From The Couch: Round 11

Filed in From The Couch, NRL by on May 21, 2012

Origin I Preview: This preview won't be long. The result is a forgone conclusion. Queensland will win and win well. Ricky Stuart, in some sections, is being praised for finally picking a team that can beat Queensland rather than one that can simply hold it. That is total and utter horseshit. Stuart has picked a team to satisfy his own ego and his own fucked-up notion of what he considers an Origin player. It is going to end in embarrassment, total humiliation.

The Maroons have it all over the Blues in the backline. The only edge NSW could possibly claim was on the wings, where they have more firepower. It is in the centres, however, that Queensland will run rampant. The Maroons centres have scored 10 tries in the last nine games and this year come up against Michael Jennings, the weakest defensive centre in the competition who is supposedly carrying a shoulder injury, and Josh Morris, who despite having a very good year is still not the most effective defender. Greg Inglis and Justin Hodges will be big beneficiaries with Queensland likely to hold an advantage in field position and in possession. They nearly always do.

It is hard not to see Queensland winning the field position battle. They have two quality kickers in the halves while the Blues have just one – Mitchell Pearce is not a good kicker. The Maroons forwards also have better go-forward. Paul Gallen will drive the Blues forward but the rest of the pack lacks punch. The Queensland pack is full of it. The aim of Stuart is to play small but that is unlikely to work as the Queensland pack is also quite mobile.

It seems fairly simple. The Maroons get on top early and just drive further away. When the benches play a role, the Maroons have such a huge edge that it could get very messy. Only a glut of injuries or some shocking luck will cost them victory. The last time they lost a series opener that wasn't in NSW was 2003. Everything is counting against the Blues but, remember, it was Ricky who brought it upon the Blues.

I retract my statement saying I am going for Queensland. I'll be cheering on the Blues. It will be in vain though and I'll also be having plenty on the Maroons to win, to cover, to win by 13+, to win the series 3-0. Sadly, there is no other way to look at it.

My final prediction: Queensland by 16

Bring in the Father-Son Rule: The NRL would do well to follow the lead of the AFL and introduce a father-son rule. There is speculation that it may be introduced for State of Origin – it should be introduced for the premiership as a whole. It is something very special having generations of family members don the same strip. It has been a rousing success in the AFL. There is no reason for rugby league not to look fully into it and introduce it with the relevant salary cap dispensation.

Lovely Leichhardt: There is absolutely no better place to be in the world on a Friday night than lovely Leichhardt Oval. There is something so quaint and so charming about wandering down Balmain Rd or Norton St or one of the side streets, following the light and the smell of sausage to a sweet suburban ground where old timers and diehards stand and watch top class footy. There is nothing like it. There would have to be 10 sausage sizzles by the time you get to the gate where, rather than scan your ticket, an old lady rips off the end. You soon by a double and hope for the best. The lineup for beers is long but moves quickly. When you take a leak, it could be next to a "colourful rugby league identity" like John Elias. You find a spot in front of the Latchem Robinson stand, 10 metres out. You say hello to a few familiar faces, talk with a few old timers, look at the swaying hill and the sun-bathed strip. You can actually smell rugby league in the nostrils, the grass and the liniment and the dew.  It was heaven on earth.

The NRL can never rationalise its grounds. Rugby league must stay at suburban grounds. This is rugby league, the way it is meant to be. We must never lose it.

There is something that Stinks at NRL Stats: I have long suspected something dodgy has been going on at NRL Stats. I am not the only one. Such was the suspicion surrounding some suspected irregularities related to exotic betting markets, major companies like Centrebet and Sportingbet stopped betting on player tackles and metres. There was quite a stink. NRL Stats boss Andrew Moufarrige denied any irregularities but most bookmakers did not accept it. Fair enough. I love betting on the markets but there is some very odd and convenient anomalies between the live stats and the update a few hours later.

I am even more dubious after some very funny business relating to Jarryd Hayne, who had his try assist numbers boosted from three to five in the Eels v Canberra game not on the second call (Sunday night) but sometime on Monday evening/Tuesday morning. This was not the fixing of some egregious error either. This was a change that clearly was designed to boost Hayne's numbers – quite possibly with fantasy implications in mind. He was credited with two assists that are normally never awarded. I can point out five tries a weekend where they haven't been.

