Podcast Every WC Player of the 2010's ranked

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Quinz

Incognito
May 31, 2005
36,801
38,550
Belgium
AFL Club
West Coast
I think the North game was better from Coxy, but it's splitting hairs. Had that ability that the greats have to lift at the end of games. Most of you probably remember in his younger days when he took two marks in a row in defence at the very end of the Sydney 05 QF.
 

ioppolo

Brownlow Medallist
Oct 3, 2010
23,344
15,405
Perth
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Chelsea, OKC Thunder, Scorchers
That was a ridiculous performance and end to the game. Coxy just wasn't going to let us lose that game.
That was one bizarre game. We let a huge lead slide, the Dogs had so much momentum I thought we were dead and buried...and then we somehow pulled a few goals from our arses and snatched back victory. I still remember Tim Lane's commentary;

"Can someone take a mark?...Cox can! Cox can!"
 

the harry

Brownlow Medallist
Sep 25, 2007
12,486
11,215
AFL Club
West Coast
I think the North game was better from Coxy, but it's splitting hairs. Had that ability that the greats have to lift at the end of games. Most of you probably remember in his younger days when he took two marks in a row in defence at the very end of the Sydney 05 QF.

Was that the North game where monkey jrn knocked Goldy out?
 

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ronpingwins

Club Legend
Apr 1, 2013
1,580
2,867
AFL Club
West Coast
#10 Elliot Yeo

Arriving at the end of 2013 as his backup choice, Yeo has proven pretty good value for the pick 28 we traded him for, despite some angst we didn't use 31 instead. Yeo was primarily a half back flanker when he joined, which is why Freo famously turned him down, claiming they had enough depth in that role with Duffield and Ibbotson. Yeo was put straight into the team and came up with 10 tackles on debut, as he began his first season with promise. Playing as a pacy hbf, he gathered 12-15 touches a game and had 21 bounces in his first 6 games. He looked a handy player, whether 28 was worth it was unclear though. The coaching staff clearly saw something in him though and he started to get rotations in the midfield, a 23 touch (12 contested) game against GWS was strong. He then followed up losing his teeth against the pies with full time rotations in the midfield, gathering 7 clearances two games in a row in poor losses. For a team desperately needing an inside bull to come through, Yeo was showing some very good signs. Of course, instead of having a breakout game against GC, he injures his finger and misses all but 1 quarter for the rest of the season.

In 2015 he was the player all fans were most excited to see. It appeared he had all the attributes to be a star, except natural midfield instincts. Yeo began back in his flanker role, to mediocre form, before being thrust into the midfield for immediate, outstanding effect. A solid game against the Lions before a crazy game against the Giants, out of nowhere he was everywhere, gathering 19 touches in the first half, although it felt like 45 as his immense athleticism stood out. He faded to finish with 25 but still polled 2 votes. Again amongst our best against Port, with a few speccys and an outstanding goal from the boundary, Yeo then had his official breakout against GC at home. Yeo gathered 29 touches and 4 goals in this performance, including 3 in the second quarter alone. Yeo wasn't necessarily the inside bull we were looking for, with Priddis still receiving most of the hitouts at stoppages, however he was proving a weapon around the ground, the ideal specimen physically and athletically, he also had the ability overhead of a KPP, regularly flying for contested marks, of which he took 32 for the season. Yeo would always start the game in the centre square, alongside Priddis and Shuey, but he would never win the clearance as his midfield rotations slowed down. His all round ability meant he was thrown all over the ground, with focus on exploiting his marking ability around the ground and up forward, as well as wasting him as a key defender when Schofield and Gov went down. His versatility was a curse in some ways, taking him away from the role he was showing such upside in. The season ended on a poor note with an abysmal GF, only gathering 5 touches. He took a crucial mark and goal on half time, but aside from that it was 4 touches and 4 clangers.

In 2016 it was hoped he would return to that midfield role, however he never got much consistency with it, rotating forward more. His game against the Tigers early showed he still had the talent, more rotations led to 25 explosive touches, 2.4, 2 assists, 7 clearances and 8 Inside 50's, showcasing everything about why we were excited over him. His upside seemed enormous, yet he was taken out of their the next week. His form mid season was pretty good as he settled into the role, kicking 11 from 8 games and finding a bit of it across half forward. It wasn't elite though, as we thought he could be. His form fell in a complete hole in the final stage of the season, his poor EF signed off with a set shot miss from 20m out. Only 23, we knew he was still going to be a good player for a while, but he needed to get better.

Whatever was holding him back in 2016 was gone in 2017 as he reached AA levels. His aerial dominance was back, after taking 15 contested marks in the whole of 2016, he had 9 in the first 2 rounds of 17. 26 touches, 10 marks and 2 goals was a great start, followed by a dominant 25 touches and 13 marks. Yeo was back at half back but had become elite at it, his smarts had grown to the point he could read the play as well as anyone, which meant he could use his athleticism to intercept just about anything, and then rebound with pace. He was a unique player in this role, a dominant wingman played about 40 metres back. He was our biggest weapon across the first half of the season and although he didn't quite get the recognition, was probably in the best few performed players in the league at that point. 29 touches and 11 marks in round 4 stood out, 32 (24 kicks) and 14 marks in the derby before finally getting 3 votes for a 27 and 10 (and a crucial goal) against Port. Although we were initially excited about a midfield prospect, Yeo was fulfilling his potential as a HBF, and at the halfway point of the season was leading the league in the AFLCA award, which is very unusual for a defender. His form was amazing there but as the season went on we slowly eased him into the midfield again, to lesser but not poor effect. Yeo's numbers went down but he seemed more confident in there and he provided he point of difference to the Priddis/Mitchell combo. With those two retiring, it seemed like we were looking at an internal promotion to replace them, rather than recruiting anyone. His season was rewarded with an AA appearance and the B+F, fans were delighted with his performance, but also a little frustrated with the coaching staff, as it appeared he didn't have the midfield smarts to become elite there, it seemed a waste to take him away from his AA standard role across half back.

