ADAM Saad is hopeful his speedy half-back partner Conor McKenna will remain at Essendon for the long-term despite the Irishman planning to head home in the next two years.
Saad and McKenna have formed a damaging partnership on the half-back line the past two years, with their speed, skills and rapid rebound one of Essendon's major weapons.
However McKenna, who headed back to Ireland when the coronavirus outbreak stopped the AFL season, has conceded he wants to head back permanently to fulfil his dream of winning Gaelic football titles.
"I will be home in the next few years. Whether it's this year or next year I'm just not sure at the minute," McKenna told BBC earlier this month.
Saad, who crossed from Gold Coast to Essendon at the end of 2017 to be closer to his family, said he understood McKenna's situation but hoped he stuck with the club.
"I haven't spoken to him about it, we give him his distance, but hopefully he's spending quality time with family and whatever he chooses to do hopefully he does what's best for him and his family," Saad told AFL.com.au.
"Obviously he's got to be happy and at Essendon we'd love for him to stay and play, but the ideal situation is to do what's best for him and his family, which is very important."
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McKenna is contracted to the Bombers until the end of 2021.
He has battled homesickness throughout his career at Essendon, and returned to Ireland for a brief stint shortly before the home and away season. He was left out of their round one side against Fremantle.
Bombers coach John Worsfold said he expected the 24-year-old to return to Melbourne once games resume this year, but Saad might be losing him from the back half regardless, with McKenna keen to play as a forward.
McKenna started his career as a forward before transitioning to the backline, but has always been keen to be closer to goal and trained there across the pre-season. Saad isn't so sure.
"I go, 'What are you doing, mate? You can't kick goals!'" he joked.
"He actually can, he's trained there the last couple of months and done some freakish stuff which has been pretty cool. But I say to him, 'We need you down back, we need a bit of run and carry'. But wherever the team needs him and he fits will be where he plays, I guess."