Check out the below investigation from Making The Nut's Chris Parkinson:

I reviewed the Canberra v Parramatta game from Sunday afternoon. The committee concluded that Jarryd Hayne received try assists for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th tries. While it is accepted that the 3rd, 4th and 6th tries were obvious try assists to Hayne, the 2nd and 5th try assists were dubious at best. In both these occasions, Hayne was involved in the try, but not the final passes. While the final pass is not always the try assist, it was determined that the involvement of Hayne had no more a part in the lead up to the tries than the final passes. On both occasions the final pass was made by Matt Ryan, who had his try assists downgraded from one to zero.

Try 1 (7th minute) – Chip through from Joseph Paulo to Ryan Morgan
Try 2 (56th minute) Ball played by Moi Moi, Keating from dummy half passes to Maguire, Maguire steps and passes to Hayne who quickly moves the ball to Matt Ryan who passes to Blair who scores in the corner. This revised play was an absolute disgrace
Try 3 (61st minute) – Hayne to Sio in corner…fair enough
Try 4 (72nd minute) – Hayne to Morgan in the corner for his double
Try 5 (74th minute) – Mitchell Allgood plays ball to Keating, Keating to Maguire who runs across field, passes to Hayne who passes to Matt Ryan who runs and passes to Ken Sio to score in the corner. Disgraceful addition.
Try 6 (76th minute) – Chris Sandow puts in a bomb, Hayne regathers, fumbles backwards and Sandow scores. Fair enough but still questionable.

The NRL needs to add some transparency to NRL Stats, half owned by the game's governing body. There are big betting and fantasy implications these days and in an era where statistics are crucial, stuff like this is critical to a player's career. The NRL is willing to take money from betting shops, willing to get people hooked on fantasy, yet their website does not provide proper statistics nor does it provide a proper explanation of how stats are compiled. They seem to be different depending on which NRL Stats employee is watching the game.

Until there is an answer from NRL Stats or the NRL, those numbers should be treated as dubious at best.

Well Done Cronulla: Signing Michael Gordon was a masterstroke. The Penrith outside back is one of the most dangerous players in the game and gives the Sharks some potency out wide for the first time in years. Gordon has been deadly at fullback and actually has the Sharks poised to be a premiership big dog for years to come. Gordon is a star and is going to be near the top of the Dally M Medal tally if he stays healthy in 2013.

Oh No Cronulla: The Sharks quickly found out how bad poor salary cap management can hurt when the club discovered Anthony Tupou had an option in his contract that allowed him to play another season with the club at $420,000. Needless to say, he has exercised said option with his market value being somewhere around $60,000. Any executive who gives players like Tupou such a ridiculous contract deserve never to work in rugby league again.

Grow Up Snake: I was with Brett Stewart when he was unfairly suspended by the NRL at the start of the 2009 season. He was stitched up, no doubt. But to continue this carry-on against David Gallop is just absurd and childish. Last week he said the whole deal was still not over with. Stewart should stop being such a little bitch, man up and get on with the rest of his life. Whining to Phil Rothfield does nothing for him. Many of those who once felt sorry for the Manly fullback have turned their back on him.

Where is the Consistency? How is it possible Sam Kasiano escaped charge after his shoulder charge against the Gold Coast Titans but Frank Pritchard gets time as does Ben Te'o? I like the shoulder charge. I cannot stand the inconsistency from the judiciary. It is an absolute joke. There needs to be some kind of consistency with the penalties handed out regarding shoulder charges. If a precedent had been set, Kasiano had to get time.

Farewell, Zeb Taia: It was disappointing to read last week that Newcastle backrower Zeb Taia has signed a three-year deal with Catalan Dragons. At his best, the 27-year-old is as damaging a backrower as there is in the competition, an underrated fringe player capable of busting a line and laying on a big shot. He has never received his rightful due in the NRL.

Quote of the Week: When being told Jarrad Saffy was now playing rugby union, Ray Warren amusingly responded: "Well that's his problem". Well said Rabbits.

The Short Kick Chairman: A favourite of this column, Terry Kennedy, took a few liberties on The Sunday Roast by claiming to be the "chairman of the short kick club". Well, Terry, it is great to have you on board – fellow travellers are always welcome. But the chairman? That title belongs to this author. I have been pushing the short kick for a long time.

