Saad grateful to Suns for their show of faith
THE Gold Coast got more than just a dashing rebounding halfback when they drafted Adam Saad last year.
They also got a huge influx of new supporters - including Saad's mum and dad, Nejma and Zas, his five brothers and sisters and extended members of the tight-knit Lebanese family, from in and around the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick.
About 100 were at the MCG in round one, proudly donning the red and yellow and holding signs that read 'Go Saady' when he made his debut against Melbourne, and many regularly make the trek up to Carrara for Suns' home games.
Ahead of today's Multicultural Round QClash at the Gabba, Saad told APN his family had been footy fans "24/7" since his parents emigrated to Australia in the 1980s.
Well, almost all of them.
"My mum didn't like it at the start, she never used to come and watch ... but she's learnt a lot about the game and really enjoys it now," said Saad, who began playing Aussie rules at the age of seven.
"My dad's been a footy fanatic since I can remember.
"They try and come up every couple of weeks … if not my mum, then my sisters. And I've got a fair few cousins that come up as well.
"It's helped with the transition."
As a devout Muslim - just the third to reach the AFL after Bachar Houli (Richmond) and Ahmed Saad (St Kilda) - the just-turned 21-year-old admits being forced to live away from home has had its difficulties.
"It's just easier when you're with family ... but I'm getting through it," said Saad, who is living with a host family.
"It has been a massive move. But I decided to live out my dream, and if it meant moving away from home and family, I just had to do it."
Saad is grateful to the Suns for not only finally giving him a chance as a rookie last December, after being overlooked in three national drafts, but also for catering for his needs.
"The club has been good to me. They put in a prayer room for me, so after training I just go and wash up and go straight up there and pray," he says.
"I pray when I have to, it only takes five minutes out of my day. The players can't really tell when I'm gone.
"I still live my normal life. Obviously there's things you can't eat, you can't drink, and I abide by that.
"It's not really an issue."
Nor was it during the month of Ramadan (from June 18 to July 17) when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset each day.
"They (the Suns) set out a good program for me to try and get through in as good as condition as I can, and keep my form," he said.
While religion isn't included in a player's bio, the Gold Coast has a fascinating mixture of beliefs, with skipper Gary Ablett among a small group of passionate Christians.
"Obviously they've got strong beliefs and I've got my beliefs," Saad said. "We chat here and there, we crack a couple of jokes, but we respect each other's faith."
A star with the Calder Cannons in the TAC Cup under-18 competition and then Coburg in the VFL, Saad's professionalism off the field has won him fans within the club, and his dynamic play on it many more in the outer.
He has averaged 18 disposals a game and gained a Rising Star nomination after a 26-possession display against the Lions in round five.
"The only thing I've had is positivity," he said. "The Suns supporters have been great."
Saad is currently No.1 in the competition for bounces, averaging almost five a game. He said the coaching staff, headed by Rodney Eade, has encouraged him "to take the game on and play with my natural flair, which is run and carry".
"When I get it, I take a bounce two steps in, that really kicks off my run," he said.
"I still can't believe I've played 13 games now. I'm just trying to make the most of my opportunities."
Saad is now just hoping for a bit more success at his home away from home.
"Rocket (Eade) has come in and he's got a really good smart footy tactical brain and he's built the culture up the way he wants it and I think everybody is embracing that," he said. "2016 is going t obe a good year if we can get everyone on the park fit and healthy, and building that synergy within the group and really striving to play finals next year."