Zen and the Art of Supercoach

Written by Father Dougal on March 15 2021

Hi Everybody!


Once again, here I am with my Imaginary Interlocutor and my Hamster 

(uncomfortable silence) 

Ok, so here I am by myself, wondering where my Imaginary Interlocutor and my Hamster have gotten too……..they’ll probably be in….in the Zen Room! 


(ambles to the Zen Room)





Ok, why are you in The Zen Room?

Well, we kept trying to make our teams the way we prefer, but the player mix is all weird and there are rules changes and lasts season’s results are skewed from the short games, and so we decided we needed to just accept we had to play with the players and situation the SC gods saw fit to give us.

It was hard and scary!

Right, so we came here to work on acceptance, you know, the idea of not resisting the way things are? 

How’s that going?

Pretty well now. We had a rough start though; I made the mistake of trying the “there is no spoon” thing, but to make it more relatable to the hamster I changed it to “there is no pumpkin seed.”

 Yes, I can see that going quite badly. 

Once I gave him a pumpkin seed to prove that there were indeed still pumpkin seeds, we were able to make real progress.

Because it doesn’t matter what structure you want to have if the players aren’t there to support it. It won’t work.

Exactly! When there is just one pumpkin seed, you eat just one pumpkin seed. When there are two pumpkin seeds, you eat two pumpkin seeds. when there are just two decent cows in defense, you take just two cows in defense. 

And if there is just one decent cow in defense? 

Then you take him and accept that you must have two, and take another one that most gets you to where you want to be. Loophole or overpay or accept risk. 

Right…when did the hamster become the smart one?  No, don’t answer that.

Anyways, the idea that you have to play the cards that you are dealt, with cards being players, is in the Rules of Cow-quisition, at least as far as cows go.  Rule #10.  But Rule #4 sounds like the one you are most struggling with. 

Rule Number Four: “Cow availability determines your structure; not the reverse. Select all the good cows, none of the dodgy cows, and build the rest of your team around them.”

Yes, because if there really are very few good cows in defense, then we have to have non-cows there. And that makes the rest of the team sort of weird, and I am very much a guns and rookies sort of hamster, and I am having trouble making that work out well. 

G&R is the best approach, you even used math to show that a while back. G&R meaning cows and guns and not more than one mid priced player, because sometimes after filling your team with guns and rookies you have cash left and a decent mid-pricer to spend it on which is better than taking a crappy cow. 

I think G&R is still the best approach, assuming you properly define guns, and you properly define rookies. 

He’s going to do that whole “defining” thing again. 

I’m getting some pumpkin seeds to eat while he goes on.

Well, yeah, but I mean, groping players by price, while obvious, really isn’t that helpful


Yeah, dare you to try that. 

Huh…(rereads)  oh, um yes, Ok, so *grouping* players by price, while obvious, really isn’t that helpful, because what matters is what you get for that price. 

Ah, he’s worked around to the moneyball idea. 

Yes, when it comes down to it, SC is a moneyball game. Or an economics game, but either way use of resources to get points is the thing. So, let’s look at the visual aid below. 



Ok, so in a way that is all obvious, but also it makes something very important clear….

You had fun making that 

Ok, yes, but also it does show some things and stuff logic-ed from those things

  1. Points are the goal
  2. Points come from players in the virtual best 22
    1. If you want more points in your total, you have to get more points from your virtual 22 because that is the only source of  points
  3. To change what players are in your team you need trades and cash and a player to bring in
    1. Trades only have value as an input into making player changes
    2. Money only has value as an input into making player exchanges
    3. You can get more cash by using trades
    4. You can’t get more trades 
    5. Trades and cash do you no good if there is no player to bring in with them
      1. If you need to trade but there is no player to bring in that is bad
        1. Don’t waste trade-in players


Is that all?!?!?!

I think so.  Anyways, the more points you get for each dollar spent the better = Moneyball. The more cash you can make from each trade the better = Moneyball. 

So making cash and using that cash are the core of the game. Tell us something we didn’t know! And how does this have to do with the “Proper definitions of “Guns” and of “Rookies?”

Mo money mo problems?

