FOR A player renowned for his speed, Adam Saad has been forced to slow down.
It has been a month since the AFL ground to a swift halt as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, and players around the competition have come to grips with the new abnormal away from their clubs. Saad is no different.
As well as following the club's training program devised by fitness boss Sean Murphy, the 25-year-old has turned his hand to other tasks. There's been devoting attention to his academy for multicultural kids, building a home gym and sleeping – even more than usual.
"I think I might have become a painter last week so I might have picked up another trade, too," Saad told AFL.com.au.
Saad looked set to take his game up another notch in his third season at Essendon.
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The attacking half-back has finished in the top-four of the club's best and fairest in his two seasons with the club, and was the only Bomber picked to play in the pre-season State of Origin Bushfire Relief game.
Although a key part of the Bombers' back half, Saad is also spending his time away from Tullamarine working on some new tricks.
"There's lots of agility and speed work, and I've been going to have a kick with my brother at the park. I've also been having some set shots at goal, although have been missing most of them," he said.
"I'm trying to work through a set shot routine so hopefully I can kick a couple of goals once the season gets back underway."
In recent weeks the Bombers have been reintegrating game plan work back into their schedule, with online group meetings being set up as Essendon looks to bed down its style for when the season recommences.
"We've had conference calls on Zoom, we had a backline meeting last week and watched a couple of edits and spoke about what we see and how we can improve," Saad said.
"It's just about staying in touch with the game plan and how we play. It gets us thinking as well – they'll send through some edits so we can have a look and get the mind ticking over.
"Even when we train we try to make it game like – so the intensity of the agility drills, or even having a kick."
Saad joined Essendon at the end of 2017 after three seasons with Gold Coast, but he was desperate to return to Victoria to be closer to his family.
He said the possibility of being away from family in quarantine hubs to get the season back on track would be a challenge.
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"Obviously being so close to family spending a day away from them is pretty tough but if it's got to be done to kickstart the season then we'll support that," he said.
Saad is one of only two practicising Muslims in the AFL, alongside Richmond's Bachar Houli. The pair were able to play together for Victoria in the State of Origin clash in February, with it being the left-footer's first experience in the 'Big V'.
"I never got to represent Victoria through the under-18s and my draft years, so to represent Victoria at AFL level and play with some absolute guns of the competition was amazing. It was a day I'll never forget and to raise so much money for the victims of the bushfires made it even more special," he said.
As Essendon's sole representative in the star-studded contest, Saad's value to the Bombers is clear. It's what makes him a priority re-signing this year, with his three-year extension expiring at the end of 2020.
Talks were underway between the Bombers and Saad's management for a new deal, with a long-term extension of four years being discussed.
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Contract talks around the competition have been stopped due to COVID-19, with the AFL not accepting any deals until it has clarity on list sizes and the salary cap in coming years. However Saad said he was keen to get a deal sorted with the Bombers.
"I love the club. I'm not too sure what's happening, I think every contract's on hold, so whenever the time's right we'll negotiate and hopefully can get a deal done," he said.