There are 180 reasons why bad clubs are so bad

Paul Dawson Roar Guru

78 Have your say

    Last weekend was a discouraging weekend for the supporters of equalisation.

    It’s no secret by now that three worst teams in the league over the last few years have been Brisbane, Carlton and the Suns, and all three got absolutely flogged at the weekend.

    Brisbane posted their lowest ever score; Carlton got humbled by perhaps one of by the fellow rebuilding clubs, North Melbourne; and the Suns completed ten days of pain over in Perth. Nothing to see here – much the same has been happening for the past few years.

    At what point does the rot start to become entrenched? These three clubs are almost stubbornly bucking the conventional wisdom that sides cyclically rise and fall. Not so much because of what they are doing, but because of what other clubs are executing and benefiting from.

    What is often overlooked is that climbing the AFL ladder is a relative exercise. The rungs a club has to climb aren’t passively horizontal, they’re kicking down with everything they can muster.

    Rebuilding isn’t a peaceful construction site where you’re painstakingly restoring a dilapidated structure to its former glory. Most weekends 22 toughs from another site come around and bash up all the foundations and structural confidence, so you’re constantly making running repairs so it doesn’t all slump over.

    Patrick Cripps

    (Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    Free agency is one of the most important factors, as are player veto rights over trades. This is a bit of sleeper issue, and while it’s certainly not the sole reason, it has a significant enough impact on list development to be considered part of the problem.

    Let’s start by looking at the AFL playing community as a whole. Excluding rookies, there are about 680-odd players on AFL senior lists across the country. Break it down further and there are only about 480 who’ve actually made a senior debut.

    There are only about 180 current players who’ve played more than 100 games. These are the key players in the AFL. They’re going to be the ones who will have the most impact most of the time and are the core of any club’s list.

    What’s interesting about this list is that it shows club of origin as well as subsequent clubs a player has gone to. In terms of the clubs who have lost their most valuable players, there are four clear leaders: Adelaide, Brisbane, Carlton and Gold Coast.

    Allen Christensen

    (Mark Brake/Getty Images)

    Adelaide benefits as much as the Eagles by being the original and largest club in a heartland state. This is no condemnation, it’s just the way it is.

    In terms of 100 gamers, they lost Matthew Wright, Patrick Dangerfield, Phil Davis, Jack Gunston, Lachie Henderson and Bernie Vince, but they’ve prospered regardless as they’ve managed to attract some excellent talent back the other way in Eddie Betts, Bryce Gibbs, Sam Jacobs and Tom Lynch.

    Adelaide have also drafted exceptionally well. I regard their success as being in spite of their player exodus, which is a commendable achievement for a club. The others, however, not so much.

    In terms of 100 gamers, Brisbane brought in Dayne Beams, Allen Christensen, Mitch Robinson and now Luke Hodge, the first two due to personal circumstances, and it cost Brisbane picks five, 19, 25 and Jack Crisp.

    Robinson was unwanted and has reinvented himself at the Lions, although within his limitations, and Hodge is here for a coaching role and will not have a long-term impact on the field at least.

    No player has approached the club out of free will or desire. However, they lost Josh Green, Michael Rischitelli, Pierce Hanley, Tom Rockliff, Jack Redden and Elliot Yeo. Sam Docherty will surely be included in that list in coming years too.

    Tom Rockliff Brisbane Lions AFL 2017

    (Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

    Carlton have lost Eddie Betts, Bryce Gibbs, Sam Jacobs, Mitch Robinson, Zach Tuohy, Jarrod Garlett, Jarrad Waite, Shaun Grigg and Josh Kennedy in terms of 100 gamers still active. There are obviously various reasons for leaving. In terms of what they got back, Matthew Wright and Dale Thomas are ont he books. That’s it.

    The Suns have lost Brandon Matera, Zac Smith, Josh Caddy, Charlie Dixon, Trent McKenzie and Dion Prestia. O’Meara hasn’t played 100 games yet, but if he stays injury free, you’d assume he will. In return, they got Michael Rischitelli, Pierce Hanley, Jarrod Harbrow and Matt Rosa.

    The Suns also have Jarryd Lyons, and they recently had to throw pick two to get Lachie Weller. I think it’s safe to say that the player quality they lost has not been replaced by the quality they got back.