Nobody Like Nightingale: This column loves Jason Nightingale. If you were starting a club, he would be the first outside back you would sign, as reliable and as smart as any contemporary out there. He is also interesting. It was magic to see him take a 20-metre tap by doing an old school tap kick. Florence, you are a trainspotter's dream.

Ordinary Call #1:  The Roosters were duded at Brookvale. They didn't deserve to win … and as Brian Smith said, they most likely wouldn't have even if they weren't screwed by the video referee. But the call to disallow a Daniel Mortimer try over a small elbow from teammate Brad Takarangi was a disgrace. That kind of ticky-tacky horseshit needs to be taken out of the game. Pat Reynolds should be sacked but as well all know, Bill Harrigan will be patting him on the back.

Ordinary Call #2: If Chris Ward has a job next week, Bill Harrigan is a joke. How Jonathan Wright was  awarded a try against the Sharks when specifically asked if Wright had knocked the ball into the Cronulla challenger is impossible to comprehend. Only a total moron would have pressed the green button. Ward is trying to stave off a coup to his job as NSW referees' boss. He should be looking for a new line of work.

Recruitment in the NRL Era – Manly:For all the grief Manly cop, they have been a club that has rarely gone after a rep player in his prime during the NRL era with Jamie Lyon, Josh Perry and possibly Ben Kennedy (still playing at a high level despite his age) their only major poaches of players in their prime since 1998. The Eagles' great skill though has been keeping their own with Jared Waerea-Hargraves the only player on the up that Manly wanted to keep that got away.

Best Year: Manly did exceptionally well in 2006 in luring Matt Orford, Michael Robertson, Steve Bell and George Rose. Orford won a Dally M Medal and a premiership, played in two Grand Finals and scored 561 points in just 98 games for the Eagles. Robertson won two premierships, played in three deciders, scored a hat-trick in the 2008 win and set a consecutive games record for the club. Bell played three seasons with the Eagles, winning a title and playing Origin in two of this year years at Brookvale. Rose has played 101 games for the Eagles and came off the bench in the 2011 premiership win. The losses are hardly worth noting with Chad Randall and Scott Donald going to England and Kane Cleal and Sam Harris enjoying short-term stints at other NRL clubs.

Worst Year: In 1999, with a merger looming, it appeared as if Manly were tanking. Their signings certainly suggest that, picking up a host of no-hopers (Steven Crouch, Damien Driscoll, Adam Hayden) and washed-up veterans (Owen Cunningham, Graham Mackay, Phil Adamson) while losing Craig Field and Craig Hancock to Balmain. It was bad on paper but Manly got what they wanted in the end – a failed merger and the licence back.

Best Buy: A dead-set tie between Ben Kennedy and Jamie Lyon. Kennedy was so outstanding in two seasons with the Eagles that he made the all-time team but Manly enjoyed little on-field success at Brookvale. Jamie Lyon has consistently been among the best players in the premiership since he joined the Eagles in 2007 with the talented centre playing a key role in two titles and three Grand Finals, scoring 48 tries and 654 points in his time at the club.

Worst Buy: Manly rarely miss with their recruits and have had incredible success since 1998. Their worst buy is probably David Vaealiki. The former Parramatta player joined Manly in 2008 after a three-year stint in the Super League. He lasted two games before defecting to rugby union.           

Worst Loss: The Sea Eagles don't lose many and they rarely lose one on the up. The one that did get away was Jared Waerea-Hargraves, who left the Eagles in 2010 after just six games with Manly despite already playing Test footy. To be fair though, the Eagles have hardly missed him.

Origin/International Players Recruited:
Already: (9) Owen Cunningham, Graham Mackay, Solomon Haumono, Andrew Walker, Terry Hill, Ben Kennedy, Jamie Lyon, Josh Perry, Joe Galuvao
Became: (3) Brent Kite, Steve Bell, Tony Williams

Origin/International Players Lost:
Already: (4) Mark Carroll, Danny Moore, Craig Hancock, Jared Waerea-Hargraves
Became: (0)

*Super League Tri Series and International matches are recognised.
** Only players who went to or came from another NRL club are noted with the exception of English internationals.
*** Players from Northern Eagles not considered recruits.

