No.3: The Rock Rugby

John
John Browne
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Rock's national crowns record stands alone

It sure didn't look like history in the making for this province after the first half of the Rugby Canada Super League championship game on a warm August night four years ago in Regina, Sask.

The Newfoundland Rock had been outplayed and found themselves down 13-3 to the host Prairie Fire team over the first 40 minutes in a battle of undefeated teams.

Rock players line up prior to a game to sing the Ode to Newfoundland, which is a provincial rugby tradition. - Telegram file photo

It sure didn't look like history in the making for this province after the first half of the Rugby Canada Super League championship game on a warm August night four years ago in Regina, Sask.

The Newfoundland Rock had been outplayed and found themselves down 13-3 to the host Prairie Fire team over the first 40 minutes in a battle of undefeated teams.

The year before, the Newfoundland side fell 14-8 at home to Vancouver Island Crimson Tide in the RCSL final. Two years earlier, the Tide beat The Rock 6-3 in the championship game, so it looked as if the provincial representatives were destined to be unwitting bridesmaids once again.

However, a couple of early devastating, borderline-legal hits by veteran Rock prop Rod Snow set the tempo for the final 40 minutes that saw the Newfoundland team rally to score 23 unanswered points on the way to defeating Prairie Fire 26-13 to win the province's first Canadian rugby championship.

It would be the first of three national titles for the team in four years.

No provincial team has won more national championships than The Rock. For the team's remarkable level of success over the years, The Rock has earned the No. 3 spot on The Telegram's list of Newfoundland and Labrador's 10 best teams.

Snow, a former Welsh league professional, had an observation prior to the '05 final that would prove prophetical.

"I know these guys don't earn any money to play this sport, but Newfoundland players are far more professional than we used to be," he said. "We used to have a big, tough pack of forwards who weren't very fit or skillful. This team has its share of toughness, but more than that, they are incredibly fit and they have a high skill level.

"This is a completely different team than the old Newfoundland-mould teams," Snow said.

He couldn't have been more accurate.

It was the Rock's superior fitness level combined with skill, focus and a relentless aggressiveness on offence and defence that won that day in 2005 and also produced national championships in 2006 and 2008.

Rock coach Pat Parfrey recently noted that of the 22 who played in the team's first RCSL final, which The Rock lost in 2002, 10 (Frank Walsh, Peter Densmore, Phil Alcock, Chris Mooney, Sean O'Leary, Kevin Parfrey, Ken Goodland, Dean Blanks, Robert Wilson, Mike Rudofsky) played in the 2008 final, "a testament to their longevity.

"And," added Parfrey, "eight of the team who played in 2008 final played for Canada (Snow, Walsh, O'Leary, Kevin Parfrey, Andrew Fagan, Tyler Wish, Wilson, Ciaran Hearn), a testament to their quality."

But the first Canadian championship will always be special in the 11-year history of the RCSL.

Snow said after the '05 final, "I was just desperate to win, so you go out and lay your body on the line. We knew we had it in us even though we trailed at halftime. We made a few mistakes, but 10 minutes into the second half, we knew they were getting tired."

Tired and palpably demoralized, many of the Fire players, who looked so impressive in the first half, seemed disoriented at times by the relentless Rock attack and a tightened defence that refused to yield any more points.

Perhaps the players found something extra within themselves they doubted they had until pushed to the limit; something dormant until the choice was to either go through the motions or push back.

The Rock pushed back.

There was no panic, no second guessing and certainly no fear. In fact, some of the Rock players said they got a sense late in the first half that the Fire were softening up despite the score.

And while that became rather obvious in the second half of the game, you couldn't blame the Newfoundland supporters at the match for being pessimistic based on previous finals when The Rock's defence was superb but the offense was anemic.

"After we got our first try, you could see things changing," said veteran Rock captain Peter Densmore. "And when we tied the game up and got into the next scrum, the look on their faces was like, 'God, no.'

"You could see it in their eyes," he reflected.

"They just keep coming at us," said the Fire's Jason Carson, who seemed a wee bit shell shocked moments after the final whistle.