    So what? Every club loses players. This is true. But it’s the circumstances in which they lost players and the types of players they lose that separates the more successful clubs from the rest.

    Jarryd Lyons

    (Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

    Speaking of successful clubs, let’s look at some of the most successful teams.

    Let’s start with Geelong. Allen Christensen left with their blessing and Travis Varcoe wasn’t wanted, nor was Steven Motlop. Gary Ablett, well, they got him back again, didn’t they? They also got in Patrick Dangerfield, Zach Tuohy, Zac Smith, Rhys Stanley and Scott Selwood.

    The Hawks have lost seven current players in Luke Hodge, Josh Hill, Jordan Lewis, Shane Savage, Lance Franklin, Josh Kennedy and Matt Suckling, yet you’d argue Franklin was the only one they’d be disappointed long term with losing.

    Lewis stuffed them last year by leaving unexpectedly before they were ready to cover him, but they appear to have moved on from that, and the others were either traded or encouraged to leave.

    By the way, they got in Jack Gunston, Lachie Henderson, James Frawley, Shaun Burgoyne and Ben McEvoy, plus two players called Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara as well.

    Tom Mitchell

    (Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    Interestingly North Melbourne haven’t lost any current 100 games to any other club. Perhaps continuity in their squad is part of the reason why they’ve managed to bounce back relatively well despite being a heavily depleted side.

    Port Adelaide lost Shaun Burgoyne, Jack Trengove and Danyle Pearce. They got back in Brad Ebert, Jack Watts, Motlop, Tom Rockliff, Charlie Dixon, Trent McKenzie and Paddy Ryder. I’d take that trade.

    The only player Richmond have lost is Brett Deledio, but they got in Josh Caddy, Dion Prestia, Shaun Grigg, Bachar Houli. Sydney, too, have lost only one player in Lewis Jetta. They brought in two in Josh Kennedy and Buddy Franklin. Not a bad result.

    The West Coast Eagles have lost Matt Rosa, Scott Selwood and Brad Ebert but attracted Lewis Jetta, Patrick Cripps, Josh Kennedy, Jack Redden and Elliot Yeo.

    Josh J Kennedy West Coast Eagles AFL 2017

    (Morne de Klerk/Getty Images)

    I realise that there are a huge amount of draft picks that also changed hands as part of this process, but the point is that the draft picks are only worth it in the long run if the player drafted is not just successful but stays at the club. This process may well become entrenched if the ratio of clubs to key players remains the way it is.

    As I said, there’s only about 180 players who’ve played more than 100 games on lists, and it’s not an even split between the clubs. If you look at the number of 100-plus gamers in the best 22, you’ll see Adelaide, Hawthorn, Geelong, Port Adelaide, Sydney and Richmond all have 10 or more. Brisbane, Carlton, the Suns and the Saints all have about six apiece.

    The point in assembling all of this is to show that the clubs who have been most successful in recent years have also been the ones benefiting most from the trade in experienced players.

    Does anyone see this ratio changing? I certainly don’t. Salary cap flexibility is such now that clubs will find ways to bank the space they need to really attract a player they need or structure his contract in such a way that years three and four are a massive financial bonanza, even if they can’t afford him now.

    What’s important is that as soon as a player talented enough is on the market, multiple clubs are into him. The moment any of Brisbane, Gold Coast or Carlton are up against a bidder from a top-eight club, as we have seen, not even more money can entice players to willingly sign up for four years of purgatory and no finals in sight. You could probably throw North Melbourne into that mix as well, and perhaps St Kilda.

    These clubs on the bottom find themselves in a situation where list management feel they have to be financially responsible and not saddle their salary cap with some massive outlays on a few players, but they also find that offers comprising an extra couple of hundred grand over few years don’t get players over the line anyway. Even Tom Lynch is still hesitating over an extra million bucks a year if it means staying at the Suns.

    Brad Scott

    (Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    So we come back to the player veto over trades. What I think the AFL needs to consider at this point is not a player veto on trades but rather a restriction on the clubs they can be traded to. I would argue that this ban should only apply to contracted players or anywhere where a trade deal is required. Unrestricted free agents can of course sign wherever they want.

