‘Footy challenges me more than anything’: Hind bounces back with fresh perspective

Before Saturday night’s game against St Kilda, Essendon posted a clip on Instagram of Nick Hind crouched behind the fence as Aaron Francis walked up the race with coffee in hand chatting to Archie Perkins.

Francis jumped as Hind startled him when he leapt from nowhere while making a spooky noise. Hind laughed hysterically at the reaction while his teammates rolled their eyes, shook their heads and kept walking.

“I tend to be myself down there, and sometimes it can annoy a few boys,” Hind admitted.

“But I say we’ve got the best job in the world. [We’re] not digging holes. I love getting down [to the club] and having a bit of fun. It’s what we do it for at the end of the day.”

It’s the type of outlook common in players drafted after combining work and football, as Hind did before St Kilda drafted him from the Bombers’ VFL team at pick 54 in the 2018 national draft.

He worked as a plumber having played country football at Clunes, where his parents own the local pub, The National, then at East Point before former Essendon assistant and VFL coach Dan Jordan backed him to translate his pace in the country to the big smoke.

Hind, who won a Clunes best and fairest in 2014, just after he turned 20, wanted to see what level he could reach. He made his debut with the Saints in Townsville in round 13 after being a late call-up in, of all places, Shanghai when injuries saw him catch a late flight.

He then found himself an emergency for the seventh time. He, at least, flew business class for the first time.

Nick Hind, right, pictured in action during an AAMI Community Series match on Saturday, is ready to bounce back after missing the Bombers’ elimination final in Tasmania last year. Credit:Quin Rooney, Getty Images

After 21 games in two seasons as a crafty forward with the Saints, he was traded back to Essendon where he slotted in as a hard running defender who takes the game on having played the same role in the Bombers’ VFL team.

After 40 bounces in 22 games in 2021 he needed all that life experience to quickly find perspective and bounce back from missing the Bombers’ final in Tasmania last September after visiting Altona Gate shopping centre for two minutes to grab some chicken for lunch on a Saturday saw him unable to travel to the Apple Isle when the location was declared a tier-two COVID-19 site.

He would have been able to play in Victoria but not Tasmania, so he had to watch his teammates lose the elimination final against the Western Bulldogs after a second-half fade out.

“ It took me a bit to process,” Hind said.“It was a pretty tough 24-48 hours.”

The club was supportive and understanding, which helped, and soon enough he put his disappointment in perspective, aware that many people had suffered much more during 2020 and 2021.

Eye on the prize: Nick Hind during an intra-club hit-out last month. Credit:Jonathan DiMaggio, Getty Images

“At the end of the day, everybody was doing it pretty tough down here,” Hind said. “It was about shifting my mindset to ‘it’s not the end of the world’, it was disappointing.

“I would have loved to have been down there [in Tasmania]. In AFL footy you can’t wallow for too long. You just have to move on and look forward to the challenge.

“Footy challenges me more than anything I have ever done. You are never comfortable. There is always a new challenge every day. I have been able to handle setbacks and work through them quite well.”

Such qualities are handy for anyone playing his role, breaking lines, attacking from defence, often making binary decisions with good or bad outcomes waiting rather than a middle ground.

Nearing the start of another season he is far from comfortable, but his mindset is right, and he remains light on his feet, an exciting player to watch as he accelerates through gaps only he can see with the poise of a jockey aiming a bolter towards a rails run.

“[Last year] was [a] good reward for myself and satisfaction that I could play at the level, it’s been a long time coming to be able to feel comfortable at the level and [I] didn’t know if I was ever going to get there,” Hind said.

“I have always felt like I have a point to prove, and I am always on the edge a little bit.”

As are Hind’s teammates when the cheeky plumber is in the vicinity, looking for a laugh to keep the energy high and his teammates on their toes.

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