On a whole, The Rock were super fit but not without players who were coming back from recent injuries or veterans whose future seasons were probably numbered. They all sucked it up and refocused for what would prove to be a significant milestone in our sports history.

It was a case of a team, in the moment, recognizing its time had come.

The Rock finally got over the hump and won the big one and, even more impressive, they won it on the road in hostile territory with a comeback for the ages.

The final whistle saw The Rock players and their supporters go crazy with excitement and a little relief mixed in.

Parfrey was beaming with pride, while assistant coach Frank Deacy, who died last year, fought back tears saying he'd been waiting for this moment, "all of my life."

Most of the players just walked around with smiles on their faces, hugging anyone in sight.

The majority of the 3,500 spectators had abandoned the prairie playing grounds when the Newfoundland players finally got to hoist the McTier championship trophy.

The athletes on that field that night in Regina, belting out the Ode to Newfoundland, may not have thought about it as they celebrated their history-making win, but there would never be an option of going back. Now, with expectations raised, future Rock sides would be expected to meet them.

That's the thing about knocking down a barrier. There's always one more.

The real challenge, then, is wanting to get better at it.

jbrowne@thetelegram.com




Selection criteria

The object: To select the 10 best teams Newfoundland and Labrador has produced. Six prominent individuals with an impressive sports background, together with Robin Short, Brendan McCarthy, John Browne and Kenn Oliver of The Telegram's sports department, were chosen to make the selections.
The criteria: Teams must have been primarily comprised of athletes from Newfoundland and Labrador, competed in or represented the province, or country, in athletic competition. The field was open to amateur and professional, and male and female athletes.
The selection panel
Jill Brewer: A long-time diving coach in St. John's, Brewer is head of the St. John's recreation department. A former Canada Games coach, she is a member of the St. John's Molson Athlete of the Year Committee.
Ian Campbell: A two-sport star (hockey and baseball) with the Guards in St. John's during the late 1950s and '60s, Campbell was the 1963 and '65 St. John's athlete of the year and is a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame.
George Faulkner: Newfoundland's 'Mr. Hockey', Faulkner was voted the No. 1 athlete on The Telegram's Top 10 list of athletes last year. He is a Newfoundland Sports and Newfoundland Hockey Hall of Famer.
Kathy Gosse: A long-time sports reporter at the Clarenville Packet, Gosse knows how to play the game, too. She was the 1972 St. John's Female Athlete of the Year.
Chris Green: A Corner Brook radio personality for over 30 years, Green has called play-by-play in hockey from the old Newfoundland Senior Hockey League to the American Hockey League (Cape Breton Oilers). Today, Green anchors the morning news for CFCB radio in Corner Brook.
Joe Wadden: A long-time baseball and basketball standout in St. John's, Wadden is a member of both the provincial hardball and hoops Halls of Fame. He is a 2009 inductee into the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame.




rockers

The Rock senior rugby team has won three Canadian Rugby Super League championships. Players on those rosters for each season were:
2005 Team
Frank Walsh, Peter Densmore, Rod Snow, Sean O'Leary, Chris Mooney, Andrew Fagan, Kevin Parfrey, Ken Goodland, Brendan Parfrey, Dean Blanks, Mike Simpson, Tyler Wish, Robert Wilson, Mike Rudofsky, Ciaran Hearn, Dale Pike, Dave Penney, Brad Lester, Mike Webb, Justin Meyers, Steve Hubley, Geoff Coughlan, Owen Parfrey, Wes Aylward, Colin Penney, Bobby Neville, Mike Yetman, Adam Hill, Ryan Metcalfe, coach Pat Parfrey, assistant coaches Simon Blanks, Frank Deacy and manager Bas Crosbie, conditioning coach Bob Thompson and physiotherapist Sean Gibbons.
2006 Team
Walsh, Densmore, Snow, O'Leary, Mooney, Webb, Kevin Parfrey, Fagan, Simpson, Blanks, Mike Rudofski, Wilson, Brian McKenzie, Geoff Warden, Hearn, Brendan Parfrey, Brian Cook, Kurt Williams, Hill, Danny King, Koenraad Buseman, Owen Parfrey, Jason Picco, Goodland, Phil Alcock, Hubley, Steve Harris, Adam Paul, Wish, Jolon Jenneaux, Adam Nolan.
2008 Team
Walsh, Densmore, King, Mooney, Lester, Kevin Parfrey, Fagan, Ken Goodland, Paul, Blanks, Rudofski, Wish, Wilson, Grant Moffatt, Morgan Lovell, Owen Parfrey, Snow, O'Leary, Alcock, Meyers, Penney, Hearn, Mike Holloway, Picco, Chris Burt, Robert Caines, Andrew McCabe, Cyril Bugden, Adam Hill, Hubley.

