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MONAGHAN CONFIDENT OF REPLACING CHAMPIONS

Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 2:23 AM
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WEST Perth will be without three of their champions for 2013 following the retirements of Dion Fleay, Brent LeCras and Dustin Burns but League Coach Bill Monaghan is confident that the continued improvement of some young defenders stepping up.

The impact of the retirement of the trio who played a combined 463 games with West Perth, won a combined four Breckler Medals, two Simpson Medals and played seven matches for Western Australia will be felt particularly hard in the Falcons' back-line.
However, retirement comes to every player and Monaghan is confident that with the experience still there down back of Dan Hunt and Michael Pettigrew, and the continued development of Joe Morrow, Kris Shannon, Laine Rasmussen and Nick Rodda will still help West Perth have a strong defence.
Burns has been one of the best and most consistent small defenders in the WAFL ever since he arrived at West Perth from Wodonga in 2003.
He went on to play 171 WAFL matches, one in the Foxtel Cup and won the 2010 Breckler Medal as the club's fairest and best and is a three-time best clubman.
He retired at the end of last season but will long be remembered for his ability to both keep the opposition small forwards quiet and for his skills coming out of the back-line.
"It's never easy to replace guys who have been your better players for a long period of time and Dustin is a Breckler Medallist, and he was probably going as well at the end as he ever was," Monaghan said.
"What was Dustin's greatest strength was his speed to compete with the little fellas but his ball use was exceptional. We think in Laine Rasmussen and Kris Shannon that down the track they can develop into close to as good footballers as Dustin Burns.
"They obviously aren’t there yet, but our challenge is to get them up to that level and we are confident that in 12 to 18 months those guys will be playing really good league footy."
Despite being just 28, Fleay has been forced to retire from the WAFL because of a job opportunity that presented in Kalgoorlie.
His West Perth career ends with 146 WAFL matches, two Foxtel Cup games and three appearances for WA. Along the way he was awarded the 2006, 2007 and 2011 Breckler Medals and Monaghan has no doubt he will be near impossible to replace as a consistent and rarely beaten defender.
"He is going to be a huge loss with his competitiveness and he often fought out of his weight division, but he's got a really good opportunity to move to Kalgoorlie to work in the field that he's chosen," he said.
"He will be up there enjoying the coaching gig that he is and I think that will be a real challenge for him, but he's setting himself and his family up for future years and we wish him all the best with that. It's hard to replace triple Breckler Medallists obviously and I guess we don't need to say any more than that."
LeCras was a tremendous servant before and after his time in North Melbourne in the AFL and then in the SANFL with Port Adelaide.
The centre half-back and centre half-forward swingman finished with 141 games in the WAFL for West Perth, two in the Foxtel Cup and made four appearances for WA including winning the Simpson Medal in the thrilling win over South Australia in 2009.
He was a star in the 2003 premiership side and won the Simpson Medal for his performance on grand final day, and whether he was forward or back, he was always someone that Monaghan and West Perth coaches before him could always rely on to deliver.
"He has been a fantastic player as his record suggests. He played AFL footy, has won two Simpson Medals and is a premiership player, and played state league footy in three different states as well as up in Darwin," Monaghan said.
"He has been a real journeyman but has always put great quality out on the park, but at the end of the day had Lecca been here still we couldn’t afford to be building our side around Brent LeCras in his twilight years.
"We need to find the next Brent LeCras and it has just meant now that we don't have the option of going back to him when we are in pressure situations. We wish him all the best. Him and Lauren have just had their second baby so he is probably busy out catching crayfish and changing nappies."
Monaghan remains confident that with the likes of Rodda, Rasmussen, Morrow, Shannon, Shayne Zanetti, Josh Donaldson and the experienced Hunt and Pettigrew that West Perth's defence will still hold up solidly in 2013.
"Nick Rodda was really unlucky not to be drafted last year and he is looking fantastic, and there has probably been a bit of a query over his endurance but he has really worked hard on that during the pre-season," he said.
"He is looking in great shape and has the ability to play as a key back or even forward, or to pinch-hit in the ruck and we are expecting big things from him. Joe Morrow is only not a name that everyone talks about because he has been injured so much, but he has pretty much got through a full pre-season.
"With those two teaming up with Petters and Dan Hunt, we think that our tall back stocks are pretty good. Once Zanetti and Donaldson come back from some slight injury concerns as well, we think we will be well right down back for talls."
Monaghan is also looking to a much bigger impact from former Port Adelaide 100-game player Pettigrew in his second season back with West Perth.
"Michael, which is typical for guys straight out of the AFL system, had to adjust to being home more often and doing stuff around the house but also having to hold down a full-time job and then dealing with coming here as a part-time footballer," Monaghan said.
"That took a little while for him to get used to, but he also came out of the AFL system with some relatively serious niggles where his body took a little bit of time to get back into footy.
"We think he's pretty much over those now and the condition he's in this year compared to this time last year is a huge change, and we expect him to play his part in leading our inexperienced defence."