Yeo began 2018 in a permanent midfield role, with the view of replacing the departing mids. It lasted 2 weeks before his versatility cursed him again, as we inexplicably moved him deep into defence to play on some Cats forward. It was a bizarre move, something the coaches very quickly regretted as they moved him back into the middle, where he was highly influential in our late burst to win. Yeo followed this up with 33 touches in a BOG performance against GC, hinting that he should never be moved into a purely defensive role again. He hit an elite run of form as his numbers spiked, all of a sudden he was a reliable clearance winner, accumulated an enormous amount of tackles, won lots of contested ball and used his pace to burst from stoppages and do some damage going forward. He was electric as he continually pumped the ball inside 50, it seemed like every week he was reliable for a long range goal (he wasn't actually, it just seemed like it). His BOG performance against the Tigers made the football public take notice, as he rammed Dusty into the turf in a dominant performance. After pre season scepticism over his midfield capabilities, he became our prime mover and showed what we were so pumped about in early 2015. He gathered career highs in most disposals, clearances and inside 50's, polling 15 Brownlow votes which feels less than he deserved. He made the AA squad but was harshly left out of the team. Just about our most important player heading into finals, he started well with 36 touches (24 contested), 9 tackles and 9 inside 50's. He had turned from a 5 disposal GF into a big game player. His PF was solid, despite 10 clangers, before a mixed GF. Copping the Greenwood tag, Yeo was unsighted early as we were down 5 goals, a repeat of 2015 looming. The tag was lightened, fortunately due to Shuey's distracting performance, allowing Yeo into the game where he gathered 14 contested touches and a big goal. It wasn't a great 'Yeo' performance, but he dug in and won some tough ball, which was crucial in the win.

Having figured out the midfield, Yeo was coming off back to back best and fairests and set to be a key part of the midfield again. A lack of a big pre season meant a slowish start, aside from the derby he was a bit quieter. Once at full fitness he exploded though, obtaining 12 Brownlow votes in 4 weeks (yes, BOG 4 games in a row). This was partly driven by averaging 12 tackles over the month, but his clearances and disposals also spiked, as his effect on games went through the roof. After a quieter game, he polled 2 more the following week, meaning 14 votes in 6 games, which was a Judd in early 07 kinda run. His all round effect on games slowed down as the season went on, still capable when we needed it (15 clearances against the Tigers), he wasn't looking as quick and agile, like he was carrying an injury. Still, it was a strong season as he was unequivocally a midfielder, probably the first where we didn't need to use his 'versatility'. 17 Brownlow votes overall, you feel he still has another level to go to and if things all line up for him, could pinch one.
 
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ronpingwins

Club Legend
Apr 1, 2013
1,580
2,867
AFL Club
West Coast
#9 Mark LeCras

An elite forward who, later into his career still left you feeling he could have been as good as anyone. LeCras had come off a fantastic breakout in 2009, and entered the decade as our forward line focal point, despite being under KPP size. LeCras had an up and down start to the season but offered pretty much everything, he could mark in a contest, work extremely hard to get out into space on the lead, he could dribble goals from the boundary and was on occasion a solid rotation in the midfield. In his first 6 games Lecca kicked bags of 5,4 and 4, before having an off day against the Dees where, despite taking 7 marks inside 50, he could only manage 2.5. He was generally a dead eye in front of goal though. He didn't get the recognition he deserved in the first half of the season, despite a couple of quiet games he kicked 28 goals in the first half of the year, often a one man band up forward, the service was poor and infrequent. Lecca had to work exceptionally hard to get his chances and often had to create them out of nothing, slotting snaps from the boundary to keep us in games. After a run of 20 goals in 6 games, there was one fateful night where everything came together. The Bombers played multiple opponents on him, but none could get near him. He slotted 4 in the first quarter, had one stolen by Strijk to start the second, then kicked a banana and two more perfect set shots. His kicking for goal was breathtaking, it was inch perfect. As the focus of the game became about him, his ability was highlighted more, as well as his work rate, he made a remarkable amount of leads every time we went forward, and he would get loose and take the mark every time. It was a display of perfect football. He began the third on the wing but Essendon were so distracted by him they immediately gave him a free. Lecca wasn't afraid to lead to the boundary, because he knew he could drill them there, duly doing so for his ninth in a Sheedesque manner. 10 was a typical lead, then perfect set shot from outside 50. He got his hand hit which left him off the ground, missing the opportunity for more. He kicked goals in all sorts of ways and 11 was the best, an amazing 1-2 with Priddis who handball over his head for Lecca to snap, he could do know wrong. 12 was a textbook LeCras lead and goal. He came off the field with 12 goals and you felt with a bit of luck he easily could have had more, it was the best individual eagles performance in years. The commentators claimed there was a bigger story unfolding than him because Essendon lost again and Knights job was in danger, with Hird in the commentary box they tried to hype up his possible return. Maybe it was a bigger story. LeCras kicked 3.5 the following week, inevitably this prompted pundits to declare him selfish, an inevitable backlash after a week of lauding him. He followed it up with 5 more in the derby, despite a 75 point loss, and it felt like he had perfected his role. LeCras played the final 3 weeks up the ground, to middling effect. He ended with 63.24 from 21 games, remarkable accuracy, and it probably should have hit 70 if he'd played the last 3 weeks close to goal. An AA and B+F were awarded for the dominant season.

LeCras was our star man, but it was clear the team wouldn't rise with him the sole forward target, we needed KPF's to lead the line and Lecca to be an option, as well as a rotation through the midfield, where he had all the attributes to be a star. He started round 1 ok, a couple of goals but not dominating, before disaster seemingly struck. He went down with a groin injury, and despite a promising team performance you could hear a pin drop, as the crowd knew our season hung on his groins. Fortunately, it wasn't as bad as first speculated and he was back for round 6. Lecca clearly wasn't fully fit when he returned, only kicking 1.3 and getting subbed off. He was building though. It didn't take long for him to adjust to a midfield role, gathering 22 touches in a derby to go along with a couple of goals, then pulling 29 touches against the Dogs, still pinching his 3 goals in the final quarter. This role was where the peak of his career was going to be ideally spent, looking at what someone like Robbie Gray has done over the last 5 years is what we were aiming for. LeCras could roam through the midfield, finding space with his elite agility, he was such an accurate kick he could set up a lot of the play going forward. Then drift forward and pinch a few goals on a lesser defender. LeCras had 28 touches (15 contested, 7 clearances) and 2 goals against GC, before resting forward against the SA teams, kicking a further 9 goals there. His season continued on a similar pattern, he didn't have a breakout period where he dominated, but he had consistently good games. Despite missing a few games and playing up the ground, he kicked 47 for the year. Unfortunately he didn't light it up in finals, but he loomed as our matchwinner going forward.

