WHEN Gold Coast defender Adam Saad took off on an electrifying 85m, four-bounce run against Hawthorn at Metricon Stadium on Sunday, he knew full well Paul Puopolo was in hot pursuit.
Tucked deep in his own back pocket, Saad had perhaps a three-metre break on his pacy opponent when he decided to throw caution to the wind and back himself to run away from Puopolo.
Gold Coast, searching for its first win of the season after two horror losses that drew heavy scrutiny, held a 22-point lead with little more than five minutes remaining in the second term.
Saad's daring run underlined the Gold Coast's bold approach in its 86-point drubbing of the Hawks.
"I saw the space in front of me and I thought, 'I'm just going to try to go as fast as I can' and I just took off," Saad told AFL.com.au.
"I was on 'Poppy' (Puopolo) at that stage so I knew he was behind me.
"I felt like I should back my pace and if I got caught, I got caught.
"I just tried to bring my speed into the game and break the game open."
Playing with flair and taking the game on have been trademarks of Saad's 29-match, injury-interrupted career since his debut in round one, 2015.
Saad, 22, has an AFL-leading 24 running bounces for the season, eight more than Greater Western Sydney's Heath Shaw.
His 24 bounces is also the most by any player ever recorded by Champion Data (with Champion first recording the stat in 1999), eclipsing the mark set by St Kilda's Jason Gram in 2007, after the first three games of a season.
Saad's effort topped his previous best of 17 bounces set after three rounds last season.
It is the Gold Coast defender's quick, yet smooth change of direction, when he is running at top pace, that sets Saad apart from other players renowned for their run and carry.
Although he is blessed with exceptional speed (he ran a 2.81 second 20m sprint at the NAB AFL Draft Combine in 2012), Saad's elusiveness to slip away from Puopolo was what stood out.
The "zig-zag" movement also allowed Saad to separate from Jaeger O'Meara and Josh Gibson, leaving them as though they had been standing still, as he charged onto centre-wing, balanced and spotted up teammate Jarryd Lyons.
"When I change direction and cut, I can usually get a metre or two on them and there was one stage during that run where I stopped because I could feel him (Puopolo) right on my tail," Saad said.
"But I sort of just kept going and my teammates gave me confidence because they were blocking for me and told me to hit a target."
Saad said bouncing the footy is a trigger for him to break the game open.
"As soon as I get it and take two steps and bounce it, that's when I know I can really take off and create the play," Saad said.
"A lot of my teammates and coaches say I bounce it too many times, and I'm trying to work on that, but bouncing it is almost like a habit now and that gets my going."
Most running bounces in first three rounds of a season (1999-2017)
|A. Saad (GC)||2017||24|
|J. Gram (StK)||2007||21|
|R. Houlihan (Carl)||2004||21|
|D. Mackay (Adel)||2010||18|
|N. Bock (Adel)||2008||18|
|D. Wojcinski (Geel)||2007||18|
|J. Bowden (Rich)||2001||18|
|A. Saad (GC)||2016||17|
|P. Burgoyne (PA)||2008||17|
|R. Griffen (WB)||2006||17|
|T. Johnstone (Melb)||2005||17|
|B. Harvey (NM)||2003||17|
|J. Schofield (PA)||2002||17|