The impact of the retirements of the trio who played a combined 463 games with West Perth, won a combined four Breckler Medals, two Simpson Medals and played seven matches for Western Australia will be felt particularly hard in the Falcons' back-line.

However, retirement comes to every player and Monaghan is confident that with the experience of Dan Hunt and Michael Pettigrew in the backline along with the continued development of Joe Morrow, Kris Shannon, Laine Rasmussen and Nic Rodda, West Perth will still have a strong defence.


Burns has been one of the best and most consistent small defenders in the WAFL ever since he arrived at West Perth from Wodonga in 2003.

He went on to play 171 WAFL matches, one in the Foxtel Cup and won the 2010 Breckler Medal as the club's Fairest and Best and is a three-time Best Clubman.

He retired at the end of last season but will long be remembered for his ability to both keep the opposition small forwards quiet and for his skills coming out of the backline.

"It's never easy to replace guys who have been your better players for a long period of time. Dustin is a Breckler Medallist and he was probably going as well at the end as he ever was," Monaghan said.

"What was Dustin's greatest strength was his speed to compete with the little fellas but his ball use was exceptional. We think with Laine Rasmussen and Kris Shannon that down the track they can develop into good footballers like Dustin Burns.

"They obviously aren’t there yet, but our challenge is to get them up to that level and we are confident that in 12 to 18 months those guys will be playing really good league footy."

Despite being just 28, Fleay has been forced to retire from the WAFL because of a job opportunity that presented in Kalgoorlie.

His West Perth career ends with 146 WAFL matches, two Foxtel Cup games and three appearances for WA. Along the way he was awarded the 2006, 2007 and 2011 Breckler Medals and Monaghan has no doubt he will be near impossible to replace as a consistent and rarely beaten defender.

"He is going to be a huge loss with his competitiveness and he often fought out of his weight division, but he's got a really good opportunity to move to Kalgoorlie to work in the field that he's chosen," he said.

"He will be up there enjoying the coaching gig that he has and I think that will be a real challenge for him, but he's setting himself and his family up for future years and we wish him all the best with that. It's hard to replace triple Breckler Medallist's obviously and I guess we don't need to say any more than that."

LeCras was a tremendous servant before and after his time in North Melbourne in the AFL and then in the SANFL with Port Adelaide.

The centre half-back and centre half-forward swingman finished with 141 games in the WAFL for West Perth, two in the Foxtel Cup and made four appearances for WA including winning the Simpson Medal in the thrilling win over South Australia in 2009.

He was a star in the 2003 Premiership side and won the Simpson Medal for his performance on Grand Final day, and whether he was forward or back, he was always someone that Monaghan and previous West Perth coaches could always rely on to deliver.

"He has been a fantastic player as his record suggests. He played AFL footy, has won two Simpson Medals and is a Premiership player, and played state league footy in three different states as well as up in Darwin," Monaghan said.

"He has been a real journeyman and has always put great quality out on the park, but at the end of the day had Lecca still been here we couldn’t afford to be building our side around Brent LeCras in his twilight years.

"We need to find the next Brent LeCras and it has just meant now that we don't have the option of going back to him when we are in pressure situations. We wish him all the best. Him and Lauren have just had their second baby so he is probably busy out catching crayfish and changing nappies."

Monaghan remains confident that with the likes of Rodda, Rasmussen, Morrow, Shannon, Shayne Zanetti, Josh Donaldson and the experienced Hunt and Pettigrew that West Perth's defence will still hold up solidly in 2013.

"Nic Rodda was really unlucky not to be drafted last year and he is looking fantastic. There has probably been a bit of a query over his endurance but he has really worked hard on that during the pre-season," he said.

"He is looking in great shape and has the ability to play as a key back or even forward, or to pinch-hit in the ruck and we are expecting big things from him. Joe Morrow is not only a name that everyone talks about because he has been injured so much, and we are excited that he has pretty much got through a full pre-season.

"With those two teaming up with Petters and Dan Hunt, we think that our tall back stocks are pretty good. Once Zanetti and Donaldson come back from some slight injury concerns as well, we think we will be well right down back for talls."

Monaghan is also looking to a much bigger impact from former Port Adelaide 100-game player Pettigrew in his second season back with West Perth.

"Michael, which is typical for guys straight out of the AFL system, had to adjust to being home more often and doing stuff around the house but also having to hold down a full-time job and then dealing with coming here as a part-time footballer," Monaghan said.

"That took a little while for him to get used to, but he also came out of the AFL system with some relatively serious niggles where his body took a little bit of time to get back into footy.

"We think he's pretty much over those now and the condition he's in this year compared to this time last year is a huge change, and we expect him to play his part in leading our inexperienced defence."

BY CHRIS PIKE