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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

NRL Grand Final 2014 Preview: Rabbitohs v Bulldogs

 South Sydney Rabbitohs meet the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Sunday, October 5 
The South Sydney Rabbitohs meet the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Sunday, October 5 in the first NRL preliminary final. The match kicks off at 7.15pm (AEDT)

South Sydney hooker Issac Luke will miss Sunday's decider after he was found guilty of a grade one dangerous throw on Roosters star Sonny Bill Williams at the NRL judiciary on Tuesday night. 
He joins Melbourne hooker Cameron Smith and Roosters stalwart Luke Ricketson as players who have missed grand finals through suspension in the modern era. Apisai Koroisau, who filled in for Luke when he was sidelined with a shoulder injury mid-season is expected to come into the starting side. 
Ben Te'o has been elevated to the run-on side for Kyle Turner who'll start on the bench. Beau Champion (wrist) is the only Souths player missing through injury. 
The Bunnies backed up their 40-24 qualifying final win over Manly with a convincing 32-22 victory over reigning champs the Sydney Roosters to qualify for their first grand final since 1971. They trailed 12-0 early but piled on 32-unanswered points before the Chooks scored two late consolation tries.

Bulldogs skipper Michael Ennis was named at hooker on Tuesday but has all-but ruled himself out after suffering two fractures in his left foot against Penrith last Saturday. 
Five-eighth Josh Reynolds filled in at dummy-half against the Panthers when Ennis went down. However, Moses Mbye and Reni Maitua more likelye options at hooker while youngster Damien Cook filled in at hooker during Origin this season when Ennis shifted to half-back. 
The Bulldogs are missing Sam Kasiano (ankle), Pat O'Hanlon (ankle), Chase Stanley (shoulder), Jacob Loko (knee) and Lloyd Perrett (ankle). Des Hasler's Dogs lost six of their last eight regular season games and were given no hope of doing anything in the finals by most pundits. 
But they thumped the Storm 28-4 in the elimination final, edged Manly 18-17 in golden point and held off Penrith 18-12 to make their second grand final appearance in three years.

Reason To Watch

Sam Burgess v James Graham. The big Englishmen are the two premier forwards in the NRL. They both show a blatant disregard for their own bodies and have a mean streak but are also highly skilful. While they insist they don't seek each other out when these two clubs meet, you could be forgiven for thinking there's a magnetic attraction between the two because wherever one goes the other is there to greet them.

Reason To Turn Away 
Forty-three years is a long time. They handled the pressure last week but the Bunnies still have a massive mental hurdle to overcome and there'll be a lot of buttock clenching going on in the Burrow if the Bunnies fall behind again this week. 
And if you're a Dogs fan and Josh Reynolds plays dummy-half and repeats some of the shocking passes he dished up against the Panthers it might be time to go and turn a steak or head to the fridge for another cordial.

Say What ... 
"Just to play in the grand final's going to be great but to play against James who's a close friend and great competitor, it's going to be a great experience and I'm sure after the final whistle one of us will have a smile on the face and the other probably not. But we'll shake hands and I'm sure we'll get stuck in on the weekend," - Sam Burgess on his battle with fellow Englishman James Graham.

"To be honest, I need a miracle mate. I'm pretty disappointed at this stage so just going to do what I can and see how it all pans out to be honest," – Michael Ennis on the prospect of missing the NRL decider through injury.

Final Word 
The Rabbitohs carry the burden of 43 years without a premiership on their shoulders while the Bulldogs are trying to become the first team to win the grand final from outside the top four since the inception of the NRL in 1998. 
They split their two regular-season meetings, with both games not decided until the final minutes. Trent Hodkinson kicked a 78th minute field goal in Round 7 to give the Dogs a 15-14 win, while the Bunnies scored nine points in the final seven minutes to win 21-14 in Round 25. 
The likely loss of Ennis and Luke's suspension weakens both sides but the Bunnies are better equipped to cover Luke's loss. The Dogs have the edge in experience having played in the 2012 decider but the toll of three brutal finals fixtures in a row could hurt them in the final quarter. 
Michael Maguire's men won't have things all their own way but we agree with the bookies who are tipping South Sydney to end 43 years of misery on Sunday. Rabbitohs by 10.