Yes, so, they relate because of how we spend the money. I’ll just explain:

A “Gun” is a player good enough to keep once you have him, Won’t need to want to upgrade. Or not very much. If you have the 8th scoring defender then odds are you won’t worry much about upgrading him because you won’t gain much from upgrading him. Might be another way to define a gun, someone you can’t gain much by upgrading.  If the 14th best forward is scoring 4 points a game lower than the 6th best forward, not a lot of point to upgrading the 14th best guy.  

A “Rookie” is a low priced player you can make money with by downgrading to a cheap player. How low is low? Well, as low as possible, but there are rookies over $200k. I’m not sure there is a clear line. For sure any player who, if their price goes up by $150k, you will want to keep for points, is not a rookie. 

So, those will work but, I think there are better and clearer ways to talk about players, without using “Gun” or  “Rookie” although I might still use those terms to show why GnR is still the best approach, for the right definitions. 

Keeper/Premium: A player you want to keep and not upgrade. If a premium has a track record of a higher average than they are priced for, they are a fallen premium. There is no limit to how far they can fall. If somehow Jack Macrae got priced at $117,900 and we expected him to score his traditional 120+ average, then he’s not a rookie/cow no matter how low his price, he is a fallen premium because we plan to keep him. Thus the whole “Keeper” idea. Gets back to the “is he worth upgrading” question. 

Bargains: A player who is not a keeper and is priced significantly below what he is expected to score. 

This is most cows and rookies, since a player priced at $117,900 is priced to average 22 and a player at $213,000 is priced to average just 40.  Of course an 18 year old small forward might average 40 in which case you wouldn’t want to take one who was priced at $213,000, but in general rookies are priced well below their scoring. That’s why they are so valuable and the key to Supercoach. It is why having good cows on field is good, you are getting very highly discounted points, while making money for later use. Since rookie technically means first year player and there are rookie priced players who are not first year players, we (I at least) call them cows.  

There are also Cow-like-objects, who are players priced over the low $200s but still with the potential to make $150,000 or more.  Cow-like-objects are not normally as good as cows, since they cost more, although that higher cost in theory should be balanced out by additional points. In practice that all depends on the specific players. But a lot of money can be made by a cow-like-object, and even if you have to invest more, cash plus points is good, and if they are making cash they have to be scoring points. 

Breakout Candidates are players who are expected to raise their average by a significant amount, and have never scored as well as they are hoped to score this season. Fallen premiums have done it before, breakout candidates have not done it before, where “it” is score at a significantly higher level. Prices and expected increases could be the same, but the guy who has never done it before is a higher risk then the one who just had an off season.  A team filled with non- premium breakout candidates at the expense of cows and/or premiums can be tempting but is, in fact, mid-priced madness. Getting non- premium breakout candidates correct is hard. Getting a lot of them correct is unlikely, and even if a lot are correct, may not be as good as a GnR team. 

I hate to interrupt, because of “The Box,” but you specified non-premium breakout candidates..?

Oh, right, good interruption. There is nothing wrong with taking premium breakout candidates! In fact, taking premium breakout candidates is good.  Someone with a 115 average who you think might go up to 125+, I mean, worst case they score at about 115. Not much risk, but possible reward.  Floor priced premiums are wonderful and having a lot of those should be a goal. The problem with mid-priced breakout candidates is if they don’t break out, you have to use a trade to fix them, or you are stuck with someone making non-discounted mid-priced points. Blech either way. 

Technically all cows are breakout candidates but since that is part of being a cow there’s no point talking about breakout cows. 

Not SC relevant / Mid-pricers:  These are the players who are not going to make much money and are not going to score enough points to be a keeper. They don’t get you anything really and should not be taken. Taking this kind of mid-pricer is madness. Also what a mid-pricer is can be unclear, and it varies by position. Midfield and ruck mid-pricers are more expensive than forward and defender mid-pricers since the best players in those positions score more. That makes using a flat money cut off for the upper end of the range kind of dodgy.  A player at 510K is priced to average 95 this year, which is tolerable or better from a forward but not ok for a mid or ruck.  They are maybe a keeper if a forward or defender but a mid-pricer if not.  There is really no cut off for the lower end, since a player who won’t make money has little value even if they have a very low price, like that $200,000 rookie key forward. You never want an actual mid-pricer in your team, although exceptions are understandable if you are related or are the actual player and want yourself on your team.  