Ugh. ACL in preseason, out for the year. Considering we barely missed the top 4 and were knocked out in a tight game at the MCG, he probably would have made a big difference. We were all pumped for his return in 2013, fully understanding that the first year back from an ACL isn't your best. He was still young and such a class act, even if his first year was full time forward, he was such a good kick and so dangerous he would be a handful. This kind of came to fruition, aside from the kicking. He was far from his best, and actually injured his arm round 1, forcing him to miss a week. He was still kicking a few goals, winning a few clearances and using it ok, but there were a few downsides. His agility wasn't quite back, understandable coming back from the injury, but he wasn't quite as slippery. The other one was the arm and ACL injuries effected his kicking for goal, in 2010 he kicked 63.24, this year he kicked 30.27. This includes scuffing a late shot to level the scores against Port, a shot he would normally eat up. Despite reasonable performances, injuries forced him in and out of the side, finishing with a 5 goal effort against the Bombers. LeCras looked to have adjusted to start 2014 though, 27 touches, 10 marks and 5 goals in a dominant all round display was very exciting. Injuries again hit early in round 3, causing him to miss another month. He came back to kick 4 and assist 4 against GWS, then getting suspended, coming back for a 20 touch, 12 tackle and 2 goal game. Frustration abounded as he just could not get a run of games together, in the 4 games he had started he'd kicked 13 goals, assisted 7 and was averaging 22 touches (11 contested). He was back to his best but we were over halfway through the season and he'd only played 4 full games. He'd hurt his arm again bumping rather than tackling (his suspension), which led to a couple of quiet weeks. He got another run through the midfield and was a key mover, sneakily looking a Glendinning chance as an upset derby win loomed, before we folded. LeCras closed the season against the 2 poorest teams in the league, kicking 4 goals and having 20+ touches in both. It was a wasted season, despite dominating at times, he repeated his 30 goals in 15 games from the previous season and achieved nothing.

LeCras got a free run at it in 2015, and he was somewhat close to his best. He was prolific early, giving off 5 goal assists in round 1 (highest in the league that year), before kicking 9 in the next 2 weeks. He kicked 5 in the derby, most of them late, which at the time was seen as him taking advantage of the game being over, however later could be viewed as what happens to Freo when they don't provide non stop pressure. LeCras had what I saw as one of his best games ever against Port in what was a really symbolic breakthrough for the team, he had 28 touches and a goal, but this was prime Lecca, he won hard ball and consistently used it effectively. He was the game breaker, so influential in the third quarter where we got on top in particular. 1 Brownlow vote wasn't justice. It was actually a really consistent, high quality season for him. Class games were the norm, although he didn't get external recognition. Nearly 20 touches per game, 45 goals and 25 goal assists as his class shone through. He hit finals in top form and was a key part of the QF with 20 touches, 2 goals and 2 assists. Another strong PF with 18 touches, 10 marks and unfortunately 1.3. His GF wasn't one to remember, he stole a goal off JK but overall he wasn't the worst, with 16 touches he at least got himself involved.

2016 was a step backwards, in a pretty weird year for the club. The start to the season had a formula, play sh*t team at Subi, smash them with Lecca dominating, then play good team away, get belted with Lecca unsighted. His start to the season included 25 and 2, 27 and 3.3, as well as a 6 goal game playing more forward, earning 5 Brownlow votes. All at home to sh*t teams. This formline continued through the season to a less extreme extent. He looked back to his best against the Hawks with 24 and 2, although an injury in that game put a dampener on that. A strong effort in the Giles game before an ok EF to wrap it up, it's hard to say anyone was good in that game but he wasn't the worst. He was at an odd point in 2017, could he lift against top teams? Was it worth playing him if he was only capable of flat tracking? Many fans thought he was done. As the team loaded up with geriatrics for a flag, LeCras started round 1 well with 4 goals, including a matchwinning second quarter. In fact he started the whole season well. A tough game at the G in the wet against the eventual premiers netted 3.4, unfortunate accuracy that could be excused in the wet, as well as a very useful 4 goals from a dearth of inside 50's to win it against Port. He was performing in tough away games and had 17 goals in 7 games, on track for a 50 goal year. Old man injuries struck though and his form fell off a cliff, he had patches but became a liability out there, which included a game goalless streak. This prompted fans to say he was finished, and a poor defensive effort late in the year led his mortal enemy David King to declare he should never play again. He finished on 32 goals from 19 games, rarely venturing into the midfield at this point. Still beloved by fans, they were a little cautious as to whether he should continue, but a 1 year deal was positively received.

Rid of his hip injury that was nagging him, he looked like an old man but was turning it on enough to get by. 13 goals in his first 5, it slowed down but he was a reliable runner across half forward. His experienced body, tank and smarts was extremely useful for newbies like Ryan, Rioli and Venables. The rest of the season wasn't really noteworthy, he kicked 32 and was involved in a few key moments, including the PF where he was big in dismantling the Dees. Yes, you know what happened next. After emerging in 2005, blowing his finals opportunity in 06 with 2 touches in a 1 point loss, Lecca came full circle, he got a flag and got to mock David King. He now fishes and occasionally attempts to teach Freo players how to kick a footy.
 

Ishmael_

EQuiv
Apr 30, 2013
2,216
5,313
Stockholm
AFL Club
West Coast
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South Fremantle
LeCras' an interesting player. If he was a little bit taller or a little bit quicker he had the game to become one of the all-time greats. He might still have been if he didn't have such a horrible run with injury. Unfortunately, his best health/form coincided with a pretty average team.

Still, I think pound for pound he's one of the best, most pure footballers I've ever seen play the game. And, even if over the duration of his career he wasn't consistently the absolute elite player he showed he could be, I still think he's criminally underrated. Averaging over two goals a game playing as a second (also undersized) tall puts him in the top echelon of players to have filled that role. He had an exceptional football brain and possessed some of the best skills I've ever seen.

Capping it all off with a premiership was, in the words of Werner Herzog, 'heartbreakingly beautiful'. Je t'adore Mark Lecras!
 