Rabbitohs: Greg Inglis, Alex Johnston, Dylan Walker, Kirisome Auva'a, Lote Tuqiri, Luke Keary, Adam Reynolds, George Burgess, Dave Tyrrell, Ben Te'o, John Sutton (c), Sam Burgess.
Interchange: Jason Clark, Kyle Turner, Chris McQueen, Thomas Burgess, Ben Lowe, Luke Burgess, Bryson Goodwin (three to be omitted).

Bulldogs: Sam Perrett, Corey Thompson, Josh Morris, Tim Lafai, Mitch Brown, Josh Reynolds, Trent Hodkinson, Aiden Tolman, Michael Ennis (c), James Graham, Josh Jackson, Tony Williams, Greg Eastwood.
Interchange: Tim Browne, Dale Finucane, David Klemmer, Frank Pritchard, Moses Mbye, Reni Maitua (two to be omitted). 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

South Sydney Rabbitohs and Sydney Roosters Preliminary Final Should be a Classic

Roosters v Souths

All season most people would've expected these two teams to be squaring off against each other in the premiership decider on grand final day. 

Here it is, a week earlier than expected, but no less important. South Sydney were extremely impressive in their semi-final demolition of Manly in week one of the finals. "Powerful" is the word that keeps coming to mind. 

This huge, mobile forward pack just steamrolled their way upfield and had the result beyond doubt very early in proceedings. 

I have been super impressed with young Rabbitohs centres Kirisome Auva'a and Dylan Walker. Wow! Can't these two lads run the ball. 

They are very dangerous indeed. Once the forwards have cancelled each other out, it may come down to their battle with Roosters pair Michael Jennings and Shaun Kenny-Dowall to decide a winner. They also have the big guy, Greg Inglis, at the back who could bust the game open at any time. 

This club has been around the money for a couple of years now so the players have finals experience and they know what's at stake. 

They will leave nothing in the tank in search of victory. Similarly, the Roosters boast a forward pack that can dominate the best around on their day. Sonny Bill Williams turned last year's grand final on its head with a brilliant second-half display. He is due. 

Courageous hooker Jake Friend will be all the better for his game last weekend. Halves Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney have come solid at the right time of the year as well. I am expecting a spirited defence of the title they won almost twelve months ago.

I really can't separate these two teams. I sense the Roosters have more tries in them; however, I have great regard for what Inglis might produce on this big stage. This will come down to a field goal either way.

Bulldogs v Panthers

Melbourne and Manly have been two of the most dominant finals teams in the NRL over the past decade. Over the past fortnight, however, the Bulldogs - with scintillating performances - have blown away both these sides. That's outstanding form leading into a preliminary final. 

Coach Des Hasler is a master of the big game. The Dogs, as a club, are certainly no stranger to finals football either and the spike in their intensity once they hit play-off time has been there for all to see. They have been impeccable. The Bulldogs forwards have owned the advantage line in both their semi-final outings. Their unique style of chain-passing among the big boys to create space for the halves and outside backs down the edges has been very effective.

The Panthers have been tremendous. What a gutsy bunch they have become. They play the team game with every individual contributing what they can to the common cause. The one thing we do know about this team is that they will keep coming and they will never give up. 

This is a new experience for the vast majority of their players so their start to the game will be very important indeed. The Bulldogs smashed both the Storm and the Sea Eagles in the first half of those games and will be looking to do a similar job on the inexperienced Panthers. 

If the Panthers can withstand the early blitz and settle down into their own rhythm, they will give a good account of themselves. C'mon Panthers.

Sydney teams, take a bow

The last four left standing in the NRL premiership race are all Sydney teams. Actually, it's five Sydney teams left standing if we include the Sea Eagles, who will officially finish in fifth position after their narrow loss to the Bulldogs last Saturday night. 

That in itself is an extraordinary performance for all these clubs. In an age where so many of the interstate teams have huge geographical and corporate advantages over the Sydney-based teams, it is testimony to management and the resilience of these older traditional clubs that they have been able to maintain their competitiveness in the congested market in this city. It's not getting any easier either. 

