – thanks for your positive feedback. Hope to write more in a few months time – the 1978 Night Premiership deserves some attention.

  7. Stainless says

    Thanks for the memories Philip. I attended both Fitzroy-Richmond games in ’82 and took great pleasure in our wins, given the heartbreak the Lions had dished out to us the previous year. I well remember Gary Wilson ironing out Jimmy Jess at the MCG and, later, Mick Malthouse whacking Mick Conlan (payback was still currency in those days). As you say, the Waverley game was brought forward to maxmise crowds (although from memory I think less than 40,000 attended). I was just happy not to have to play Fitzroy at the Junction Oval where the Tigers really struggled.

  8. Stainless — thanks for your comments. The Tigers were too good for Fitzroy that year, and clearly the best team in the competition. It was highly surprising they got knocked over in the Grand Final.

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