Ambrose Burnside

Premiership Player
Dec 8, 2006
3,253
5,050
WA
AFL Club
West Coast
I hope people don’t forget how good LeCras was 2009-2011. Should have been AA 2009.
During the post-Cuz clean-out, LeCras was one of the only reasons to watch the Eagles as we fumbled and bumbled and even when we won a clearance we'd kick the ball into the opposition's forward line.

He was the player I was most happy to see get his premiership medal.

Still holds the Marvel Stadium goal kicking record for most goals in a single game, and I am so glad it was against Essendon. I've helped write quiz night questions and this is always one I sneak in ;)
 

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RookiePick

Brownlow Medallist
Aug 13, 2014
17,985
30,926
AFL Club
West Coast
Lecca was a real champ. He could play really tall for his size with a really good lead/mark/setshot and had as many small forward party tricks as anyone.

On raw footy talent he's probably in our top 10 all time and it's just the injuries that really robbed us of seeing more of his best on the field.

May his craypots be forever full!
 

ronpingwins

Club Legend
Apr 1, 2013
1,580
2,867
AFL Club
West Coast
#8 Jack Darling

Darling to the midfield. Darling to the WAFL. Darling to the ruck. Darling to the Crows for Ellis-Yolmen. Despite hitting the ground running in his career and having infrequent flat spots, there has been a fixation with 'fixing' Darling, changing what he is. Certainly the 15 GF played a part in this, but it is also because we all thought he had another level to go to, which he has proven in the past two seasons.

Taken at pick 26, Darling had dominated his junior career and was talked about as a top 3 pick for a long time, meaning there was a lot of hype when he arrived. Despite KPP's taking a few years to impact, Darling was in the team for round 1. He immediately showed his main selling points, kicking 1 goal from a HTB free, and one more from a contested mark. Darling really set the standard for defensive pressure, regularly chasing players down to earn frees, which brought the best out of his teammates, with JK and other talls no longer allowed to get away with a lack of chasing. Due to a glut of talls in the team, Darling regularly matched up on unsuitable defenders, which allowed him to take contested marks with ease, his hands looked like glue early. In his 4th game, Darling won 24 (17 at half time) touches roaming up the ground, seemingly getting better and better in each game. He earnt his first Brownlow vote in his 5th game, 14 touches and 3 goals, but eye catchingly taking 5 contested marks. Darling went on a dry run mid season, kicking only 1 in 7 games, as fatigue began to weary his young body. He remained in the team mainly for his defensive pressure and played all 3 finals. His QF was average, the Pies were one of the few teams to have an ideal matchup for him, although he kicked a clutch goal late to reduce the margin to a kick. His SF was much better, at 3QT the game was in the balance, Darling then took a big mark to kick a goal, then kicked the next with a great running effort, his 3rd for the night. The PF was tough, although he drilled a beautiful goal from outside 50. Darling looked a big game player that could become anything, with 24 goals, 29 contested marks and 93 tackles for the year.

With JK going down early, all of a sudden our deep forward line looked thin, with 2nd year Darling the most reliable target. After being used up the ground in his 1st year to take advantage of his running ability, Darling reverted to the FF role to take advantage of his strength and marking ability. He filled it admirably, opening with 9 tackles and 4 contested marks, he consistently hit the scoreboard, with no down games. He didn't really have a breakout game, but had regular 3 or 4 goal games and was very consistent with his output. He was performing well above what you could expect from a 2nd year KPP. He had his standout game when JK returned, roaming more and gathering 22 touches, 9 marks and 3 goals, pumping it inside 50 8 times against the Hawks. We opened the finals with a soft EF against North, where Darling duly ate them alive early, kicking 4 in the first half as we built a match winning lead. The SF was against the Pies however, matched against O'Brien or Toovey, they were both ideal opponents for him. He still took 3 contested marks and kicked 2 crucial goals, making an impact. Kicking 53 goals in your 2nd season is unheard of in modern times, and Darling seemed one of the most promising talents in the league.

Darling started to get some minor frustrations from fans in 2013, although he put together a pretty good season. Darling's numbers went down, when most were assuming they'd exponentially increase. His goals went down from 53 to 42 and contested marks 36 to 25 as he was no longer the focal point, to the benefit of one disposal per game and more than doubling his goal assist tally. After only reaching the mark once previously, Darling kicked 5 on 4 occasions, showing his ability to dominate teams when he gets on top. It was frustrating as he didn't quite take the next step people were hoping for (3rd year KPP remember) and it was an immensely disappointing season for a team that were flag favs going in. With Simmo arriving in 2014, he advocated in preseason a bit that Darling might get a bit of a run in the midfield. Despite this, he started forward for 7 goals in his first 2 games. It kinda started to happen though, his goals dried up a little but his disposals spiked, regularly getting high teens disposals. Darling continued to be very consistent without taking his game to the next level, he was playing his role but it was starting to look like he wouldn't become the star we thought when he first started. His goal tally again went backwards to 39, although his disposals went up from 11.8 to 14.3. He was playing well, but was that what we really wanted from him? Was Darling to the midfield a viable option?

2015 did not start well, with a pre season injury keeping him out for half the year. Darling returned via the WAFL to gain match fitness, where he kicked 5 in his sleep and was promoted. He started well, kicking 11 in his first 4, including what I believe was the first ninja flip against the Tigers, as well as a BOG 10 mark, 5 goal game against the Dees. As the team was going from strength to strength, it was clear Darling's lack of pre season was having an effect and he was being carried a little bit. He still played his role, he forced a quality defender onto him and was reliable to hit the scoreboard. Despite staying close to goal though, he only managed 15 goals in his last 11 games, well below anything since his first year. He had a pretty poor finals series, most say he choked and proved he was a poor big game player, but really his output was at a similar level to his form that season, he was far from his best. Despite a big QF win, he only managed 6 touches, with a token big mark and goal. His PF was pretty poor too, he only managed 3 contested possessions in his first 2 finals, despite historically being a strong contested player. His GF is remembered as a shocker for a few reasons, giving away an unnecessary 50 that led to a goal, as well as a shocking kick into the corridor that led to a goal, both in the first. He also had that dropped mark, as well as a mix up with Shuey when he was bursting to goal. He was getting involved though and kicked a big goal in the third, looming as the only forward that could get loose. It wasn't a great showcase to the football community, with many forming their view on that game.