The cost of running a professional rugby league program is increasing all the time. Sydney-based clubs will need added corporate and member support if they are all to survive into the future. So regardless of who wins this weekend, the 2014 grand final will be the fifth all-Sydney grand final of the NRL era. 

The previous four featured the Sydney Roosters. In 2003, it was the Roosters v Penrith. In 2004, we saw the Roosters v Bulldogs; 2010 - Dragons v Roosters; and last year it was the Roosters v Manly. Will the fifth follow that pattern?

We need to be far more proactive

The rule which enabled Canterbury to regain possession in the 73rd minute of their match against Manly after a Josh Reynolds' kick struck referee Gerard Sutton is anachronistic and will surely be changed in the off-season. I know it's an obscure rule and is rarely required, but every time it has happened, we have asked for changes. 

None have been forthcoming. In bygone years, packing a scrum and giving the feed to the team in their oppositions half was not a guarantee of possession for either side. 

However, the days of competitive scrums are long gone and it is such a shame that it took such an incident in a crucial moment of a sudden-death final for the league community to realise we had a rule that could be so unfair. I have written in this column previously about another anachronistic rule which prevents interchanges at scrums. 

One day a team will lose a match because an injured played couldn't be replaced at a scrum and the team is either reduced to 12 men or that injured player is unable to be effective. These are just two examples of rules not appropriate in today's game but left untouched by our administrators due to apathy and a lack of foresight. 

We shouldn't have to wait for instances like we had last Saturday for such antiquated rules to be placed under scrutiny. The game has to be far more proactive.

State cup grand finals

Minor premiers Penrith will meet Newcastle in the NSW Cup grand final at Allianz Stadium on Sunday. The Panthers will go into the match with 12 players unavailable due to injuries among their extended senior squad but have overcome a number of obstacles already this season to lose just four matches and win both of their finals matches. 

However, the Knights will provide the Panthers with their sternest test to date having also won both of their finals matches comfortably and boosting a team full of players with NRL experience. A significant number of the Panthers team were members of last year's winning Holden Cup team and have a unique opportunity to win a second title in a different competition in successive years. 

The successful club will not just win the coveted premiership cup but will represent NSW in the national final on NRL grand final day against the Queensland champions. The Queensland Cup grand final will be held at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday, featuring minor premiers Northern Pride from Cairns, one of the Cowboys feeder clubs, and last year's runners-up Easts Tigers, from Brisbane, featuring several Melbourne Storm contracted players. The two teams met a fortnight ago, the Pride won 8-7.

A word on the beaten sides

At this time of year all attention goes to the winning teams. I just feel that the performances of the Cowboys and Sea Eagles last weekend deserve recognition. Both were absolutely mighty in defeat and contributed to one of the best weekends of finals action I can ever remember. 

I don't know what happened to the Cowboys in the first 30 minutes of their clash with the Roosters, but I will say that no other team in the NRL could've mounted a comeback of those proportions against the defending premiers. It was simply stunning. They were so unlucky not to win. 

On the back of some real disappointments in the finals in the past two seasons it must feel like the world is against them, but I sense this will only make them stronger next season. I see good things ahead for the North Queensland team.

I have so much admiration for Manly. Their core group of senior players have been so good for so long. Despite the injuries and suspensions which weakened their side for the semi-final, they produced another whole-hearted effort. I hope the stories of unrest and disharmony are untrue. 

It would be a terrible shame if these guys didn't remain close friends for the rest of their days. It's been a very special era in the club's history. Well done.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Slash, Train to kick off NRL Grand Final

Slash will pump up the crowds at the NRL Grand Final on October 5

Former Guns N' Roses guitar god Slash and American pop-rock group Train - both of whom headline Australian music festivals in the next few months - have been picked to pump up the crowd before the NRL Grand Final on October 5.

Both acts also have new albums out in the next month. 

Slash will release World on Fire with his band Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators next month, while Train's seventh album, Bulletproof Picasso, is due out next week.

Train have a strong chart history here, scoring a No. 1 single in 2009 with Hey Soul Sister and a No. 5 with Drops of Jupiter in 2001. The band also has three top 10 albums.