    However, if the AFL were to implement a policy that clubs that finished in the top eight could not complete deals involving trades for players beyond development players and fringe types, essentially ensuring they could trade only in draft picks or rookies unlikely to have immediate impact, this would go a long way to restoring the balance between clubs that has been steadily eroded as a result of the natural inclination among the AFL playing elite to work and pursue their careers in successful, winning, well-structured environments.

    Placing a restriction on top-eight clubs would not be a restraint of trade; players would still be free to conduct trade deals to any of the other nine clubs available to them or alternatively wait it out and see what happens in coming years. What I think has been happening in recent years is that clubs are essentially managing to tread water atop the ladder or near to it.

    The window of contention is being propped ajar and left open by the continual import of success-starved key players from other clubs, who are enticed out by the prospect of winning a premiership. I can’t blame them for that, but I think the AFL needs to re-examine this rule.

    Against the backdrop of a culture of entitlement and in reviewing previously unquestioned privileges, I’m not so certain that the players have the moral right to insist on only being traded to teams where they can be playing finals.

    The AFL has a duty of care to prevent certain clubs from descending into the cellar and remaining there. Brisbane and Carlton are going to re-emerge battered and bruised as it is, but I think the belief that they will inevitably re-emerge as contenders is looking increasingly misplaced.

    They will of course continue to attract players, but while they keep losing disenchanted types out the back door – and more importantly, while rival clubs continue to have the upper hand in negotiations with the premium talent available – the obstacle begins to appear insurmountable for these clubs.

    Of course there’s a host of other factors at play – coaching staff, travel, facilities, attitude – but it’s hard to encapsulate all of that in an article. Let’s stick to free agency and trades for the moment and if this gets some interest I’ll look at others.

    What’s your thoughts, Roarers?

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    The Crowd Says (78)

    • Roar Pro

      April 20th 2018 @ 3:01am
      anon said | April 20th 2018 @ 3:01am | ! Report

      I only skimmed through it but picked up a few mistakes.

      Lewis stuffed them last year by leaving unexpectedly before they were ready to cover him, but they appear to have moved on from that, and the others were either traded or encouraged to leave.

      It was Clarko’s idea to get rid of Lewis. Clarko effectively encouraged him to leave.

      Also, didn’t mention the Suns getting Lachie Weller in the offseason.

      Carlton is bogged down by history and a sense of entitlement. They need a clean out. Put non-Carlton people in charge of decision making.

      No team has ever succeeded on the Gold Coast either on-field or off and likely will never have any sustained success. The AFL has pumped hundreds of millions into the Suns and have absolutely nothing to show for it.

      Go back to the early 2000’s and Brisbane had more to work with than Sydney, had greater advantages. They have squandered them completely. Sydney has become the best run organisation in the league. Brisbane is possibly the worst.

      • April 20th 2018 @ 8:03am
        truetigerfan said | April 20th 2018 @ 8:03am | ! Report

        Wrong, anong. The Hawks offered Lewis a one year contract. He wanted two, or three. Melbourne satisfied this requirement and Lewis jumped! He left with Clarko’s blessing sure, but it was not Clarko’s idea.

        • Roar Guru

          April 20th 2018 @ 9:42am
          Penster said | April 20th 2018 @ 9:42am | ! Report

          Have to agree with Anon on this one, Lewis did not stuff the Hawks, his exodus, while emotional and swift, helped with salary cap and player development. The extra year he was offered was probably more from loyalty than retaining his services and Clarko (who delivered the message in person), suggested he explore his options if he wanted more than 1 year as an AFL player. Win win for both parties.

          • April 20th 2018 @ 10:50am
            truetigerfan said | April 20th 2018 @ 10:50am | ! Report

            Yet the one year contract was on the table! It preceded all ensuing discussions. Lewis was forthright in demanding a longer contract! Hawthorn steadfast in it’s original offer. Logic, on Hawthorn’s part, followed. It was not a plot ‘to get rid of Lewis’.

        • Roar Pro

          April 20th 2018 @ 12:20pm
          anon said | April 20th 2018 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

          It was an offer made knowing Lewis would refuse it.

          • April 20th 2018 @ 4:49pm
            truetigerfan said | April 20th 2018 @ 4:49pm | ! Report

            How ridiculous! If they didn’t want him they wouldn’t have offered at all. Gonski! A straight shooter like Clarkson wouldn’t be bothered by such subterfuge!