After some brief rumours he would be on the move for the Crows prized midfielder, Darling returned for 2016 with his reputation in tatters, but the hope he would get back to full fitness and get back to his best. Darling started well, although he didn't change perceptions, he was the only forward able to put up a fight in our tough away games, kicking 3 against the Hawks at the G and 3 against the Swans at the awful SCG. Darling blitzed Freo early, although he went nearly completely missing he did enough to earn a Brownlow vote, as well as 5 contested marks and 4 goals against the Tigers showing how good he could be. Darling continued to be an effective foil for JK, he had a couple of quiet games, but mostly was reliable for a few goals as JK took most of the inside 50 targets. He kicked 44 goals for the year, his best since 2012, with 2.9 against Carlton and Adelaide anomalies holding him back from 50+, as he was generally a reliable set shot. He kicked 2 in the embarrassing EF lost which again sunk his rep. He wasn't even bad, he just had a few strange moments, pulling out of a contest inexplicably in the last few minutes, as well as starting to play on from a mark inside 50, try to pretend he didn't, then stopping and losing the ball.

Darling wasn't a star at this point really, but was exactly what you needed from a 2nd key forward, a safe 40 goal a year option. Could he be better than that though? We expected a star. Yes, KPP's take a while, but heading into his 7th year, he was entering his prime. Again, there was trade Darling rumours everywhere, mostly from his finals reputation, as well as a view he was a disappointing player because he hadn't met the hype and needed a fresh start. 2017 again was eh, consistent while JK dominated. His disposals were down a touch, and in his first 9 games, he kicked 2 goals in 7 of them, including 2.5 against the Bombers. The two exceptions to this run, which included 2 in 5 games in a row, were 1.2 against the Tigers at the G, where he got hurt early, still managing 16 touches, as well as a 4 goal game against the Hawks at the MCG in the wet. Despite a reputation as a poor big game player, his 2 return appearances against Hawthorn at the G after GF15 netted 3 and 4 goals, when delivery was absolutely dire. They weren't brilliant efforts, but he actually seemed one of the few without a mental block for that fixture. As JK got injured for the first time in years, his run of kicking 2 goals immediately stopped. Moved into the main target role again against GC, Darling went scoreless as we lost by a couple of points. It happened to coincide with complications in the birth of his child, but there was a view that maybe he wasn't up to being the main man, having JK allowed attention off him and he wouldn't be able to handle the pressure. There was a lot of media pressure on him, he followed it up with 2 against the Cats before again going goalless against the Dees. A near BOG effort against the Dogs however showed maybe he could handle it, 18 touches, 3 goals and 4 goal assists, earning 2 Brownlow votes. 4 goals against the Power was next and he was going ok, even if the team wasn't. JK returned and immediately Darling went on a run of kicking 2 goals a game, 5 in a row again. For 10 games in a row when JK was fit, Darling kicked 2 goals every single time, which really underlined how he'd taken on the understudy role. Darling stepped up in the EF, kicking the first 2 and a 3rd shortly after, proving vital in a low scoring game.

JK entered 2018 with an injury so the pressure again was on JD to be the main man, and prove he was the long term successor. At this point he had played 151 games, mostly we were looking for improvement from our youngsters. We knew what Darling was and he was as good as he'll get. It happened though. It clicked. 3 goals was followed by 4, 11 marks and 2 Brownlow votes. His contested marking went through the roof and was reminiscent of the signs he showed in 2011. Multiple contested marks to go with 19 touches and 3 goals, 18 and 3, 18 and 3 and 19 and 4 was his formline, barring a pouring game against Carlton. He was the form key forward of the comp heading into the top of the table clash with the Tigers. He showed why with a clear career best performance, mocking the Tigers lauded defence with 20 kicks, 15 marks (6 contested) and 6 goals. He somehow didn't get 3 Brownlow votes. He played1 more game before getting a 6 week injury, which was very frustrating as at that point, he was probably the best performed player in the comp. He returned with 3 against Collingwood, then 18 touches, 11 marks and 3 goals against the Dogs, showing he was back to his best. 2 poor performances sandwiched a good derby effort, before he went down injured in the opening minutes for the second time that season. Fortunately he returned the following week with 4 more goals. Finals loomed and he still had an indifferent reputation for them, I'm not quite sure he changed that completely. A quietish QF until the final quarter, where he looked the match winner and kicked 2 very big goals. He was everywhere in the PF, his dominance didn't completely translate to the scoreboard but he took advantage of their abysmal effort. The GF, his chance for redemption, was a story in itself. He played the first half like it was weighing on his mind, he looked like he couldn't run and was giving up in every contest he was in, he just could not get into any space at all. O'Brien and Toovey weren't playing, he could play well against them. It was all in his head and a half time rev up led to him taking contested marks all over the place, he dominated and kicked a crucial goal. All of a sudden he was dragging us over the line. I'm not sure what to say about that dropped mark, but I don't know where he would be at now if the ball went up the other end and we lost. It was something that could only happen to him after what happened in 2015. Overall though, Darling managed 19 full games for 48 goals and 54 contested marks. He combined his goal kicking from 2012 with his ability to accumulate from 2014, his game came together. From 16 full H+A games he polled 11 votes, only 2 for his 6 goals against the Tigers as well as underpolling in a few others, it was a very impressive KPF season, only missing AA due to his injury.