So, if “Gun” means non-rookie and non-mid-pricer, and if “Rookie” means cows and cow-like objects, then GnR is the best? Haven’t you just redefined GnR into not GnR? 

Ah, well, not really I don’t think. Maybe? You see, GnR often isn’t possible, or if it is possible, involves needless risks. So, if it is possible in the traditional and rather literal meaning of just guns and just rookies, it is still the best. 

I don’t remember why, do the math again! 


How about I try and sum up?  So we have $10,000,000 and 30 spots. That’s $333,300 per player.  Hard to put together a team with that, and icky captains. Gah, ok some math. (often rounding to the nearest 100, like SC does) 


Mid-priced team. 

Assume an average of $125k per cow. 

8 Cows on bench is $1,000,000

$9,000,000 for the other 22 players = $409,000 per player

Assume for all cases upgrade season starts Week 7 and goes at two per week, 3 during the byes.

If 8 cows make, to be generous since the best 8 cows, $175k each, that’s $1,400,000 

The best 22 cost a total of $9,000,000 / magic number of 5372.96 = 1675 per week for the first 6 weeks.  = 10,050

W7 = 1740

W8 = 1805

W9 = 1870

W10+ = 1935 x 13 = 25155

Total season points = 40620. 


GnR maxed / ideal team

Assume an average of $125k per cow. 

8 Cows on bench is $1,000,000

$9,000,000 for the other 11 player pairs of 1 Gun & 1 Rookie  = $818,100. With rookies costing $125,000 that means we get 693,100 per gun. Oops. There is a practical maximum for rookies. Which is also the optional number of rookies assuming they are all good, which we are. If we assume $586,500 per gun, that’s 13 guns and 11 rookies.  That is a total of 19 rookies, which is a LOT and not going to happen in real life often.  But this is an ideal, so we go with 19. We’ll assume just 150k from each profit and upgrade season starting at week 7 at two per week, three Weeks 11-13. Remembering that there is cash coming in from the non playing cows even after none are on field. 

W1-6 – 11 Cows & & $7,750,000 worth of Guns = 51 * 11 = 561  +  1419 total of 1980 for 6 weeks = 11,880

W7 – 10 Cows & $8,075,000 worth of Guns =   51 * 10 = 510  + 1503 total of 2013

W8 – 9 Cows & $8,525,000 worth of Guns =   51 * 9 = 459  + 1587 total of 2046

W9 – 8 Cows & $8,975,000 worth of Guns =   51 * 8 = 408  + 1670 total of 2078

W10 – 7 Cows & $9,425,000 worth of Guns =   51 * 7 = 357  + 1754 total of 2111

W11 – 6 Cows & $10,025,000 worth of Guns =   51 * 6 = 306  + 1866 total of 2172

W12 – 4 Cows & $10,775,000 worth of Guns =   51 * 4 = 204  + 2006 total of 2210

W13 – 2 Cows & $11,525,000 worth of Guns =   51 * 2 = 102  + 2145 total of 2247

W14+  – 0 Cows & $12,125,000 worth of Guns =   51 * 0 = 0  + 2257 total of 2257 for 9 weeks = 20,313

Total season points =  47,070


Just a bit more than the mid priced team. 

But, the big issue is that we are not going to have 19 cows that make an average of $150,000. Very unlikely to get 19 cows worth playing at all! So, how about a more realistic team with 14 cows.  That means $515,000 per premium. Same assumptions as last time for cows, just fewer of them.

More realistic 13 cow team

W1-6 – 6 Cows & & $8,250,000 worth of Guns = 51 * 6 = 306  +  1536 total of 1842 for 6 weeks = 11,502

W7 – 10 Cows & $8,075,000 worth of Guns =   51 * 5 = 255  + 1619 total of 1874

W8 – 9 Cows & $8,525,000 worth of Guns =   51 * 4 = 204  + 1703 total of 1907

W9 – 8 Cows & $8,975,000 worth of Guns =   51 * 3 = 153  + 1787 total of 1940

W10 – 7 Cows & $9,425,000 worth of Guns =   51 * 2 = 102  + 1871 total of 1973

W11 – 6 Cows & $10,025,000 worth of Guns =   51 * 1 = 51  + 1942 total of 2033

W12+  – 0 Cows & $12,125,000 worth of Guns =   51 * 0 = 0  + 2094 total of 2094 for 11 weeks = 23,034+

Total season points =  44,263


It’s like, the more cows the better!