Organizations: Rugby Canada Super League, The Telegram, Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall Canada Games Year Committee Newfoundland Senior Hockey League American Hockey League Cape Breton Oilers

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Regina, Sask., St. John's Canada Regina Corner Brook

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Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • An
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    Hey Don ,Three national championships in four years ....that's pretty impressive from where I'am sitting . I do not know how knowledgeable you are on the sport or the people involved ,but from my experience with Mr Parfrey second best is not in his vocabulary. Sounds to me like a case of sour grapes Don.I think you're upset that darts or bowling are not being mentioned .Hey Don!!!

  • Funky
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    I agree, outside of St. John's there is absolutely no twitter of rubgy anywhere in Newfoundland. It ins't even that big of a deal overall in St. John's. I'd say organized bowling was more popular in St. John's.

    This team probably deserves to be on the listsure , but how could it place ahead of the Corner Brook Royals team that won the Allan Cup?

    That team would have probably been my number two. Behind the inevitable winner of the olympic gold medal winning Gushue curling team.

  • Rob
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    I think this rating is well deserved. I played rugby over 10 years and know the committment these players have made to achieve this success.

    These players start their trainning each year right after christmas and can be seen wearing garabish bags in summer to get ready for the central Canadian heat.

    No other team has WON (period) as many national championships.

    While this sport does not have the popularity of hockey or soccer it does have a very loyal and a deep history within Canada.

    As being a fringe sport, I would disagree. When the rugby world cup is held it is usually the largest sporting event of that year. Could you say that about softball? As well, I am willing to bet that rugby registration on a national level is far greater than fast pitch. But I guess the facts to count for some people. Ignorance is bliss when you get your thrills hitting a slow pitch home run.

    While Canada may not be a top flight team on the international stage as least it goes to the dance. How would the national soccer team fare against Brazil? When is the last time they even got on the same field with Brazil?

  • Paul
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    I follow the Rock as much as possible and attend as I can. So do a lot of other people. I think it is a wonderful achievement to win those titles and become basically the scourge of the country over the last several years. What other team can attest to that? While it is true that it is really a town thing and there will always be a debate with any list of best whatevers, it doesn't tarnish their standing in rugby in this country. Where would I put them? Don't know, but the arguing over that sort of stuff is one of the things that make sports so good. And I watched a taped version of the first championship after I got home, my brother able to buy and watch it Live on his computer. Great spectacle at the grounds here as well.

    Canada is currently world ranked #15 and have been as high as #8. We should be better but right now it's not the case. Rugby is a great game to watch, especially at the higher levels, and the rules aren't that hard to pick up. Just watch a few games and you'll get most of them pretty quick as there aren't really a whole lot.

  • Capture the Flag
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    As I mentioned last week The question I ask is, are we talking Teams or Dynasty's or Eras for our picks of the top 10 best teams Newfoundland and Labrador has produced? We must be consistent in our choices and have a fair playing field for all. Any thoughts.
    Which team in what year are we picking for the number 3 spot? the 2005 team or the 2006 team or the 2008 team, Please let us know. Seems this pick is of an era or Dynasty genre. and you make mention in the article of No provincial team has won more national championships than The Rock. For the team's remarkable level of success over the years well who can beat this for #2 spot? I can't really see any team out doing this feat to claim # 2 spot or maybe if we can consider Dynasty's or Eras, we may be able to pick St. Bon's Hockey teams of the 1940' - 50's who claimed many many Herder and Boyle championships with all local talent. WE all know the 2006 Olympic curling gold medal team will be #1

  • Adam
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    This wouldn't be the same Don that predicted The Rock at #5 would it.