2019 didn't continue at the same level straight away, 10 goals in his first 6 games again prompted some minor Darling to the WAFL chat. He built into the season though and got back to his best. Probably peaking against the Dogs with 6 goals. Darling was absolutely the focal point, overtaking Kennedy as our lead forward and nearly our most important player. Darling kicked 59.18 for the year, remarkable efficiency, and picked up his first AA. KPP's take a while and it looks like Darling needed 7 years and 150 games to get there. He will remain a massively crucial player, hopefully he picks up a few more AA's and flags, as he probably will end up our second highest goal kicker of all time.
 

ronpingwins

Club Legend
Apr 1, 2013
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#7 Nic Naitanui

Take your mind back to early 2010. NN had come off a promising half season, winning a game off his own boot and showing glimpses of his incredible athleticism. He was a player everyone had an opinion on, either the next big thing or wildly overrated. The opening preseason contest suggested the former, as he kicked 4 goals and dominated the match. Leigh Matthews even asked what were his Brownlow odds at one point. So the hype over him was big. In round 2 the hype delivered a little, as he gathered 20 contested possessions, 9 clearances and 9 inside 50's in a dominant game, earning 2 Brownlow votes. He gained 6 free kicks in this game, as rucks weren't quite sure how to deal with his leap and had to resort to infringing. His early part of the season also included 7 clearances and inside 50's against the Bombers, where critics argued he was BOG, as he repeatedly grabbed the ball out of the ruck, have Hille move out of the way so he could pump it forward. He also had 19 touches (16 contested), 7 clearances and 3 contested marks against the Hawks. His output was inconsistent to start the season but his influence wasn't, winning clearances, effective hitouts and providing a strong presence in contests. He slowed down a little, where he wasn't as dominant a presence, which caused a little backlash among neutrals. The hype early in the year was rising star lock and imminent superstar, which didn't come to fruition because he was a very green ruckman. Instead, focus began on what he couldn't do, only taking just over 1 mark per game and not always being the most reliable kick. There was a fair bit to be excited about though, and a 5th place B+F finish showed he was going ok.

His partnership with Cox began to flourish in 2011, as both rested forward at times to good effect. NN now started in the ruck, his game was still developing but his ruck work was becoming more influential, allowing the likes of Shuey and Kerr to burst away from stoppages. His best run of early form came between rounds 7-9, gathering 24 touches (15 contested), 27 hitouts and 7 clearances against the Bombers, 10 tackles in an impactful derby effort, then tearing up the Dogs in the ruck, as his leap allowed us centre square dominance as we won by 20 goals. The team emerged as top 4 contenders and it all began with his leap in the middle. His physical presence was scaring opponents as he racked up the tackles and his all round game was starting to come together, after criticism over his ability in the air, he took an honorary mark of the year against the Blues, he took 5 contested marks against the Saints, 2 in the derby although he took a few more only for frees to be given in the contest, then 5 more against the Tigers as his aerial dominance peaked. His 2nd quarter in particular was one of the most dominant of the season, kicking 2 goals from marks, but also not allowing Richmond into their own half, as they kicked to a contest outside 50, he repeatedly marked or won that contest and pumped it back in. He was absolutely everywhere that quarter. He was a vital part of our resurgence that year, and along with his ruck work he kicked 18 goals and took 32 contested marks. He stepped up in finals, he had 8 clearances in the QF and was probably our best mid. His PF was outstanding as well, as the pressure bore down on us and we couldn't find space against the seasoned Cats players, NN was our star, particularly in the 1st, getting to contests, burrowing down and feeding out handballs. It really shone a light on one of his underrated strengths, which is his quick and accurate handball, it was Simon Black like. He ended with 18 touches (15 contested), 22 hitouts, 6 clearances and 2 goals. His development was rapid and it seemed a matter of time before he was unstoppable.

2012 was an extension of the previous year, as he got a little bit better in every area. His ruck work kept on improving, spending more time in there as the numbers indicated our scoring went through the roof when he was in there compared to Cox. It allowed our onballers to be attacking and opponents were forced to focus on being defensive at stoppages. After a great first half of the season, he really hit his stride after the bye. He began with 25 touches (19 contested), 31 hitouts, 3 contested marks and 7 tackles. He was unstoppable in the air and on the ground, winning every contest he got to. Somehow he only managed 2 Brownlow votes for that game. In his last 12 H+A games after the bye, he managed 10 Brownlow votes and established himself as one of the better players in the league, he kicked 15 goals in that period, as well as 29 contested marks, going at 2.5 per game, which would be enough to be 2nd in the league. Despite a mildly underwhelming finals series, it was an exceptional season for NN as he regularly took games by the throat and dominated. His AA selection was debated as underserving compared to the likes of Jacobs and Maric, however the only real argument for them was they accumulated more hitouts (as they didn't rest forward as much as NN) and had a slightly higher disposals per game average. Despite 25 hitouts a game, NN managed to kick 24 goals for the year, over a goal a game, which is very irregular for rucks. There was still criticism over his marking, but he took 45 contested marks for the season, which placed him 6th in the league, just 2 behind Petrie and Howe. 45 would be enough for 4th this season, with Lynch leading with 56. He was one of the most effective marks in the league at this point, it's just that he only took 68 overall, which means 1 uncontested per game. But really, what do you want from your ruck? Lots of contested marks and goals, or more uncontested?

2013 began in a not so ideal fashion, as a groin injury meant he missed a large part of preseason and wouldn't return until round 6. His absence was felt as we had a slow start, before he returned as a sub. His 3rd game back against North was hyped up as a big one on one showdown with Majak Daw for some reason, as though they were equals. NN duly gobbled him up and earns 2 Brownlow votes for his 18 disposal, 4 contested mark game which included a nice goal at the end. His form early was solid, he was a massive presence at stoppages, but teams were better set up for him now and it wasn't having the same effect. He was still going at a goal a game and over 2 contested marks a game, maintaining his level from the previous season, but he didn't quite look fit, his lack of preseason hampering him, he had a few poor games before being shelved to prepare for 2014. He was far, far from his best to begin 2014. As Cox slowed down and we tried to fit Lycett/Sinclair in somehow, the ruck combination was ineffective and not bringing out the best in him. His contested marking ability waned, whether due to not being as confident in his leap or greater effect from his opponents, it meant there was a greater focus on his lack of marks. He had multiple games not taking a mark at all, which prompted Matthew Lloyd to say he was an ok player, but no Zac Clarke, and David Schwarz to compare him unfavourably to Jack Watts. He built into the year though, 3 contested marks against North and Hawthorn were good signs, before 22 touches (16 contested) and 34 hitouts against GC showing he was still capable of playing vintage NN games. He had his standout game in the teams breakthrough win away to Adelaide, gaining 16 touches (somehow 20 of them were contested), 8 clearances and 11 1%'s, as he went back to basics of his strengths, getting down to the ground and feeding the ball out. Late in the season he kicked 2 and 3 goals in games, showing he was getting close to his better form and he could handle life after Cox.

