“Football is an art, not a science.”
Those are words my mate Mark LeCras utters regularly and ones he lives by. Don’t get me wrong, he works as hard as anyone on our list and has done for a long time.
But the brilliance you see on the field, those footy smarts, that’s when Lecca is at his best.
The footy world sees that stuff from Mark LeCras. They see the flashy moments of brilliance, the dribble kicks for the goal, finding space where there isn’t any and the clutch set-shots.
They also highlight the bad. His laconic nature, games where he doesn’t have much impact and he’ll cop the wrath from experts around the country.
We all get criticism from time to time, it’s part of the caper, but he’s copped his fair whack and more across the journey — he’s probably been treated unfairly at times.
But Lecca has always managed to bounce back.
Throughout last year, there were a couple of stages where his footy wasn’t going where he would’ve liked and I think that happens to us all.
He was weighing up a few things but he was still valuable to the West Coast Eagles. In the end, he knew he was still good enough to contribute at this level and I think he’s proved that already.
Last year was a bit difficult for the entire club. We couldn’t get the ball inside 50 as much, which made it hard for him and the rest of our forwards. It’s only natural that his output would suffer.
He’s been through the ups and downs of football. Lecca was at the peak of his powers from 2009 to 2011 before missing the entire season in 2012 after injuring his knee. It probably took him another year to get things back on track.
He may have had a form slump here and there as well but in 14 years of football, he’s been able to adapt, understand the game and build a lot of resilience.
I don’t remember meeting Lecca for the first time but we formed a strong bond in our early years through our mutual love of fishing.
Being from a country town Cervantes, which is a small cray-fishing town about 200km north of Perth, he taught me just about everything I know about fishing.
We’ve had some moments where things have gone wrong when launching the boat, which has been good for a laugh, and he’s competitive when it comes to being out on the water.
We usually try and split the load when it comes to hooking a couple of fish except for one time when we went searching for a couple of WA Dhufish.
We aimed to get one each but on this occasion, Lecca caught the two fish and instead of waiting for me to get one, for some reason we headed back inland!
I think his logic was that I just wasn’t good enough on the day. I’m still filthy about it.
He’s always been a cheeky bugger. He’s a funny bloke, which helps me because I’m not overly humorous so I try and steal a few of his jokes.
He’s very much the same personality as he was when he started — he loves stirring everyone up.
I mentioned that amazing period he had a few years back. There was some great small/medium forwards going around at the time like Jason Porplyzia, Stephen Milne and Leon Davis who were All-Australians and Lecca was right up there with them.
I think he kicked more than 160 goals in that three-year period and we weren’t a hugely successful side during those times — we even won the wooden spoon the year Lecca kicked 63 goals for the season.
He was one of the best forwards going around at the time and one thing that hasn’t waivered is his goal-kicking.
He’s been blessed with a good technique — Lecca’s father and brother have played a lot of footy over the years, which may have something to do with it — but he’s worked hard, especially early in his career, to master the craft.
He has a good routine and understands the feel and flow. Lecca is a well-balanced player and that clearly translates when it comes to his skills.
He’s had some good coaches over the years who have helped him. Jaymie Graham currently and Peter Sumich and Justine Longmuir in the early days who have helped shape the player he is today.
If I had to point out a specific game, the masterclass that was the 2010 game against the Bombers, where he kicked 12, sticks firmly in everyone’s mind — mostly because Lecca doesn’t let anyone forget it.
But I specifically remember a game in Round 1, 2009 against Brisbane up at the Gabba, where he kicked six goals in a half before hurting his hamstring and sitting out the rest of the match — and that was when Brisbane were a pretty good side.
Lecca’s become a family man nowadays. He has a couple of young ones with Molly being five and Rex being two so he enjoys doing a few more things with them now that they’re a bit older.
I think I’ve been ditched as a camping buddy these days but that doesn’t worry me. They’re great for him and I think they’ve been good for his football as well — he’s found that life balance.
It’ll be an honour to take the field with him in his 200th AFL match. It’s always exciting to see one of your mates play a milestone game.
I feel like I understand how hard it is to get there so it’s exciting to be a part of the celebration.