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NOT QUITE THE DREAM RETURN FOR FALCONS FAVOURITE SON

Thursday, August 17, 2017 - 1:01 PM by Chris Pike
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ONE of West Perth's favourite sons returned for his first game in over two years on Saturday and while Matt Guadagnin's comeback didn’t turn out how everyone hoped, coach Bill Monaghan is glad he made it back out there no matter what happens from here.

Guadagnin initially injured his knee back in Round 16, 2015 when he was in the middle of another outstanding season in the West Perth midfield and was a key contributor in the Falcons being near the top of the ladder and ending up playing off in the grand final of that year.

He underwent the second knee reconstruction of his career but he wasn’t about to let it be the end for him. The 2013 premiership star returned late last season for a couple of reserves appearances desperate to push for a league spot come finals time.

While his reconstructed knee was fine, it was nagging hamstring complaints that meant his return didn’t quite go to plan in 2016.

He remained part of West Perth's coaching staff and showed without doubt that he has plenty to offer the club on and off the field.

Guadagnin remained determined to make it back in 2017 though. Again it was soft tissue injuries that delayed his first appearance in the reserves until Round 18 against Perth at Lathlain Park.

He only played a half but looked good with nine possessions. Then the next two weeks he played full games in the reserves against South Fremantle and East Perth combining for 48 disposals, three marks and 12 tackles.

The fact that he got through two full games, played well and showed he could have a significant impact still as an on-baller meant that the time was right to give him his first league game in over two years on Saturday against East Fremantle at HBF Arena.

Guadagnin started on the bench and came on to a rousing ovation about 10 minutes into the first quarter and picked up a couple of disposals. But then things hit quite the speed bump when he injured a hamstring before half-time ending his day and season in disappointing fashion.

It wasn’t the 192nd league appearance for West Perth that Guadagnin had spent two years dreaming of. But for Monaghan, he has no regrets whatsoever about the decision to play him.

"It will be season-ending in terms of he's done a significant hamstring. What grade it is I don’t know yet but it was a great story that he made it back but a sad story at the same time," Monaghan said.

"We took a punt on his physical readiness to play and obviously that backfired. But what we thought he could bring in terms of direction and leadership was the main reason we played him with more of a hope that physically he could have an impact on the game. 

"We also thought that the players would be buoyed by having him back too. But now we didn’t get either because he got injured so early. We didn’t get his leadership and experience, nor did he get to have an impact on the game physically."

Guadagnin will now have some time to ponder his future and weigh up whether he does want to continue to attempt a successful comeback in 2018 with that 200-game mark a tempting accomplishment if his body can hold up.

But anyone who knows Guadagnin knows that won't be a factor in his decision. 

Over the course of his brilliant career at West Perth that began in 2002 and has including a premiership where he came second in Breckler Medal voting, but has had significant hurdles along the way, he has proven himself the ultimate team man and a perfect teammate. 

That's why he is such a popular figure at West Perth and his legacy is already cemented as a premiership player and life member no matter what he decides to do from here. Monaghan will rate him among the very best players he has coached as well.

"I just hope that whatever decision he makes at the end of the year that he can make with the utmost confidence that we will back him 100 per cent," Monaghan said.

"He has been a wonderful servant for the West Perth Football Club and whether he chooses to go on or chooses to retire, in my time at least he will retire or play as one of the very best players that I've coached."