What songs will they play? Slash (who is actually English and a fan of Stoke City football club) accompanying at least one Train song is a good bet (Hey Soul Sister is the obvious choice), while the top-hatted axeman is certain to turn out at least one classic Guns N' Roses number.

While the choice of entertainment won't entirely satisfy fans pining for the return of AC/DC or even Cold Chisel, Slash and Train seem a better fit for a big, expectant footy final crowd than Sir Tom Jones. 

The 74-year-old Welsh crooner will kick off procedings before the AFL Grand Final on September 27.

Slash is a headliner at the Soundwave festival next February and March while Train have already confirmed for Bluesfest next April 3.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Suncorp Stadium - Queensland Tourist Attractions

Suncorp Stadium Seating Map

Upcoming Events at Suncorp Stadium - View upcoming events
Suncorp Stadium - A History
Lang Park is the original name of the site located in the Brisbane suburb of Milton, Queensland, Australia, now occupied by the major sports facility known by its sponsorship name, Suncorp Stadium (formerly Suncorp-Metway Stadium). Lang Park is also known as Brisbane Stadium when in use during AFC competitions due to conflicting sponsorship reasons.
In the late 1990s, it was decided that Brisbane needed a state of the art rectangular stadium. Suncorp Stadium was chosen as the site. The $280 million redevelopment commenced in July 2001 after Game One of the 2001 State of Origin series. The redevelopment was completed in time for the match between the Brisbane Broncos and Newcastle Knights on 1 June 2003; Brisbane's first game at Suncorp Stadium for more than a decade.
The stadium is now a 52,500 state of the art all-seater rectangular stadium, a far cry from the former Lang Park oval with two grandstands set back from a perimeter road. The only remaining stand from before the redevelopment is
the Western Grandstand. The extension of the facility resulted in the demolition of a number of buildings along Milton Road, including the former Brisbane City Council trolley-bus depot.

suncorp stadium brisbane
suncorp stadium brisbane

View the official Suncorp Stadium Website at

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Grand Final Week Schedule - NRL Footy Finals

The Telstra Premiership Grand Final Lunch replaces the traditional Grand Final Breakfast for the first time. The lunch will be broadcast live on FOX Sports and is attended by the Telstra Premiership Grand Final teams, club officials, NRL guests, sponsor and commercial partners and media.

Thursday, October 3: NRL Grand Final Fan Day and Teams Presentation, Tumbalong Park, Darling Harbour (10am-2pm family activities; 3-5.30pm team presentation and activities on stage);

NRL Grand Final Members Party, Sydney Entertainment Centre, Haymarket (5-7pm); and
Channel Nine Grand Final Footy Show, Sydney Entertainment Centre, Haymarket (7.30-9.30pm)

Prior to and following the official NRL Grand Final Teams Lunch, the day is devoted to Rugby League fans and members with three exciting events.

Skills clinics, family-friendly activities, will be part of the FREE NRL Grand Final Fan Day at Tumbalong Park, Darling Harbour. The teams will be presented on stage between 3.15-4pm.
The NRL Grand Final Members Party at the Sydney Entertainment Centre is an invite-only event for NRL Club members.

Tickets are available from for Channel Nine’s Grand Final Footy Show at the Sydney Entertainment Centre from 7.30-9.30pm which will feature members of the Grand Final teams in their final appearance before Sunday’s Telstra Premiership Grand Final.

Friday, October 4: Grand Final Fun Day (MUST REGISER), Cathy Freeman Park, Sydney Olympic Park (10am-3pm)

Up to 800 young fans will get a taste of an NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final Day when they experience all the excitement and atmosphere of Rugby League’s biggest day of the year.

2013 AAMI Country Rugby League Player of the Year, Doltone House, Hyde Park (7pm for 7.30pm start)

The Country Rugby League celebrates its night of nights with the announcement of the AAMI Country Rugby League Player of the Year.

