Thursday, April 4, 2013 - 7:30 PM

LAINE Rasmussen was earmarked by the West Perth coaching staff as someone to help fill the gap left by the retirement of the defensive stars and two games in, he has been a key factor in the Falcons' wins over East Perth and Subiaco.

Rasmussen was given a taste of league football in 2012 playing 12 games and showing some good signs in a variety of roles, but following the retirement of small defender Dustin Burns over the pre-season, both he and the coaching staff saw an opening down back.

The recently turned 20-year-old then focused over the pre-season on getting himself ready to play as a small defender to help fill the position vacated by the 172-gamer Burns, and so far two rounds in Rasmussen has done an outstanding job.

"I talked to the coaching staff at the end of last season about where they were looking to play me this year, and they said that probably more through the back-line. Then I heard the news of Dustin Burns retiring and I saw a spot there that I could potentially fulfil," Rasmussen said.

"I just worked really hard over the pre-season trying to improve my specific defensive side through some drills so that hopefully I could play that role for the team. So far I have been able to fit in and I've had a lot of help down there from experienced guys like Dan Hunt, Petters and Strijky. They all help to make it a lot easier than it actually is."

Rasmussen realises that trying to follow on from the outstanding career that Burns had with West Perth over the last decade will be tough, but he had the utmost respect for him as a teammate and is glad that coach Bill Monaghan has shown plenty of faith in him to trust him in that role.

"For now if I could have the opportunity to try and do something similar to what he did I would be stoked with that," he said.

"They are pretty big shoes to fill before I can compare to Burnsy, but I can try my best for the time being to fill that spot and then hopefully in years to come try and develop as a player, and possibly move up the ground and take on a few different roles as the team's needs change.

"Last year I was probably looking at playing more through the midfield so it wasn’t until the end of the season when I was getting specific roles in the back-line, but I did spend a lot of time around Burnsy just in the change rooms.

"He was always the most friendly guy around the club and always welcoming, so I spent some time around him in that sense but not specifically talking about that role or anything. It was more just as a friend and mentor really."

The one thing that all small defenders have to weigh up is getting the balance right between focusing on shutting their opponent down, and getting enough of the ball themselves to give some good run out of the back-line.

Rasmussen admits to focusing on stopping his opponent first, but he had both facets in good order in the Round 2 win over Subiaco picking up 18 possessions himself and keeping his opponent Alliston Pickett possession-less.

"I usually err on the side of just trying to beat my man initially and that's usually my goal in any game," he said.

"Then secondary to that if I can help the team in any way in attacking movements I will try the best I can, but I always go into the game with my primary focus to shut down who I'm playing on and then if I have the opportunity to attack or help out the team then that comes secondary to me."

As for the team, with first up wins over East Perth and Subiaco, the Falcons have made an outstanding start to the 2013 season backing up a strong off-season.

"It has been a great start. It's been good to know that everything we've been working at over the summer is paying off for us so it has been great to have a couple of wins to prove that our pre-season form wasn’t just some wins against some easier sides because we've now been able to match it against better teams," Rasmussen said.

"Beating East Perth by that much was not something that any of us expected. We expected it to be a tough game, but a few things fell right for us and in the second half we managed to take control a bit, and it was good to be able to run away with it in the end. That's something that we weren’t able to do too often last year.

"Everyone had touted Subiaco as being one of the fittest sides going around this season and they had done a lot of work with their new coach on their fitness, so it was good to be able to prove that what we've been doing is paying off, and Soles is getting his money's worth."

West Perth is now preparing to take on the winless South Fremantle on Friday night at Fremantle Oval, but Rasmussen is under no illusions that the Bulldogs will be another big test for the Falcons no matter how their season has started.

"The only night game I've played down there was in the pre-season but other than that I haven’t played a Friday night game there. I'm really looking forward to it and hopefully we can perform like we did there in the pre-season, and have another win," Rasmussen said.

"You can never take South Freo easy because they are one of those teams who can just turn it on at any time.

"We have struggled with them in the past and I know last season they got the better of us down at Freo Oval, so we are going to have to be on our game but hopefully if we can play similarly to how we did in the pre-season and learn from that experience hopefully we can get away with another win."