      • April 20th 2018 @ 8:59am
        andyl12 said | April 20th 2018 @ 8:59am | ! Report

        “Sydney has become the best run organisation in the league.”

        They might appear that way but that’s only because being in a one-team town for so long gave them natural advantages and because the AFL gave them so many favours. They also had to relocate to get where they are now, alienating many of their fans in the process.

        Hawthorn’s rise from near-extinction to an on-field and off-field powerhouse in a crowded market- with virtually no help from the AFL- is a much greater story. We have defied the ingrained beliefs of 15 years ago that no Victorian team could ever get to the top again unless they were Carl/Coll/Ess.

        • April 20th 2018 @ 1:50pm
          I ate pies said | April 20th 2018 @ 1:50pm | ! Report

          Sydney are still getting free kicks too – they got Heeney at pick 18 because the rules at the time allowed them to match other clubs with their first pick for academy players. He was a top 5 draft pick that went at 18, after Sydney finished 4th the year before!.
          Then, in 2015 they were able to pick up Callum Mills at pick 3, after finishing 1st on the ladder!
          Also, they were able to stump up the cash for Buddy by using the free money they got from the COLA.

          Take those three out and Sydney are several places further down the ladder, every year.

          It’s good management (manipulation) from the AFL that keeps Sydney at the top.

          • April 20th 2018 @ 3:57pm
            ja ja klazo said | April 20th 2018 @ 3:57pm | ! Report

            Wah wah wah. Sydney has done more for AFL in this country in the past 20 years than any other club in the country. Take a drive around Sydney, the AFL posts are going up faster than the house prices.

            • April 20th 2018 @ 7:30pm
              andyl12 said | April 20th 2018 @ 7:30pm | ! Report

              Most of it was funded by the AFL. The only thing the Swans fork out extra for are players’ salaries.

            • April 20th 2018 @ 10:16pm
              I ate pies said | April 20th 2018 @ 10:16pm | ! Report

              So you don’t refute my claim? People in Sydney don’t care about footy. Never have, and never will

      • Roar Guru

        April 20th 2018 @ 9:36am
        AdelaideDocker said | April 20th 2018 @ 9:36am | ! Report

        Just quickly, Weller is mentioned about a quarter of the way through.

      • Roar Guru

        April 20th 2018 @ 9:52am
        Paul Dawson said | April 20th 2018 @ 9:52am | ! Report

        I would call that a difference of opinion, rather than a mistake. My recollection is that they still wanted him but they were only prepared to offer him a year and were playing hardball.

        This article purely looks at the movement of the top 100 players. Specifically acknowledged that there was a huge amount of other factors at the bottom

        Also, did mention Weller

        Finally I love that you were here at 3am ready to jump on this when it dropped overnight

        • April 20th 2018 @ 11:42am
          Birdman said | April 20th 2018 @ 11:42am | ! Report

          CLARKO: Lewey it’s been grand but we can only see you in the seniors for another year so that’s the offer.

          LEWIS: Crikey Clarko, are you sure? I’d love to be a one-club player.

          CLARKO: sorry mate, we need to make changes sooner rather than later, but if you can get a longer deal somewhere through your snake of a manager, I won’t stand in your way

          LEWIS: Okie-doke, I’ll see what Pickers can sniff out

          PICKERS: Lewey, the Dees are keen as – might even be able to screw them for a 3 year deal – can you believe that?

          LEWIS: Where to I sign? Geez, I might even snag another flag before I’m done with this caper.

          WRIGHT: Hang on Lewey, we might need you for 2017.

          LEWIS: Sod off, I’ve got a 3 year deal over at the Dees – they’re sorting out the Long Room to announce it tomorrow

          CLARKO: Let it go Wrighty, we might be able to land O’Meara and get him right to play in 2017 – Lewey’s close to cooked anyway and the Dees aren’t going anywhere.

          WRIGHTY: Fair enough Clarko, we’ll get peanuts for him anyway.

          CLARKO: See’ ya Lewey, don’t be a stranger champ.