Up to the point you can’t spend all the rest of your money, at least….which sounds familiar…. 

Rule of Cow-quisition Number One: “Start the season with as many good cows as you can get, up to where you have undesired left-over money.”

Wait, you mean there is a reason for that rule? You didn’t just, like make it up!??!

And now you see how Rule #4  is derived right from Rule #1.  If you need all the good cows, then you have to pick them first and then pick everyone else around them. 

So surely it should have been rule #2?

Well, yeah maybe, but that’s not important right now, and don’t call me Shirley. 

Cows are the best value in the game.  Good cows at least.  You want ALL of them if you can get them, which you can because there are never enough, meaning about 19, of the right price and scoring/money making potential. So we are always compromising, which is part of the “fun.” Pay more and get less per dollar? Lower scoring and get less per dollar?  Pay more for job security?  And at some point there just aren’t any more worth taking and we have to spend the rest of the money on non-cows. 

How do cow-like-objects fit into that thinking? 

If you have a cow-like-object that is really likely to make $150,000+ which this year means raising their average about 33 points, (35-36 in most years, this year’s magic number is low)  then yeah treat like a cow.  That means a $250,000 cow-like-object needs to average 80 or more. Certainly possible, but a lot of $200-$300 are cow-promises, trading some upside for job security and points. So treat them as cows or not based on how likely they are to actually make $150,000.

Anyways, the reason cows are the best and most important part of your team is that they 

  1. Provide the best cost/point, by far
  2. Can be used to make money, which can be used to get better player into your best 22. 

If they have the best cost/point why not play them all year?

Well, the non playing cows are mostly there for cash generation, although the biggest money makers will be on field because they are scoring the most, which is why they are making money. But, at some point you will have enough money in the bank that you can get more total points even if the cost/point is not as good. 

Cows costing $123,900 and scoring at 55 = $2,253/point 

A cow costing $123,900 and scoring at 55, who’s price is now $278,900, with $150,000 added from another harvested cow for a total of $423,900.  Buying someone priced to average $423,900 would mean an average of 78, but  into the season the current magic number will have dropped and the new priced to average would be ~10% better, so you could get someone averaging 87. And if you can get someone who is at a discount, which is likely, then you can get someone who will average say 90-95.  Obviously 90 is more than 55, so you are 35 points ahead each week.  That means a cost/point of 4,710 for a 90 average costing $423,900. Not as high, but more total points, which is the goal

So this cost/point? That’s the Moneyball thing isn’t it?

Yes. cost/point is the single biggest thing in the game. We all start out with the same amount of money and whoever gets the most points for that money wins. Most points wins, same money = best points/dollar wins.  Cost per point.  That’s the game. 

How about picking the right players?

Players are the essential input into getting points. Remember that chart from before?  Not knowing who will score what is why this is a fun game and not a math exercise. But, the goal of selecting players is getting the most points/dollar. 

So if cows are first and most important, who is second most important?

A captain.  Captains get double points, which is not as good value as most cows but is better than everyone else. 

Someone averaging 125 would cost $671,600.  That’s $5,372/point. But since they are getting 250 as captain that is really $2,686/point.  A cow who costs $170,000 and averaging 60 is still less at $2,61/point.  Now if a cow costing $200,000 averages 70, that is $2,857/point which is not quite as good, but still far better than non captains. 

But, really we should compare captains to other non-cows.  If you spend $750,000 for someone who then goes for a 120 average, that’s a very sad $6,250/point, unless they are captain, in which case the cost is a tasty $3,125/point.  Assuming your captain is one of the very highest scoring players in the game, it is hard overspend on them, at least not by much.  If someone scores just a bit less and costs a lot less, then that other guy is probably a better value, so you still want to think about who you are getting, but also, you are usually getting their best scores and using a VC other times.  

If you only take the Captains score some of the time, does that make them not worth it? 

Our 125 average costing $671,600 guy if captain half the time at 125 is then at $3,582/point, which is still way good. 

So spending on a C and VC is worth it? Maybe even spending overs if they are enough better than the other options. 

But only if they are enough better than the other options.

Yup yup yup.

So the most Important things are Cows and Captains? What about after that? 