  • George
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    The Rock do have an incredible record. There is no denying that 3 National Championships by any standard is remarkable and I won't pre-judge or ridicule the selection committee.

    However, even if this team were rated #1 of all times, the fact of the matter this sport is practically non existent out side of St.John's.

    Further still, I wouldn't put the sport very high even a National level. But I must certainly congratulate the efforts of Mr. Parfrey on his accomplishments.

    I have took the time and went to a rugby match but I found it very difficult to understand the rules of the game.

    Maybe, I should further research this sport and see where it's rated globally.

    Anyways, Congratulations on your accomplishments. Again your achievement is remarkable despite the fact that the majority of NL'ers, myself included, don't understand the game.

  • Laura
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    Hey Don, can't you just commend them for getting where they are now? All sports started out at small numbers by the way. A big swarm of young fellas didn't just grab a stick and a puck and inspire millions overnight with the game of hockey...

    Believe it or not, Rugby is gaining great respect in our province and I truly think it will only grow into something larger and highly respected.

    These guys work their asses off.. I've watched them! I'd recommend it to anyone.. to watch anyway! I Wouldn't wanna play myself though; as said in the article.. these boys are in tip top shape which gets them the wins and gives them their competitite edge! Keep it up boys!!

  • Tony
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    As a former provincial player now living in AB when I heard the Rock would be playing in the final in Regina and a chance for there first title I decided the 8 hour drive would be worth it.I packed my Newfie flag and for the first half it was nothing but taunts and jeers from the home crowd.After a spectacular second half I danced around on the field passing my flag to the players as we took pictures and celebrated.It was a proud day for all of us and those rums went down pretty smooth all night.The ride back the next day to Calgary was not so smooth.

  • rickey bobby
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    To Roger Jeanerz : I guess you don't watch very much rugby. I would put Munster up against anybody in the world. They're basically Ireland with a taste of New zealand...I guess you watch a lot of rugby.

    I would like to thank Don for pointing out that there a few rugby players. This shows how hard it is for Rock to win a championship.

    If vollyball or basketball won anything I guess we'd have to shut down the city for a week.

  • Darrell
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    To Tony, I'm glad for you that you cared so much because no one here in the province knew or could care less how they did in Regina. Like others have said here, it is a shame when so many teams and sports throughout our province are not getting consideration and left off the list because of a sport like rugby.

  • Roger
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    Please keep in mind that Rugby in Canada is a very fringe sport in how it relates to international competition for Canadian teams. By that i mean The Canadian Rugby team is absolutely atrocious and on a lower level the Rock are an absolutely atrocious team when it comes to international club rugby. On a national level the Rock are fine but figure this - recently Team Canada lost 50 -0 (yes I said )!) to a provincial Irish team - Munster. Really - it was a total joke and it will take years to build a good national side so remember people this is a very so so bunch of grunt and groaners we got here.

  • Rob
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    Get a life, Don. You're a one-trick pony in the comment department - its the same ignorant drivel about rugby every time. I guess getting picked last in gym class every time has had lasting effects on you. Rugby's a game of skill, speed, and toughness...go back to playing checkers and try not to eat too many Cheezies.

  • newfie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    Don probly tried out for the team and got cut thats y he is so negative towards the sport.

  • Don
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    Total disgust first comes to mind. Can't believe how this committee could pick a team/sport that has so little significance in our province. Sure they won 3 nationals but really, they only had to beat 3 or 4 teams to win. Also, about 65 people play organized rugby. Looks like the committee are (like so many others) intimidated by Pat Parfrey. ... Parfrey's class of clowns have fooled us again!!!! And the committee.

  • Robert
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    Don and George make good points. I can't imagine (basketball and volleyball) not having a team in the top 10, Gushue will be #1. These sports are played in every school in this province and rugby is played by only a few. Don't forget softball who always produce national contenders and team members, men that is.