          • Roar Guru

            April 20th 2018 @ 1:21pm
            Paul Dawson said | April 20th 2018 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

            Yeah to be fair that’s probably pretty accurate. So what you’re saying is that the Hawks have done even better out of all of this than what I originally claimed…

            • April 20th 2018 @ 2:18pm
              Birdman said | April 20th 2018 @ 2:18pm | ! Report

              def. good for the Hawks and good for Lewis, prob.not so good for the Dees over the full 3 year deal.

    • April 20th 2018 @ 7:06am
      The Ghost said | April 20th 2018 @ 7:06am | ! Report

      Tom Lynch will be at Punt Road.

    • April 20th 2018 @ 7:49am
      Mattyb said | April 20th 2018 @ 7:49am | ! Report

      I can agree with what your saying in regards to Brisbane but GC have made a few mistakes of their own and have also made some very poor decisions with coaching appointments.
      Carlton simply have no one to blame but themselves,this is a massive club that was as big as Collingwood,Essendon and Richmond. Carltons problems are off field and they need non entitled ideas,the current problems mainly lie with the fact they need to remove Silvagni and McKay from the club,who are just finishing the job started by Elliott and continued by Kernahan.

      • April 20th 2018 @ 9:37am
        Macca said | April 20th 2018 @ 9:37am | ! Report

        “Carltons problems are off field and they need non entitled ideas,the current problems mainly lie with the fact they need to remove Silvagni and McKay from the club” Can you explain how the blues are currently employing “entitled” ideas and what McKay and Silvagni have done wrong to warrant their sacking?

    • Roar Guru

      April 20th 2018 @ 8:17am
      Rick Disnick said | April 20th 2018 @ 8:17am | ! Report

      Thanks for the article, Paul.

      When I find time today, I’ll give a more detailed appraisal of my thoughts — it will be brutal, as I’m pretty passionate in my views on this topic, and strongly disagree with much of what you’ve said.

      Just one correction before then: Lachie Henderson was traded from Carlton to the Cats, not the Hawks. He’s also (in my opinion) the Cats most crucial player; critical in our defensive structure as a sweeper, at times, and key-defender while providing offensive rebound capability.

      He’s our biggest ‘out’ at present.

      • Roar Guru

        April 20th 2018 @ 9:51am
        JamesH said | April 20th 2018 @ 9:51am | ! Report

        I was going to mention Henderson! Also Tom Mitchell left Sydney, the Weagles got Jamie Cripps (not Patrick, who would have been very handy!) and I reckon the Hawks would be wishing Josh Kennedy stuck around.

        Thought provoking article, though.

        • April 20th 2018 @ 11:16am
          Angela said | April 20th 2018 @ 11:16am | ! Report

          Yes Tom Mitchell leaving the Swans was a big loss for us. Not a match goes by that many of us wish we still had Tom however guess not including that in the one line about the Swans is a minor point in the whole article.

          And, regardless of how they got there, rather than ‘seeming to be’, the Swans are a very well run club. So are the Hawks according to andyl12. Great, why the need to put the boot in? Surely it’s okay to have more than one well-run club?

          • Roar Guru

            April 20th 2018 @ 3:55pm
            Paul Dawson said | April 20th 2018 @ 3:55pm | ! Report

            Well, I guess in answer to not including him, I don’t regard Mitchell as a player you lost against your wishes to speak because he didn’t lose for reasons of dissatisfaction at the club or, wanting more success elsewhere.

            You lost him because you couldn’t afford him.

            Tippett and Franklin was always going to cost the Swans something down the line and it cost them Mitchell. Actions have consequences

            • April 20th 2018 @ 4:11pm
              Birdman said | April 20th 2018 @ 4:11pm | ! Report

              yep, the Buddy (steal) finally paid off……for Hawthorn….. 🙂

            • April 20th 2018 @ 6:18pm
              Angela said | April 20th 2018 @ 6:18pm | ! Report

              Ahh, got it.