Keepers and Bargains. Because we have limited trades, we will need about 13 players who need to be set and forget, and never use a trade on.  That will, with luck, leave us enough trades to upgrade the other non-keeper players so we have the best, best 22 we can.  Hopefully with enough left over to cover for injuries. 

But, again going back to “most points wins,” we want to get the most points possible out of those players. Which means we want bargains, lots of bargains.  So we needs to look at who the Supercoach gods have seen fit to provide us. 

Oh oh! That’s the Zen thing! Finally then Zen thing again!

Right! If we have, for example, 13 cows at $125 each for $1,625,000, and 2 captains totaling $1,400,000 that leaves us with $6,975,000 for the other 15 guys we need. That’s $465,000 per player.  The optimum way to spend it is based on the players available, not how we happen to like our teams to look.  Take a look at every player


I was going to say every player that looks possibly worth having. 


Then figure out how many points you expect them to score and use that to get a projected cost/point.  

And take the set that comes out best?

Well, but we need 13ish keepers, so that has to factor into it. I mean we have the captains for 2, and that means 11 more, so 13 keepers plus 13 cows is 26, so four cow-like-objects. Or maybe better to say the best 4 non keepers you can get. 

What if I can get 14 keepers, because I found enough cheap ones?  

As long as you can get 3 good non-keepers with the money left over.

What if I want a perma-loophole?

Take one and use the rest of the money on the other 14 you need. 

What if I want to go Guns and Rookies anyway, and just take 3 more rookies so I can have 14 keepers of high quality?

Well, since we established that there were only 13 cows worth having, you would be taking cows that are not worth having, aside from maybe being extra loopholes. If they take a spot and make no money, that is a missed opportunity.  Less bench cover if their issue was job security.  You have put more cash into your keepers. The more expensive a player, the less likely to be a bargain. So you spent money on cows that are useful meaning it is wasted, and then you paid a higher per point cost for your keepers. 

Was that a polite way of saying I would have wasted my money by buying inefficiently? 

Yes.  You might manage well and make up for it. You might be happier doing what you like even if your eventual rank is lower. But if you end up with fewer points/dollar, then you probably do less well

Meaning that by being attached to a specific plan and not letting go of that attachment you are not one with the Buddha nature and therefore will suffer by not taking maximum advantage of the available player base, especially in comparison to those who have let go of their attachment to a specific path and allow the players available to determine their path and thus are one with the Buddha nature and will set themselves up to do better because they took maximum advantage of the available player base!!!!!

He said that all in one breath.

Apparently enlightened hamsters are rather excitable.  But, well, yes. 


Thanks for r…..

If we can’t actually run a proper Guns and Rookies, then why are so many people so attached to it? It doesn’t make sense for people to be all “It is the only way to go” when it isn’t really. I mean you showed it is the best if it can be done, but if it can’t be done? I don’t get that.

Ok, so right now we get about 14 good cows a year, this year more like 13.  Enough short of GnR that a full GnR is not so good. But, in the past, there were expansion teams, and there was also this Essendon Incident that led to top up players.  So those meant we had 4-5 more cows a year. And if you add 14 to 4-5 you get 18-19.

Which is how many cows you need to run a real and proper Guns and Rookies!

Exactly! GnR wasn’t just the best strategy in theory, it was the best strategy in practice.  For many years it was the best strategy. So of course people learned that and followed the player base and did well. But, now the extra cows are gone, and with a changed player base, we need to change our strategy to match.  But people being attached to a “pure” Guns and Rookies is quite understandable.  Especially since it is the best when conditions allow it.


Thanks for r…..

Would you please sum that up in a short recap?


When the player base allows it, Guns and Rookies is the best strategy. 

The player base will rarely allow a proper GnR strategy anymore, in which case get all the good cows, and one or two captains, with price/point mattering only for picking between captain candidates. 

Be sure to get about 13, meaning not less than 12 but really should be 13+ keepers you won’t need to use a trade on from the remaining slots. 

Spend the rest of your money to maximize price/point with the points being this years projections not last years results, keeping in mind the 13+ keeper goal

In the end it is more important to have fun then do what priests say to do


Thanks for reading!



