WHEN Adam Saad walked out on Essendon last year to join Carlton, just weeks after Conor McKenna had announced his immediate retirement, the Bombers' half-back line for 2021 looked decidedly bare.

The Bombers knew it, too. They chose to send skipper Dyson Heppell back there, in part as a steadying hand and secondly to afford more opportunities to a young and growing midfield. But they still needed to find a pace replacement for the breakneck speed they had lost with Saad and McKenna's departures.  

In the last deal completed in the 2020 trade period, Essendon landed Nick Hind and a fourth-round pick from St Kilda in exchange for two fourth-round picks (that weren't used by the Saints). The Saints had wanted to play Hind as a small forward, despite having drafted him as a line-breaking half-back, while Melbourne, too, had pitched to him as a forward option.

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But the Bombers were in the box seat to get Hind back to the club, after he was part of its VFL side before being selected by the Saints. It has been a low-budget list management masterstroke. 

Hind has exceeded expectations within the Bombers, evidenced again on Sunday in his vital 25-disposal and one-goal performance in Essendon's win over Hawthorn in Tasmania.

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Hind was an off-season addition that was so explicably linked to Saad's exit that it is impossible to extricate one's story from the other, and the Bomber's numbers are stacking up favourably against Saad in his debut season with the Blues. 

Hind averages more disposals (23.4 to Saad's 19.6), has a better kicking efficiency for the season (75 to 72 per cent) and also records more inside-50 entries (4.2 to Saad's 3.7). Hind, brought to the Bombers as a Saad substitute, leads the new Blue for score involvements (averaging 4.6 to 4.1 a game), intercept possessions (6.2 to 5.6) and tackles (2.5 to 2.1). He has also conceded nine goals to Saad's 12. 

Saad has Hind covered for metres gained, averaging 487 to 478, rebound 50s (at an average of four to Hind's 3.9) and has nearly doubled Hind for running bounces (averaging 3.4 to 1.8). He also is more impactful in the air, averaging 1.2 intercept marks to Hind's 0.8 this season.

AFL Player Ratings have Hind ahead for 2021, including in defensive rating, which looks at the Ratings points conceded to a player's opponents compared to their opponent's average. Champion Data's statistics show Hind's opponents win eight per cent fewer points than usual when matched up against the frenetic Bomber, whereas Saad's win 10 per cent more than usual. 

Saad by no means has let anyone down at Carlton. The rebounding defender has been one of the Blues' most consistent players in its horror campaign, including his standout game against the Bombers in round seven. He came on a lucrative five-year deal and saw the Blues move a top-10 pick (young key defender Zach Reid) to land him, but has delivered what they've asked.

Hind came as far more of a free hit for the Bombers and, as he likely sits inside the top-five of the club's best and fairest, he has landed a fair punch.

PLAYER COMPARISON

Adam Saad

2021

Nick Hind

11.4

AFL Player Ratings

13.0

19.6

Disposals

23.4

72%

Kicking Efficiency

75%

487

Metres Gained

478

3.4

Running Bounces

1.8

4.0

Rebound 50s

3.9

3.7

Inside 50s

4.2

4.1

Score Involvements

4.6

5.6

Intercept Possessions

6.2

1.2

Intercept Marks

0.8

2.1

Tackles

2.5

12

Goals Conceded

9

-10%

Defensive Rating

+8%