  • Rocky
    July 02, 2010 - 13:08

    I played with this team. You critics are idiots. Slap on a pair of boots and come train with the rock. You'll find out what kind of athletes these guys are. As for the dope that said Canada lost to munster 50-0, it was Ireland they played. Look at the score of the Wales game a week later!! I suggest you people do some homework before you flap your faces. Morons.

  • An
    July 01, 2010 - 20:25

    Hey Don ,Three national championships in four years ....that's pretty impressive from where I'am sitting . I do not know how knowledgeable you are on the sport or the people involved ,but from my experience with Mr Parfrey second best is not in his vocabulary. Sounds to me like a case of sour grapes Don.I think you're upset that darts or bowling are not being mentioned .Hey Don!!!

  • Funky
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    I agree, outside of St. John's there is absolutely no twitter of rubgy anywhere in Newfoundland. It ins't even that big of a deal overall in St. John's. I'd say organized bowling was more popular in St. John's.

    This team probably deserves to be on the listsure , but how could it place ahead of the Corner Brook Royals team that won the Allan Cup?

    That team would have probably been my number two. Behind the inevitable winner of the olympic gold medal winning Gushue curling team.

  • Rob
    July 01, 2010 - 20:13

    I think this rating is well deserved. I played rugby over 10 years and know the committment these players have made to achieve this success.

    These players start their trainning each year right after christmas and can be seen wearing garabish bags in summer to get ready for the central Canadian heat.

    No other team has WON (period) as many national championships.

    While this sport does not have the popularity of hockey or soccer it does have a very loyal and a deep history within Canada.

    As being a fringe sport, I would disagree. When the rugby world cup is held it is usually the largest sporting event of that year. Could you say that about softball? As well, I am willing to bet that rugby registration on a national level is far greater than fast pitch. But I guess the facts to count for some people. Ignorance is bliss when you get your thrills hitting a slow pitch home run.

    While Canada may not be a top flight team on the international stage as least it goes to the dance. How would the national soccer team fare against Brazil? When is the last time they even got on the same field with Brazil?

  • Paul
    July 01, 2010 - 20:13

    I follow the Rock as much as possible and attend as I can. So do a lot of other people. I think it is a wonderful achievement to win those titles and become basically the scourge of the country over the last several years. What other team can attest to that? While it is true that it is really a town thing and there will always be a debate with any list of best whatevers, it doesn't tarnish their standing in rugby in this country. Where would I put them? Don't know, but the arguing over that sort of stuff is one of the things that make sports so good. And I watched a taped version of the first championship after I got home, my brother able to buy and watch it Live on his computer. Great spectacle at the grounds here as well.

    Canada is currently world ranked #15 and have been as high as #8. We should be better but right now it's not the case. Rugby is a great game to watch, especially at the higher levels, and the rules aren't that hard to pick up. Just watch a few games and you'll get most of them pretty quick as there aren't really a whole lot.

  • Capture the Flag
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    As I mentioned last week The question I ask is, are we talking Teams or Dynasty's or Eras for our picks of the top 10 best teams Newfoundland and Labrador has produced? We must be consistent in our choices and have a fair playing field for all. Any thoughts.
    Which team in what year are we picking for the number 3 spot? the 2005 team or the 2006 team or the 2008 team, Please let us know. Seems this pick is of an era or Dynasty genre. and you make mention in the article of No provincial team has won more national championships than The Rock. For the team's remarkable level of success over the years well who can beat this for #2 spot? I can't really see any team out doing this feat to claim # 2 spot or maybe if we can consider Dynasty's or Eras, we may be able to pick St. Bon's Hockey teams of the 1940' - 50's who claimed many many Herder and Boyle championships with all local talent. WE all know the 2006 Olympic curling gold medal team will be #1

  • Adam
    July 01, 2010 - 20:06

    This wouldn't be the same Don that predicted The Rock at #5 would it.

  • George
    July 01, 2010 - 20:05

    The Rock do have an incredible record. There is no denying that 3 National Championships by any standard is remarkable and I won't pre-judge or ridicule the selection committee.

    However, even if this team were rated #1 of all times, the fact of the matter this sport is practically non existent out side of St.John's.