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13 thoughts on “Zen and the Art of Supercoach”

  1. Hi FD, loving all the pre season reading. You’re giving us plenty to think about.
    I have a question regarding another fantasy code, Real Dream Team the one with limited trades still if you or someone else could help me out.
    Is the blessed number 7386.95 or is it 9233.69?
    I’m trying to figure out what players need to average to increase their value by $175k-200k and I have only just realised I may have been doing it wrong all pre season. Appreciate any feedback


    1. If you can find a guy who played 17 games, and divide his price by his average, you will get a close enough answer for the magic number. If you do it five times and average those, you will get a better answer, but won’t be too far off.

      I have no idea if the other codes have deflation. If not just divide the amount you want to make by the magic number and that how many points higher they need to average.

      If they do have deflation, do the same thing, and add 5 to it.

      Hope that helps!


      1. Thanks FD.
        I have done that to find the numbers it’s more so the fact of the lower scores last year, is it all relative? I know this is a Supercoach site and Supercoach is my main game but I enjoy numbers and I’m curious.
        An example is Neale who averaged 98 from 17 games. He is priced at $904,900 so a blessed number based off of Neale is $9233.67. Should this be divided by 1.25 to find the true number due to short quarters or will it all work itself out.


        1. It will all work itself out.

          The number changes every year. So what you get by dividing is the right answer with no adjustment needed. Next year you can do the same thing to get that years Magic number.

          As far as I know, my post on how SC prices work would apply to DT as well. But I can’t say for 100% because I never tried it myself.


  2. Brilliant summary and only makes it more clear now even if missing the ‘s’ on maths drove an old maths teacher nuts Mid pricers are such because they have a problem. 12 prems plus drew and ziebell is as close as i will get Appreciate this very useful guide –DD


  3. Thanks FD

    This has been my true north in structure. Constructing my own TLA has been my guide in player selection.

    I started with 13 rookies. Then my 13 premos. Then the 4 mid pricers.

    I am happy with 12 of my 13 rookies. The 13th is between Gulden and Fullerton. McStay is listed as 3-6 weeks, so I am worried whether he is around long enough. From JPK’s comments, I thought Gulden was likely, but the AFL website left him out of their mock teams.

    I have counted Treacy as a rookie, rather than a loophole. I have counted Dow as a mid pricer.

    I have left out 2 rookies I think have job security – Henry and Cox. Henry because I would have to play one of him, Rowe or H Jones on field. Which I don’t want. I left out Cox because I am not sure he’ll make the 150k. It was really between him and Campbell, and I like Campbell better.

    Even though I have ended up with a strange structure that could see me blown away instantly. (No Gawn or Grundy). I am very content.

    I see a lot of sides with a mid bench that I think could be barren in 2 weeks. I am really hopeful that I am not headed in that direction. I really think the key to it is to pick the rookies first. So many teams – including teams from content authors on other SC sites – who say “rookies subject to change “ or “ rookies subject to selection “ make me think that they are filling these spots with whoever is picked Round 1 and hope for the best.

    Thanks again FD for the strongest set of advice I have received in SC. Maybe I will still be crap this year. But I really feel that I have got a few fundamentals right. Even if I don’t have Gawn and Grundy.

    Good luck for the season FD.


      1. Thanks Macca. Yup an all or nothing play that will either be a massive fail or a small stroke of genius. Unlikely to be any middle ground. I could either set myself up for the season, or be totally irrelevant in Week 1 or 2. I will need all the luck I can get


  4. Thanks Father! My head hurts and I feel a little like the Hampster … I’m in search of some pumpkin seeds now (in Australia, they are called Crown!! … Or Scotch, if that’s your poison!!)

    Long liveth GnR!!!


  5. This is great stuff FD and makes me really (yet again) question the composition of premiums within my structure.

    Assuming a structure of 13 cows and 13 keepers, I am then try to refine permutations within the keepers to get the best possible mix.

    For instance I have Neale at M1 and Jye Caldwell at F2. Is that better or worse than changing that to Dunkley at F2, but then downgrading in mid to S Walsh at M4? (Oliver, Macrae, Zerrret are the other mids)

    Or similarly change Caldwell to someone like a De Goey/Phillips at F2 and downgrade D1 from Lloyd to a Ryan or Daniel.

    I guess it comes down to the 13 you choose actually ending up being keepers across the season notwithstanding injuries.

    Anyway I’m largely thinking out aloud, but just wanted to reiterate an appreciation for the content!



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