Saturday, October 5: Kangaroos Reunion Lunch, SCG (12-4pm)
Reunion of past and present Kangaroos players attending along with Kiwi Internationals in Australia.
Grand Final Fan Site, Tumbalong Park, Darling Harbour (3-7pm)
Autograph signing and FREE special live performance by Jessica Mauboy and guests (3-4.30pm – autograph signing; 4.30-7pm – live performances).
Sunday, October 6: 2013 NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final Day, ANZ Stadium (from 11am)

Grand Final Day is the culmination of an exciting week of events and a season of amazing Rugby League with over 80,000 fans attending ANZ Stadium to be part of the biggest game of the year.
The Grand Final Precinct will feature Rugby League skills clinics, entertainment, competitions, prizes, giveaways and One Community Ambassadors.

International artist Ricky Martin will headline the Grand Final Entertainment which will also feature a tribute to retiring players and Jessica Mauboy performing the national anthem.

More than 3million viewers across metropolitan and regional Australia are expected to tune into the NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final on Channel Nine.

11.00am  -   Gates Open – Telstra Grand Final Precinct
1.30pm  -   Gates Open – ANZ Stadium
1.50pm  -   Kick-off - VB NSW Cup Grand Final
3.55pm  -   Kick-off - Holden Cup Grand Final
6.53pm  -   Pre-match Entertainment   
  • Presentation to Retiring Players
  • Ricky Martin Performs
  • National Anthem – Jessica Mauboy
7.18pm  - Kick-off - NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final

Grand Final Fan Site/ Live Site, Tumbalong Park, Darling Harbour (3.30-9.30pm)

The Grand Final Day fun continues from mid-afternoon as Tumbalong Park becomes a live site where a big screen will broadcast all of the action live from ANZ Stadium with the screening of the 2013 Telstra Premiership Grand Final. The live broadcast will start at 3.55pm with the Holden Cup Grand Final.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Four Key Players For This Weekend’s NRL Finals

Week one of the NRL finals delivered everything we have come to love about rugby league. It had excitement, controversy, upsets and what has to be regarded as the game of the year, in the Roosters versus the Sea Eagles.
We also saw the Bulldogs and Cowboys leave the competition, the former quietly out the back door and the latter kicking and screaming out the front door.
Now we turn our attention to finals week two, which again sees two tough match-ups – Sea Eagles versus Sharks, and Storm versus Knights.
Each team have their own points to prove in this race to make the NRL grand final.
I have selected four key players who will have the greatest impact for their team this weekend.
Manly Sea Eagles
Manly have got experience and talent all over the park and with Brett Stewart being named at fullback you could be mistaken for thinking that’s who I would choose, but the man I’ve gone for as my x-factor for the Sea Eagles is Jamie Lyon.
The captain and centre has the ability to change the game in Manly’s favour. Lyon has played 233 games and has the big match experience, that is for sure.
Whether it’s in defence or attack, Lyon is a constant threat and if the Sharks’ left side defence faults he will most definitely make them pay.
Great passing game, good touch when kicking near the line and knowing when the big play is needed, all these star attributes make Jamie Lyon such a plus for the Manly side in this NRL finals series.
Cronulla Sharks
With Todd Carney given next to no hope of taking the field tomorrow night, the Cronulla Sharks need someone to stand up and create a bit of magic and that man is Michael Gordon.
While the team boasts multiple State of Origin and Australian representative players, it’s the fullback who could have the most impact.
His leg speed close to the line enables him to bust tackles and make breaks most people couldn’t get close to doing.
His explosive speed close to the line makes him an enormous threat to the Sea Eagles’ defence, and has the ability to change the game with his goal kicking – Jamie Lyon hasn’t kicked great this year and if it comes down to a shootout in the goal kicking department, I know who my money is on.
The scary part is I still don’t think we have seen the best of Michael Gordon, let’s hope for the Sharks’ sake Manly get to see the best of Michael Gordon.
Melbourne Storm
When you think of Melbourne Storm you think of the big three, but the master and commander, the little general who steers the ship, is without a doubt Cameron Smith.
His ability to control a game is unequalled. Whether it’s in defence or attack, Smith is the number one hooker in the NRL today.
His scoots out of dummy half make metres and keep the Storm moving forward. His ability to identify weaknesses in the defensive line and combine with Billy Slater is always a threat. His awareness of when the Storm are in trouble and take control with a deep kick makes him Melbourne’s biggest asset.
You ask any coach in the NRL today if they could buy one player right now, who would it be, and they will all tell you Cameron Smith.
There is no doubt if the Storm’s forwards lay the platform, then Cameron Smith will lead them to victory.
Newcastle Knights
The surprise packet for most people in this NRL finals series is without a doubt the Newcastle Knights.
In this 2013 season the heart and soul of the Knights, week-in and week-out, has been Jarrod Mullen.
People talk about his kicking game being one of the best in the competition, and I agree. However it’s been his defence that’s most impressed me this season.
The five-eighth is always targeted in the defence line by the big boppers of the opposition but he has not faulted. Some might say it’s been similar form to the Immortal Andrew Johns.
Off the back of great defence, Mullen has grown as a leader of the team, steering the Knights around the park and kicking them to victories.
His left to right passing game and exceptional kicking game are rated as the best in the NRL.
And while Newcastle will run out on Sunday with the likes of Willie Mason, Danny Buderus, Darius Boyd and Akuila Uate in their side, look for the little number six to produce the big plays.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man – Mullen is ready to go to the next level.
Average punter’s big tips
While I am no Peter Sterling or Phil Gould, these are my tips for NRL finals series week two.
I am going for Sea Eagles to be too strong for the Sharks. Even though Cronulla have put in a tremendous effort to finish where they have, without Carney I don’t see them being able to trouble the Manly defence too often.
Granted Manly had a massive game last week and it would have taken a lot out of them, the inclusion of Brett Stewart is a big one and I see them being two tries too good.
Sea Eagles to beat the Sharks 18-6.
I am tipping the upset of the year in the second game, Knights to beat the Storm.
Yes Melbourne are the defending champions, and yes they have Smith, Slater and Cooper Cronk. But they have also lost two of their last three games and with Gareth Widdop not playing with much confidence after coming back from injury, I believe Newcastle will be too strong.
In the last four weeks the Newcastle Knights have transformed into a team growing confidence and belief in their game plan.
With the experienced heads of Buderus, Jeremy Smith and Mullen in great form and leading from the front, and the most experienced NRL coach of all time, Wayne Bennett, at the helm, I’m going the Knights to break the hoodoo down in Melbourne.
Knights to beat the Storm 16-12.
Good luck this weekend to you and your teams.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Century In The Making - Roosters VS Rabbitohs