Injury Update: Both Manly and North Queensland suffered major blows over the weekend with the loss of two very important players in Kieran Foran and Tariq Sims, who will both miss significant time.

Blake Austin (Penrith): Took a head knock against the Cowboys but is a tough bastard and is unlikely to miss any time.

Kieran Foran (Manly): Just back from a hamstring injury, the Manly No.6 suffered a nasty high-ankle sprain. Word from the Manly camp is that he could play next week but he almost certainly won't. His brother Liam will replace him again.

Chris Lawrence (Wests Tigers): The Tigers outside back left the field at halftime on Friday night with a hamstring twinge. Shouldn't miss any time.

Luke MacDougall (Canterbury): Dislocated an elbow. Was a replacement for Josh Morris. Won't be missed at all. Is there a more fragile family than the MacDougalls?

Tariq Sims (North Queensland): The unlucky Cowboys forward fractured both his tibia and fibula in the most innocuous of incidents just hours after being named the Blues' 18th man. Will miss the remainder of the season. Jason Taumalolo will be the big beneficiary.

Fun Fact #1: Four players have played 200 premiership matches while playing for six different clubs: Brett Kimmorley (Newcastle, Hunter, Melbourne, Northern Eagles, Cronulla, Canterbury), Phil Blake (Manly, South Sydney, North Sydney, Canberra, St George, Auckland), Kevin Campion (Gold Coast, St George, Adelaide, Brisbane, New Zealand, North Queensland) and Graham Mackay (Western Suburbs, Penrith, Sydney City, South Queensland, Gold Coast and Manly).

Fun Fact #2: The Most Matches Played By Position Team is as follows:

1. Luke Patten (281)
2. Hazem El Masri (293)
3. Andrew Ettingshausen (278)
4. Nigel Vagana (227)
5. Daryl Halligan (226)
6. Terry Lamb (289)
7. Brett Kimmorley (302)
13. Paul Langmack (199)
12. Nathan Hindmarsh (300)
11. Stephen Kearney (239)
10. Petero Civoniceva (258)
9. Luke Priddis (276)
8. Glenn Lazarus (241)

14. Danny Williams (155)
15. Frank Puletua (116)
16. Dean Widders (114)
17. Colin Ward (107)

The 2012 Willie M Medal: St George Illawarra captain Ben Hornby is right in the mix for the 2012 Willie M Medal after an inept performance against South Sydney netted him two points. Hornby was again appalling with his most egregious error being his dropped ball/attempted tap off a line drop out when the Dragons were in control of the match. Souths gained the ascendancy not long after. Throw in his total lack of attacking play and it is clear that Hornby is no longer a first grader. If the Dragons have any hope of making the finals, Kyle Stanley needs to be moved to halfback.

Wests Tigers v New Zealand
3-Manu Vatuvei (War)
2-Chris Lawrence (Tig)
1-Alehana Mara (War)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi

North Queensland v Penrith
3-James Segeyaro (Cow)
2-Ricky Thorby (Cow)
1-Luke Walsh (Pen)
Judge: Cliff Bingham (Making The Nut)

Manly v Sydney Roosters
3-Braith Anasta (Roo)
2-Peni Tagive (Roo)
1-Anthony Minichiello (Roo)
Judge: Brett Oaten (Fire Up)

St George Illawarra v South Sydney
3-Daniel Vidot (Dra)
2-Ben Hornby (Dra)
1-Michael Crocker (Sou)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi

Canterbury v Cronulla
3-Jeff Robson (Cro)
2-Matthew Wright (Cro)
1-Tyson Frizzell (Cro)
Judge: Nick Tedeschi

12: Ben Roberts (Par)
11: Tim Moltzen (Tig)
8: Jarrod Croker (Can), Chris Sandow (Par), Mitch Rein (Dra), Ben Hornby (Dra)
7: James Maloney (War), Steve Michaels (GC), Mitchell Pearce (Roo), Willie Tonga (Par), John Williams (Cro), Brad Tighe (Pen), Chris Lawrence (Tig), Manu Vatuvei (War)
6: Clint Newton (Pen), Jerome Ropati (War), David Simmons (Pen), Timana Tahu (New), Brad Tighe (Pen), Antonio Winterstein (NQ)

Rumour Mill: All did not go down smoothly with Michael Gordon's departure at Penrith. The talented outside back was not at all happy about the Panthers' offer and was even less amused when details of his move to the Sharks were released by Phil Gould. Parramatta are right in the mix for Sonny Bill Williams. That does not surprise. The Eels just have no understanding about what is bad for them. They are also in play for Tony Williams and Darcy Lussick. Canberra are firming for the services of Matt Ballin. Brett Finch will be back in the NRL next season and a number of clubs are interested in his services including Newcastle, St George Illawarra and his old club Parramatta.

