Essendon is strongly backing Saad’s stance and the players from both sides will wear black arm bands in memory of the victims — a step that is expected at all AFL matches during the opening round of the AFL season.
Essendon has a prayer room at the club’s expansive Tullamarine headquarters that Saad uses regularly, the quick defender choosing to be traded to the Bombers from Gold Coast in 2017 in part because of the club’s embrace of multicultural programs.
Saad is close to Richmond defender and fellow Muslim Bachar Houli, who was distressed last Friday upon learning of events in Christchurch and went home from his work at the club. Houli subsequently spoke to a group of young budding Muslim footballers about Christchurch at a clinic for his footy academy at Richmond on Saturday.
The AFLW’s sole Muslim player, Haneen Zreika was talked into playing for the Giants after initially thinking that she would pull out of their match in Canberra last Friday, having felt «heatbroken» upon learning of the Christchurch massacre in the hours before her game. She had her best game yet as a player for the Giants.