LAINE Rasmussen was content with what he had achieved in his WAFL career at West Perth going back three years and he thought he was done, but that Falcons culture was too hard to ignore and now the premiership star and new father is about to reach 100 games.
Rasmussen earned universal respect from the moment he made his WAFL debut with West Perth back in 2012 for his ferocious attack on the ball and opponents, his relentless tackling, his impressive running ability to drive the team forward and his commitment to whatever role he was asked of.
Having come right through the ranks at West Perth, he dreamed of playing with the Falcons in the WAFL and he certainly made the most of it from the moment Bill Monaghan backed him in along with fellow youngsters Aaron Black, Shane Nelson, Kody Manning and Nick Rodda.
They would all go on to be key players in the 2013 premiership win when West Perth upset East Perth in the Grand Final and Rasmussen would go on to remain a vital member at the Falcons.
He was again part of the 2015 team that reached the Grand Final, he would go on to be named vice-captain and he would play for the WAFL State Team in Sydney against the NEAFL also coached by Monaghan.
However, Rasmussen was also committed to his career as a dentist which is fair to say is a demanding profession and by the end of the 2016 season, he had made the decision that he had achieved what he wanted in the WAFL at West Perth.
He made the call to step away to focus on other things and he did stay away for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, missing the Grand Final in that second year, and it was perhaps seeing the success the Falcons were continuing to have that was a big factor in him returning.
Rasmussen decided to return in 2019 and fit right back into the team playing 16 games and now again in 2020 he has remained an important member of the side as he reaches 100 games for West Perth this Saturday in a crucial match up against Claremont at Revo Fitness Stadium.
The West Perth Football Club has played such a huge part in Rasmussen's life that he is now glad he decided to come back even though it wasn’t easy after two years away to get back into the swing of things.
"I think the club has shaped me a hell of a lot into the person I am now and has helped me achieve things off the field as well so I owe a lot to the footy club. To now finally be able to play 100 games is something great to be able to achieve," Rasmussen said.
"When I moved away from the club for those couple of years I didn’t think I would be back to be honest. I had ambitions of doing some different things in my life, there were some work and travel related things I was focused on, and I was content with what I had done at the football club at the time.
"But the longer I spent away the more I missed it and the more I became driven to come back and try to have an impact again. Then once I did come back, I managed to cement a spot again and that's when goals like reaching milestones like this one started appearing in the back of my mind."
After two years out of the WAFL system and coming back into a West Perth team that had just played in the 2018 Grand Final and was under a new coach in Geoff Valentine for the first time in a decade, it took Rasmussen some time to readjust but he couldn’t be happier he came back.
"It did take a fair bit to get back into the swing of things again, and the conditioning of it all when I came back," he said.
"I was able to play most of the games last year but I didn’t really feel like I was at the level that I wanted to compete at, I felt like I was just sort of getting through without having the impact that I really wanted to.
"But after getting through a good pre-season and even the COVID break was probably another opportunity for me to focus on what I could do away from the club in my own time to get back to a level of performance that I wanted to be at.
"It probably has taken up until this point to sort of get back to the level I was satisfied with performing at."
Now Rasmussen will celebrate 100 games for the Falcons against the Tigers at Claremont's Revo Fitness Stadium on Saturday in a game where if West Perth wins, they are just about guaranteed of a top two finish and a finals double chance.
While he is the ultimate team man and would never put himself before the team, he is just hoping they can get the win and set themselves up for another finals campaign.
"It's a huge game, no doubt. There's no other game that has meant so much to our season as this one coming up to really cement that spot in the top two that we're aiming for," Rasmussen said.
"I didn’t need any other motivation to get over the line but hopefully that can give us that slight extra edge because it's going to be a tough day like it is any time you play Claremont."
As far as reaching the 100-game milestone, it's something that Rasmussen had resigned himself to not achieving when he did step away at the end of the 2016 season.
But once he did return, he realised it's something that means a lot to him and to now forever be able to have his name on the No. 21 locker is a thing he'll always treasure.
"It's a tremendous honour to get my name up on the locker, especially next to some legends of the club like Wally Price who still has a lot to do with the club and I've had the pleasure I've been able to spend some time with him," Rasmussen said.
"I've been involved at the club since I was about 13 years old so to have that goal of being able to play senior footy at the club, and now to be able to do it for a few seasons like I have is something I couldn’t have dreamed of when I was 13 and running around. Now it's happened and I feel very privileged to be amongst some great company."
There's no question that Rasmussen is now a strong role model at West Perth for an exciting group of young players coming through.
That is something he takes seriously too and it's something he wants to pass on because of what the likes of Luke Tedesco, Jay van Berlo, Andrew Strijk, Matt Guadagnin, Jason Salecic, Dan Hunt and company did for him in the early days of his career.
"That's a really special part of it too to now be one of those leaders at the club," Rasmussen said.
"Going back I looked up to those senior guys at the club when I was starting out and I saw the impact they could both on the field football-wise but also to shaping the team, and passing on the West Perth culture to the younger guys like Blacky, Nelly and myself.
"It's about more than just winning games and the role of us senior guys it to try and continue on to keep building that West Perth spirit, passing it on to the younger guys and keeping it alive so they can keep shaping it.
"Then hopefully in the back end of our careers we can have that success again that we got to taste so early. We were so fortunate to get that premiership early and I see now how lucky we were to be able to do that. If we do get to have another crack at it, I know we'll savour every moment."
To have been able to share his entire career now with the likes of Black, Nelson and Kris Shannon even if some of those fellow premiership stars of 2013 and Grand Final players of 2013 like Rodda and Manning have moved is something that Rasmussen treasures more and more too.
"I was very lucky to start my career when the club had a very experienced team across all parts of the field," he said.
"We had guys who were really at the peak of their careers and were some of the most elite players in the competition, and I was fortunate to come through development and colts level with a couple of other guys who have now been mainstays of the team and the WAFL like Aaron Black and Shane Nelson.
"I've played so much footy with them over the years and I think that's probably a testament to why the team has managed to be so consistent over the years is because we've managed to have groups of guys who have played a lot of footy together.
"We've built our squad on guys who have been playing footy for the club through the development system, the colts and are local products. That's why we've always been around the mark over that period."
Life away from football is going well for Rasmussen as well both in terms of his dental profession but also he and his partner Laura are enjoying life as parents to their 18-month-old son Sully as well.
"I'm still working as a dentist, that's my full-time job and obviously it takes up a fair bit of my time especially when I do a bit of shift work as well," he said.
"Fortunately my coaches whether it was Bill and now Geoff have always been pretty understanding of my study and work commitments over the years as I try to balance that with WAFL football.
"Particularly Geoff this year has been very accommodating because we have a new member to our family now and we have an 18-month old boy.
"Geoff has been so understanding of the necessities of being a dad and my year has had to be a bit more flexible in terms of training, games and recovery to juggle with work and family life.
"His understanding has been the only reason I've been able to continue playing and that was the case back early on with Bill as well so I can't thank them enough."
Getting to celebrate his milestone now as a family is something that Rasmussen is looking forward to as well as they look to start building some lifelong memories together.
"My mum has always been such a big supporter and kept all the articles and things from my career because she said my kids would want to look at it one day, and early on I didn’t think about that too much," Rasmussen said.
"But now that I do have my own child, it will be pretty special to be able to look back with him about my career and for a milestone like this that we can celebrate.
"Hopefully as he grows up he is into football and I will still be able to move around well enough to have a kick and run around with him in a few years' time, and share some of those memories with him."