Power Rankings:
1. Melbourne 9-1 (1)
2. Brisbane 7-3 (2)
3. Cronulla 7-4 (3)
4. Manly 7-4 (4)
5. North Queensland 7-4 (5)
6. South Sydney 6-5 (6)
7. Canterbury 6-5 (8)
8. Wests Tigers 5-5 (8)
9. New Zealand 6-5 (7)
10. Sydney Roosters 5-6 (10)
11. St George Illawarra 5-6 (11)
12. Newcastle 4-6 (12)
13. Canberra 4-6 (13)
14. Gold Coast 3-7 (14)
15. Penrith 3-8 (15)
16. Parramatta 1-9 (16)

What I Like About … Issac Luke: Luke was hammered in these pages last year for being a low-down grub. This year, he has cleaned up his game and is playing outstanding rugby league. He is arguably the form hooker of the competition. He still plays it rough and tumble but it was good to see that after he flattened Dragons No.9 Mitch Rein and then stood over him mouthing off, he showed genuine concern after realising Rein seemed to be in some real bother. Luke's revival has been the redemption tale of 2012 so far. Let's hope he continues to play as he is.

Betting Market of the Week:The best way for Cronulla to spend the $420,000 it will be paying Anthony Tupou in 2013 would be to:

-Spend it on tissue paper and make a paper-maiche of a backrower that would be equally as effective: $1.50
-Hire Tupou's agent so that they can play top instead of bottom: $1.65
-Donate it to the Catholic church and praying for mercy: $1.75
-Burn it: $1.80

Moniker XIII of the Week: With Justin Hodges set to play in his ninth Origin series, we look at the greatest Justins to ever strap on a boot in premiership football.

The Justins
1. Justin O'Neill (29 games for Melbourne)
2. Justin Loomans (79 games for North Qld/Souths)
3. Justin Hodges (191 games for Brisbane/Sydney Roosters)
4. Justin Carney (37 games for Canberra/Sydney Roosters)
5. Justin Murphy (44 games for Canterbury/New Zealand)
6. Justin Smith (142 games for St George/Souths/North Qld)
7. Justin Holbrook (17 games for Newcastle/Penrith/Roosters)
13. Justin Brooker (32 games for Easts/Souths/Wests)
12. Justin Horo (47 games for Parramatta)
11. Justin Morgan (133 games for Parramatta/Canberra/New Zealand)
10. Justin Dooley (145 games for Easts/Wests/Hunter)
9. Justin Doyle (22 games for South Sydney)
8. Justin Poore (165 games for St George Illawarra/Parramatta)

Justin seems to be a fairly recent name with Dooley the first to break into the top grade in the early 1990s. This isn't much of a team. Hodges is excellent but injury prone. O'Neill has upside. The rest of the side is, well, pretty ordinary.

The Coaching Crosshairs: With five losses from the last seven games including back-to-back one-point losses, St George Illawarra are in a heap of trouble and so is coach Steve Price. Price was under the gun as soon as he took over from Wayne Bennett and his coaching has not received rave reviews from those in the know, criticising him for a lack of attacking innovation and a breakdown of the Dragons' vaunted high-level of fundamentals. It would not surprise if Daniel Anderson was sounded out for 2013.

The Life and Times of the Special Needs Penguin: Apparently he played on Monday night. He was unsighted.

Game of the Year Nomination, Round 11: St George Illawarra-South Sydney, 18-19. A cracking weekend of football with three outstanding matches. The Dragons had the Bunnies on toast early with Jamie Soward playing his finest game of the season. With the Dragons up 12-0, the game seemed well within keeping but after a Sam Burgess try and then a miraculous four-pointer on halftime, the scores were level. The Dragons again hit the front before scores were again levelled – this time through some Daniel Vidot stupidity. In the end, the Dragons had their chances but Adam Reynolds, the composed Souths halfback, pulled out the win. Without their two strike weapons, the Bunnies dug deep and came away wit the win.