      • Roar Guru

        April 20th 2018 @ 9:56am
        Paul Dawson said | April 20th 2018 @ 9:56am | ! Report

        I wrote this Monday arvo in the space of about 45 mins, it’s not heavily polished so go for your life

        Re: Henderson – Ricky Henderson moved to the Hawks from the Crows

        • Roar Guru

          April 20th 2018 @ 12:04pm
          Peppsy said | April 20th 2018 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

          Hawthorn lost, Brad Hill, not Josh Hill, and losing his leg speed has really hurt, as has losing Suckling’s kicking, even if he’s been meh at best since leaving, so add them to Kennedy as player Hawthorn would’ve loved to keep

          • Roar Guru

            April 20th 2018 @ 1:22pm
            Paul Dawson said | April 20th 2018 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

            I only wrote in surnames in the article, I’ve been asked to use full names in future and the eds must have put the wrong hill in when they were populating them. That’s my fault though, not theirs

    • Roar Guru

      April 20th 2018 @ 8:21am
      DingoGray said | April 20th 2018 @ 8:21am | ! Report

      Paul hats off to you writing an article like this.

      My own personal take on the Blues, Lions & Suns is more of whole package approach.

      They have been poorly run organisations for a while and that I think overall has had
      the biggest negative impact. I’m not sure one thing has a bigger impact over another, but if you look
      at these organisations you can barely see where they are market leaders.

      I think alot of it really up to the Clubs themselves to resolve. I think all three are making strides.
      Brisbane themselves are probably in the biggest hole, but the developments with Springfield a positive.
      A whole heap of AFL Money wouldn’t go astray either!!!!!

      one thing and I hate to be a nitpicker- you seem to have Lachie Henderson on the brain…. Left Adelaide, went to Hawthorn??? (is there a second Lachie Henderson?- I assume you mean Ricky Henderson)

      • Roar Guru

        April 20th 2018 @ 9:59am
        Paul Dawson said | April 20th 2018 @ 9:59am | ! Report

        Cheers Dingo – yeah I did mean Ricky Henderson.

        Agreed it’s not an issue in isolation, just curious if others thought that other clubs were benefiting more than others from the trade in experienced players and wanted to see what I could put together on it.

        • Roar Guru

          April 20th 2018 @ 10:11am
          DingoGray said | April 20th 2018 @ 10:11am | ! Report

          There’s no doubt that other clubs benefit more from the Trade period. Brisbane & Gold Coast particular on the wrong end of the stick with that matter. No sure Carlton can claim the same sort of disadvantage though.

          I would say Nth Melbourne are probably more of a disadvantage than Carlton in terms of Trades.

          Realistically Carlton are probably are certainly more at fault from a responsibility perspective then Brisbane and Gold Coast. Still think their markets certainly are the biggest disadvantages.

          I know it would never happen but would if AFL is serious about equalisation look at some model for the Trading side of things clubs that continually get pilfered get some type of compensation. Whether the AFL introduce rather than the club coming up with agreed compensation the AFL does? I don’t have the answer.
          But you are right there are some clubs who benefit from it.

    • Roar Rookie

      April 20th 2018 @ 8:33am
      Jorge of Brisvegas said | April 20th 2018 @ 8:33am | ! Report

      A follow up correction to above correction – Lachie Henderson was traded to Carlton from Brisbane ( his original club ) for Brendon Fevola.
      Despite the accompanying infamy and ridicule, Voss attempted to do what the big clubs do now. Trade out some players for greater, sustained success in future. We all know how it worked out but at the time 80% of pundits had Brisbane moving from 7th that season to top 4. Unfortunately it had the reverse effect. But the idea and process was sound, just ahead of its time and the league, player relationships / maturity and poor choices in hindsight were the club’s undoing.

      Having Jonathon Brown, Daniel Bradshaw and Brendon Fevola in the forward line with a fit Brent Staker and Xavier Clarke on the wings, with the defence and midfield still quite reasonable, would have been formidable.

      The premise of your article is sound and the AFL agrees as they restricted Sydney’s trading rights for trading in stars and not using COLA for renumerating all players appropriately , just ask Xavier Richards.

      • Roar Guru

        April 20th 2018 @ 10:01am
        Paul Dawson said | April 20th 2018 @ 10:01am | ! Report

        Cheerss Jorge. Yeah, I think it’s approaching the problem from a different angle and rather than vetoing all trades say you can still get traded to wherever you want, but restrict clubs from participating.

        Not sure if it would survive a challenge at the HRC by a player just devastated he can’t get to Hawthorn, but I think it’s legalish enough it could be done

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