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Saturday, November 5, 2016 - 2:17 PM by Chris Pike
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LUKE Tedesco never felt the West Perth Football Club owed him anything but the life member, former captain and premiership player was left humbled and honoured with the way his career was celebrated at the Breckler Medal night to close the 2016 season.

Tedesco gave his everything on and off the football field to firstly get his first opportunity at league level with West Perth back in 2007.

By 2009 with the arrival of new coach Bill Monaghan, he became a permanent fixture of the side and was a natural leader off half-back with his ability to win or halve contests, put his body on the line and then set up play out of defence with his good kicking skills.

His leadership became obvious and after being vice-captain under Jason Salecic, he spent two years following the 2013 premiership as co-captain alongside Jay van Berlo culminating in leading the Falcons into the 2015 Grand Final.

Tedesco then battled through a difficult physical and mental 2016 season where he showed his passion and dedication for the club by fighting through the tough times to reach 150 games to become a life member, and be there through the end of the season.

That was all recognised on Breckler Medal night when Tedesco not only announced his retirement following 152 games, but was confirmed as a life member while also being named the Best Clubman for 2016 and receiving the Carbone/De Vita Award.

Tedesco had his parents and siblings at the night with him which proved a perfect send off to a career where he will be remembered as one of the most dedicated West Perth players and people of all-time.

"It was a really humbling night in the end. I'm the middle child of five kids and all my brothers and sisters came to the night so that was special to see them there because they've put a lot on hold for me and made a lot of adjustments for me, especially the sacrifices my parents made," Tedesco said.

"Then the way the night unfolded it was just fantastic. For as much as this year didn’t work out from a person point of view, I felt the club went above and beyond to recognise my achievements throughout my career. I can't thank them enough for that."

Tedesco gave his all for West Perth but never once did he feel like the club owed him anything. That's why what happened at the Breckler Medal meant so much to him.

So did the coaching staff having the faith in him to pick him for the 2013 Grand Final after a calf injury.

But it's more the people he has met along the way that will always mean the most to the 29-year-old at West Perth.

"The club owes me nothing because I've got everything in my career because of them. I feel like the ethics and values I live by now, I learnt from my time at West Perth," he said.

"Even some of the most impactful people didn’t have an official role, they were people I met through the club whether they were supporters, past players or sponsors. A lot of people have had a significant impact on who I am today.

"The premiership was just something that you have to experience to understand that feeling. I guess because there was a lot of emotion from a personal point of view of not knowing until the Wednesday beforehand if I would be in a physical condition to be available or not.

"But to then actually have the coaching staff back me in is why I look at things from a holistic point of view of my career with such fondness.

"They didn’t have to pick me and I never thought I was going to be the difference between winning or losing, but I felt that was the defining moment in terms of realising that the club had recognised my years of service by allowing me to be part of it. That stands out for me in a lot of ways."

While Tedesco has some great highs during his career to reflect upon most notably the 2013 premiership, the things he will remember the most fondly are the memories like running out in front of the Falcons' fans and those inner sanctum moments with his teammates, and best friends.

"Some of the best memories I have are from running out for home games, running down the race with our song playing," he said.

"Those times post-game after wins will always stick out and even nights at training at times, some of my favourite memories are from that camaraderie you build and it could be as much social as it was professional."

Following the 2015 Grand Final, Tedesco made the decision that work commitments likely meant that remaining captain in 2016 wouldn’t be possible so he handed on the job solely to van Berlo.

It was always likely to being his last season and some problems with his back that never really subsided and spending time in the reserves made that decision a more obvious one as time went on. But Tedesco wouldn’t change a thing about his career or now the decision to retire.

"I'm very comfortable with my decision and I look back with nothing but fond memories. I don’t regret a single year or game that I've played. The whole journey has been fantastic," Tedesco said.

"I'm really proud of all those things I achieved. Now being at the end and looking back on the whole lot, the premiership just takes the cake obviously but to be a captain of a club that is over 120 years old and to forge the friendships that I have means the most.

"The people that I've met along the way is something that are the best memories I have. You meet guys you will be around for the rest of your lives. You grow up together and start off as young men, and finish your careers as adults.

"The learning and developing you go through together, you share life experiences and you help each other first through footy, then life."

Tedesco's short-term future in football might see him continue to play in the Amateurs in 2017 but longer term he seems an obvious candidate to move into coaching and he felt that in the latter part of 2016 when he was with the reserves. But it's not something he wants to rush into.

"In the short-term if I was to continue playing it would be all about fun. That's probably something that did escape me a little bit over the past 12 months when it became really hard," he said.

"So to go back and have a kick around with some mates who have also moved on from West Perth would be fun.

"Coaching isn’t something I have thought too deeply about but as I finished my career as a player I realised it would be an opportunity where I can still have a lot of involvement and impact.

"Having worked with the reserves group a lot this year I'm keen to see them develop into the next batch of league footballers."

Coinciding with his retirement from WAFL football is a change in direction for Tedesco joining a real estate firm to continue working as a mortgage broker. It's a fresh start he is looking forward to.

"I've always been an all-in type guy so if I can get out of my working career what I have out of my footballing career I think I will be OK," Tedesco said.

"It's a different challenge now but at the same point it's something that I'm really looking forward to and am looking to embrace."