Correspondence Corner: Dan, Adam Reynolds did dog it against Canterbury but I am pretty happy to stand shoulder to shoulder with someone laying the stick into diving.

Ryan, I didn’t back the unders, Joey did. I had the Broncos. I empathised, having suffered bad losses on the punt. I wasn't with him. And Jarryd Hayne seems to get a very friendly run on those try assists from NRL Stats. I'm guessing one of them has them in his fantasy side. See above.

Zig, Jimmy Soward is doing a very serviceable job and has had a better season than Mitchell Pearce. You are spot on about this being the worst NSW side ever.

Renegade, good luck with the Blues … can I get even money the Maroons?

Warrior Soul, referees should not put up with captains coming out. They should simply let the other team tap or take the kick for touch quickly.

Woody, you aren't trying to put a reverse mock on are you? Queensland will punish the Blues like never before. And we all know how Ricky's "stick and pick" policy works.

AJLIF, you are prepared to trust Ricky Stuart. That says it all.

Homer Simpson, I have turned my back on Ricky Stuart, not the state. I feel for Paul Gallen, Todd Carney and those who deserve to be there because they have been handicapped. Anyone who really cares about NSW would be ripping into Stuart for the embarrassment he has heaped upon the state.

Warriors_fan, Daniel Anderson would be a wonderful Origin coach.

Sal, there needs to be a lot done about diving.

Dragons68, you are right – deep down I support NSW, which is why I am so angry about Stuart and Fulton. But I can’t muster up any enthusiasm and I would hate to think a win would see those clowns in charge any longer. Soward was legitimately hurt last Monday. He was excellent against the Rabbitohs on Sunday.

Bluebags1908, yes, Brown was a Queenslander. My error. Thanks.

DaveyG, that is the best assessment about the Jennings selection I have read. Stuart did pick Jennings out of spite.

Arthur, Farah was the most deserving hooker. Watmough should be there ahead of Buhrer.

Col Quinn, Brett Morris and Jamie Soward should both be in the side, full stop.

Eug, yes, I care plenty of New South Wales and am appalled at another year being wasted.

Mr C, Bob Fulton does push his Manly players. Every close decision, an Eagle gets the nod. How else can the selection of Jason King in recent years be explained?

Robert Horry, I'm quite happy writing from the heart of Sydney thanks. I'll expect an apology from you when the Maroons go seven straight, shall I?

BulldogTimbo, the Bulldogs faithful certainly fire up.

Beard Watch: Tigers forward Aaron Woods needs to return to his full beard rather than this pissy stubble rubbish. He has the talent to be a star … now he just needs to focus on facial hair.

Watch It: For two years, from 1993-95, Brisbane had its own version of The Footy Show, often hosted by Billy J Smith and featuring Broncos five-eighth Kevin Walters doing 'Street Beat'. In a pretty amusing trip down memory lane, here is one from 1994. Watch it here



Comments (6)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Does Will Hopoate not count as a loss for Manly?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Bad luck on Inu going to the dogs. You lose Roberts and pick up him. 3.5 years as well, hope it isn't a back ended deal.

    NSW still would not have won even with the Inglis try being disallowed, The other 2 trys were scored by bad defence on Uate side, Jenning getting binned and the bird penalty were no excuse. NSW ran out of puff after 10 min in each half and were never going to score again. The refs should never ref again though.

    GC Tiger

  3. Anonymous says:

    NRL Stats seem to be making alot of dubious decisions as of late. As a Dream Team addict it is extremely frustrating that some of their stats seem outright wrong. Someone on a forum I visit tried to express their opinion via email about their concerns and were basically told to f**k off.

    • Nick Tedeschi says:

      Customer service is not their strong suit. I find some calls very very wrong.

    • Anonymous says:

      I had an email thread with a guy that runs it last year – he was behaving almost covertly, very guarded and defensive

  4. Broado says:

    I couldn't agree more r.e. Leichhardt – I went there to watch my Cowboys year before last and it was an amazing place to watch footy. I'm off to Campbelltown this weekend and hoping for a repeat dose of nostalgia.