2015 and we were back! Kind of. He wasn't quite at 2012 levels, he still kicked 17 goals but took half as many contested marks as that year. But he was spending longer in the ruck and he was peaking in that area. We were getting more from his leap than ever, he battered his opponents, getting 30-40 hitouts each week and was probably our 2nd best clearance player behind Priddis. We focused on his strengths, rather than try to make him take more uncontested marks around the ground, we forgot about it as he only took 10 for the year. Standout games included 17 touches (13 contested), 36 hitouts, 2 goals and mark of the year against the Cats, 19 touches (12 contested), 39 hitouts against the Crows, 4 contested marks and a rucking masterclass against the Swans for 3 votes and 16 touches, 5 contested marks and 3 goals against the Saints in a BOG effort. It was a brave effort as he returned, with his mother passing in Fiji, he was forced to miss a few weeks late in the season and didn't completely have his head in the game. He delivered strong QF and PF's, but his GF was a shocker. He nearly had 2 goals early on, as he grabbed the ball out of the ruck and bombed it forward, just missing. But he only managed 2 touches outside of that and had little influence in the ruck.

It seemed like NN was about to go to another level in 2016, despite just 67% time on ground, he had 22 touches (17 contested), 46 hitouts, 6 contested marks and 2 goals in a crazy performance. He didn't quite reach those heights again though. He was still a crucial player for us, but a pattern had emerged since he'd returned fro Fiji the previous season- He'd mostly spend less than 70% of game time on the ground. We tried to condense his impact, more bursts in the ruck then rest on the bench, rather than up forward. His numbers were still pretty good though and he was our best contested player. An achilles injury flared up and reduced his output, forcing him out for 8 weeks. He returned late in the season with the hope he would be at his best for finals. His game against GWS showed he might just be, 16 touches, 45 hitouts and 2 goals, including the buzzer beater to win the game. He was again highly influential the next week, the main driver behind us getting a massive lead against a top 4 team, before disaster struck. ACL. Finals gone, 2017 gone. A large chunk of what was meant to be his peak gone, without any certainty about whether he'd make it back.

2017 was all about recovery. There was some media hype that the club would roll those dice and he'd make a return for finals, fuelled by the club listing him as 'late 2017' in relation to his injury, rather than 'season'. Considering it was a close-ish call to get back for round 1 2018, finals 2017 was probably never on the cards. He started well, all action as he was running players down and having a strong influence, however he reduced his game time to 54%. He was the ultimate burst player, regularly spending mid 50% game time on ground. It wasn't dominant performances to get him another AA, but he was having a very positive impact on the team with high score involvements. The game against Richmond who didn't have a strong ruck stood out, as they were almost getting out of the way of him, allowing us freedom at stoppages. Disaster struck again though and another ACL happened. We'd been so careful with him, but he still got hurt. He returned the next season this time, managing 5 games in 2019. His influence in the ruck was pronounced, he was still very effective there, again in very low game time. Despite 52% game time, he had 14 touches, 23 hitouts and 3 goal assists in the derby. Opposed to Brodie Grundy, NN had 10 (!) clearances in the first half, dominating and allowing us to put a strong score on the board early. NN slowed as he picked up an ankle injury, which aligned with the team stopping to a standstill. He returned for finals and was solid, but unable to exert the dominance he was capable of to take us further. Turning 30 in 2020, we can't really be sure how much we'll get out of him. He seems to be a bit fatter now, so his gametime will remain low, but hopefully we can get another year or two of his influence in the ruck, as it completely changes the team when he is in there.
 

ronpingwins

Club Legend
Apr 1, 2013
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#6 Andrew Gaff

Gaffy arrived at the end of 2010 as our reward for finishing last. Of course, we tanked that season to finish last so we could obtain the coveted pick 4. Due to GC17's arrival, we missed out on the opportunity to draft Swallow/Bennell/Day. Primarily an outside midfielder, Gaff was taken to complement the bevy of inside mids we had taken previously, but there came a risk as from day 1 there were rumours he would head back to Victoria at some stage. Even in his first season, there were sightings of him meeting Essendon officials, and talk he'd told the club he was out the door ASAP.

Gaff was expected to start in the WAFL, however a late change meant he got his debut as the sub. An early injury meant he came on at quarter time for Masten. A skinny outside runner, concerns over his softness were allayed early as he copped a decent bump from Aaron Edwards, before jumping up instantly as though it was nothing. He made a good impression, particularly in the final quarter, as he made several promising runs down the wing before classy entries inside 50. He came on as the sub later the following week, accumulating 11 touches and 2 goal assists in just over a quarter, in a tough away game and port showing signs of running over the top of us, Gaff was running everywhere and absolute silk with his ball use, setting up several scores with his composure. He was again the sub to great effect the following week, got a full game the next before returning to the role for 2 games, with diminishing returns. Despite the class he was showing, the team preferred to let him develop at WAFL level, which he did for a few months, where he showed he was way too good for that level. Gaff returned to start against the Saints to great effect, 21 touches, 2 goals and 2 assists. It showcased his strengths, he kicked a Jenkins style effort from the goal square from outrunning his opponent, as well as his understanding of the game with a split second kick into the corridor to find a target inside 50. His form in juniors began to translate into seniors, his game against the Dogs showing how much he runs, kicking 2 goals from 9 inside 50's, but still gathering 6 rebound 50's. He averaged 31 touches over the next 3 weeks. He looked to be one of our most promising midfielders and was showing signs of becoming elite, we just needed to convince him to stay long term. His finals were ok, he didn't have big games but he didn't go missing either.

2012 was a step forward for Gaff, establishing himself with more consistency rather than second year blues. Gaff had 33 touches in round 2, 30 in round 5 and was consistently hitting mid to high 20 touches. His game was translating perfectly to AFL level and he even looked like a sneaky AA chance early. Playing purely as an outside mid, although capable of winning it when needed, he provided lots of run, driving it inside 50 with neat ball use. His breakout game looked like coming against GC, as he gathered 25 touches (20 kick) and 1.3 in only 51% game time, on track for 40+. He was a very important player in our top 4 push and didn't really have a bad game. He lifted for finals, gathering 26 touches in both games, being one of our best in the SF. Gaff had 2nd year blues in his 3rd year, as teams noticed his importance and started tagging him. It was an inevitable teething problem for him, that he'd just have to work through and figure out how to beat. He only reached 20 touches in 4 games in the 1st half of the year. His 2012 form returned intermittently, including 31 touches against the Dogs, but it was a disappointing year for the youngster.