Both the Roosters and Rabbitohs will be out to get each other in this Friday night blockbuster

It’s a script you could hardly have written; the 2013 NRL season kicked off with a blockbuster between the new look Roosters and the redemption seeking Rabbitohs. It was Burgess v Sonny-Bill, and now it’s Burgess, Burgess, Burgess and Burgess v Sonny-Bill - talk about an unfair fight! 

In Round 26 the game’s two oldest rivals will battle it out for the minor premiership, adding another chapter to the famous ‘Book of Feuds’ South Sydney part-owner Russell Crowe created upon purchasing the club. The Roosters last minor premiership was in 2004, while Rabbitohs fans have to search back to 1989 for a time when they last lifted the J.J.Giltinan Shield. 

It is approximately 105 years and one week since South Sydney met Eastern Suburbs in the first ever rugby league grand final in Australia, with the Rabbitohs running out victors 14-12 in front of approximately 4,000 spectators at the Royal Agricultural Society Showground (now redeveloped as the Entertainment Quarter and Fox Studios) at Moore Park - score one to the Rabbitohs.

It took another two years for the Roosters to gain revenge, that coming in Round 12 of 1910, but skip forward 92 years to 2002, where the Rabbitohs were playing their first game since re-admittance to the NRL. A 40-6 thrashing at the hands of the Tricolours ensued, a loss stuck in the middle of a 13 game stretch where ‘the pride of the league’ couldn’t get one over their local rivals.

100 plus years of history precedes what is without a doubt the game of the year, but that loss in 2002 still burns in the memories of modern Souths fans. The minor premiership is but a sideshow when these two sides meet, particularly since only three minor premiers have gone on to win the grand final in the past 10 seasons. 

An opening round win to the Rabbitohs kicked off what was supposed to be their year of dominance, but as we enter the final week of the season some six months later, the Roosters are here to spoil the party. No matter which side of the fence you’re on, there is one belter of a game ahead on Friday night.