    Further still, I wouldn't put the sport very high even a National level. But I must certainly congratulate the efforts of Mr. Parfrey on his accomplishments.

    I have took the time and went to a rugby match but I found it very difficult to understand the rules of the game.

    Maybe, I should further research this sport and see where it's rated globally.

    Anyways, Congratulations on your accomplishments. Again your achievement is remarkable despite the fact that the majority of NL'ers, myself included, don't understand the game.

  • Laura
    July 01, 2010 - 20:03

    Hey Don, can't you just commend them for getting where they are now? All sports started out at small numbers by the way. A big swarm of young fellas didn't just grab a stick and a puck and inspire millions overnight with the game of hockey...

    Believe it or not, Rugby is gaining great respect in our province and I truly think it will only grow into something larger and highly respected.

    These guys work their asses off.. I've watched them! I'd recommend it to anyone.. to watch anyway! I Wouldn't wanna play myself though; as said in the article.. these boys are in tip top shape which gets them the wins and gives them their competitite edge! Keep it up boys!!

  • Tony
    July 01, 2010 - 20:03

    As a former provincial player now living in AB when I heard the Rock would be playing in the final in Regina and a chance for there first title I decided the 8 hour drive would be worth it.I packed my Newfie flag and for the first half it was nothing but taunts and jeers from the home crowd.After a spectacular second half I danced around on the field passing my flag to the players as we took pictures and celebrated.It was a proud day for all of us and those rums went down pretty smooth all night.The ride back the next day to Calgary was not so smooth.

  • rickey bobby
    July 01, 2010 - 20:01

    To Roger Jeanerz : I guess you don't watch very much rugby. I would put Munster up against anybody in the world. They're basically Ireland with a taste of New zealand...I guess you watch a lot of rugby.

    I would like to thank Don for pointing out that there a few rugby players. This shows how hard it is for Rock to win a championship.

    If vollyball or basketball won anything I guess we'd have to shut down the city for a week.

  • Darrell
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    To Tony, I'm glad for you that you cared so much because no one here in the province knew or could care less how they did in Regina. Like others have said here, it is a shame when so many teams and sports throughout our province are not getting consideration and left off the list because of a sport like rugby.

  • Roger
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    Please keep in mind that Rugby in Canada is a very fringe sport in how it relates to international competition for Canadian teams. By that i mean The Canadian Rugby team is absolutely atrocious and on a lower level the Rock are an absolutely atrocious team when it comes to international club rugby. On a national level the Rock are fine but figure this - recently Team Canada lost 50 -0 (yes I said )!) to a provincial Irish team - Munster. Really - it was a total joke and it will take years to build a good national side so remember people this is a very so so bunch of grunt and groaners we got here.

  • Rob
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    Get a life, Don. You're a one-trick pony in the comment department - its the same ignorant drivel about rugby every time. I guess getting picked last in gym class every time has had lasting effects on you. Rugby's a game of skill, speed, and toughness...go back to playing checkers and try not to eat too many Cheezies.

  • newfie
    July 01, 2010 - 19:48

    Don probly tried out for the team and got cut thats y he is so negative towards the sport.

  • Don
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    Total disgust first comes to mind. Can't believe how this committee could pick a team/sport that has so little significance in our province. Sure they won 3 nationals but really, they only had to beat 3 or 4 teams to win. Also, about 65 people play organized rugby. Looks like the committee are (like so many others) intimidated by Pat Parfrey. ... Parfrey's class of clowns have fooled us again!!!! And the committee.

  • Robert
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    Don and George make good points. I can't imagine (basketball and volleyball) not having a team in the top 10, Gushue will be #1. These sports are played in every school in this province and rugby is played by only a few. Don't forget softball who always produce national contenders and team members, men that is.

  • Rocky
    July 01, 2010 - 19:43

    I played with this team. You critics are idiots. Slap on a pair of boots and come train with the rock. You'll find out what kind of athletes these guys are. As for the dope that said Canada lost to munster 50-0, it was Ireland they played. Look at the score of the Wales game a week later!! I suggest you people do some homework before you flap your faces. Morons.