Simmo arrived and Gaff played well in a few soft kills to start 2014. He was closer to 2013 form though for a few weeks after. A turning point I thought was the close loss to the Pies at the G. He looked tougher, he won 26 touches (10 contested) and won one on one contests deep in defence against bigger opponents. It was his most impressive game in a while. He was good again in Tassie against the Hawks, although the team got smashed, he accumulated 23 kicks and 3 goals, his kicking was off, turning it over a few times, but it seemed an anomaly given his skills and it looked like his game was coming together. As his form built, he became a match winner, rather than a strong contributor in the win against the Crows. He was everywhere and kicked the goal to put us in front in the last. He had 34 touches the following week as it looked like Gaffy had finally beaten the taggers. Gaff averaged 28 touches over the last 6 weeks and finished 4th in the B+F, excitingly signing a new contract too.

Gaff continued his form into 2015 as the team made their move. Taggers no longer had any effect on him. He was essentially playing the same game he did in his first year, but he was able to do everything more frequently and consistently. 30+ touches became the norm. He had a standout run of form across the middle of the season, gaining 10 Brownlow votes in 5 games while averaging 32 disposals. He was a consistently effective midfielder, winning 17 Brownlow votes for the year, the B+F and entered finals off a 36 and 2 goal game. His QF was good although he didn't get to play his natural game, winning more contested ball. His PF was the first time a tag effected him, with North putting intense defensive focus on Gaff and Shuey, he was held to 20 touches. His GF was a standout though. By far our best, he had 34 touches with the next best 26, he was our only midfield winner on the day. He managed to play a typical great Gaff game, using it neatly and hitting multiple targets inside 50 as his teammates choked. On a day where the team shows up, he is a Norm Smith Medalist.

Gaff opened 2016 with 5 straight 30+ disposal games. He was again one of the few to show up for an embarrassing loss to Hawthorn at the G. After a quiet game in round 6, he had back to back 36 touch games. Despite big numbers, there was little recognition and fans were growing a little weary of him. There were questions on his effectiveness, he wasn't getting the ball in damaging positions anymore and his disposal had dropped off a touch to become average, rather than elite. Gaff copped a massive concussion going back with the flight against Tom Jonas, belying his soft reputation. He proceeded to play over the next month, but was well down on form. A month seemed enough, as he was BOG 3 times over the following month. His form continued and he entered finals off the back of 2 BOG efforts, 38 against the Hawks then a possible career best game against the Crows, gathering 41 (15 contested, 7 clearances). He stood up in the EF but was pretty ineffective, gathering 35 touches for nil effect. He finished 3rd in the B+F and won 21 Brownlow votes, despite views amongst fans he was well outperformed by Shuey.

Gaff's numbers were again terrific in 2017, however his effect wasn't as great. He'd added the disturbing habit of not really looking when received the ball and hacking it forward. It was very frustrating watching him clock up a stack of kicks, knowing he had such skill and poise when he wanted to use it. He was still playing well and one of our best players though, just not at his best. His standout games both came against the Dogs, 35 touches and 15 marks in the first, then 42 and 10 inside 50's in the second. With older players well on the decline, Gaff was alongside Shuey clearly our prime mover. He had 34 touches in the EF, and important part of our early lead and late comeback. He still divided fans though, with rumours suggesting he would be a big target for free agency, there were a few fans hoping we moved him on early to maximise the deal we received, with the Saints apparently offering Acres and pick 7, where we could take Hunter Clark.

Gaff moved to a slightly more inside role in 2018, which got the best out of him. He started winning clearances, hitting the scoreboard and just seemed to be more damaging. It seemed like he was one of the BOG every week and he became one of the Brownlow favourites, although he'd ultimately underpoll. Bubbling under the surface through the season though was the prospect of him leaving for free agency. Due to our strong 2010 draft, we had multiple players hit free agency at the same time, all demanding big money. Ultimately, North had an offer we couldn't match and given we'd anticipated he may move to Melbourne at some point we were preparing for the worst. Rubbing it in was that we were actually pretty good this year, meaning we'd only get approx pick 20 as compensation. His form was getting better and better through the season and he loomed as our most best player in our flag push. Then disaster struck, as youngster Andrew Brayshaw grew jealous of Gaff and the Eagles performance in the dominant derby win, he struck Gaff on the jaw, leaving it fractured. The hit was so hard Gaff was in tears from the pain on the sidelines. It kept Gaff out for the rest of the season and the flag. Against all expectations and North posturing, Gaff said he wasn't interested and resigned with the Eagles long term. This didn't necessarily end the rumours that have remained since day one that he was leaving.

Gaff recovered for round 3 against the Pies at the G. Again, he was BOG with 35 touches. Gaff continued with his inside role in 2019, but he seemed to drift back into defence a bit more, linking up rather than the attacking role from 2018. He only kicked 1.1 during the H+A season. Gaff's form remained elite, averaging over 32 touches and using the ball effectively going forward, even if he couldn't hit the scoreboard. He seemed more determined than others to get back to the GF, with a standout 37 touch game against the Hawks which was vital for top 4. He dominated Essendon before being our best against the Cats, gathering 30 touches and inexplicably kicking 2 goals, given he'd only had 2 shots for the year he pulled 2 out through sheer force of will. Again, rumours he was leaving continued to plague him despite signing a long term deal the previous year. Still only 27, he's accumulated nearly 200 games and should get 300+. The way he plays and keeps himself in top condition, barring someone else hitting him, he may get to 350+.
 

Ishmael_

EQuiv
Apr 30, 2013
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Yeah I feel like when we reflect on NN’s career in the future we will consider him as the ultimate ‘what if’ player.

Cruelly robbed by injuries.
My fanboi dream would be 15-20 games from Nic Nat this year, an AA and a premiership.

I think that would frank his career even if there wasn't much after it.
 

RookiePick

Brownlow Medallist
Aug 13, 2014
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Fair call. Both Embers and Mainy are so superior imo. But hey, be boring if we all agreed.
It's really tough isn't it? Mainy the best ball winner easily but his disposal was the worst. Embers the balanced type and Gaffy the most outside.

Great stuff to mull over a few beers! Who would be best with which surrounding team mates etc
 

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