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Essendon cult hero Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti will farewell the AFL for a second, and almost certainly last, time against Collingwood on Friday night.
McDonald-Tipungwuti, known as “Walla”, retired briefly in May last year but returned to the Bombers this season – after Fremantle expressed interest in him. Friday will be his seventh game of the season, taking his career tally to 133.
Bombers fans and teammates alike celebrated Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti’s round one goal with gusto.Credit: Getty Images
The richly talented forward’s first retirement followed him taking an indefinite break from football for personal reasons.
McDonald-Tipungwuti revealed in an interview with this masthead in March that he travelled with his dog Drover to various Indigenous communities – from the Tiwi Islands, where he hails from, to Darwin, Katherine and Broome – and that the experience motivated him to play in the AFL again.
“It was eye-opening,” McDonald-Tipungwuti said. “It was an amazing feeling to go back and get that connection again to Country and meet other Indigenous people around Australia.
“I really loved my journey; driving and camping and seeing beautiful places. Personally, I just needed that break to go back and sort of find myself again.
“[I got] feedback of, ‘You’re still young, even though you retired’. That support from people … I think that gave me a drive to go, ‘OK, well, I’m 29, let’s just try and get back in line again’. It’s been a hard, long road, but I’ve really enjoyed my time doing it.”
McDonald-Tipungwuti received a huge reception when he ran onto the ground in his comeback game this year as the substitute early in the last quarter of the round-one game against Hawthorn – and the reaction was even louder when he kicked a goal soon after.
Coach Brad Scott described it at the time as a “great moment for Essendon fans and for our club”, and was effusive in his praise this week after the 30-year-old revealed he was hanging up the boots a second time.
“I said to the playing group that, of all the great champions who have come through the Essendon Football Club, it’s actually hard to think of someone who has made such an impression on our supporter base and club on so many different levels,” Scott said.
“It’s a celebration for ‘Walla’. The turnaround from where he was to where he is now has been incredible, but by his own admission, [playing] next year is just a bridge too far for him, both physically and mentally.
“It will be an unbelievable opportunity for all Essendon people to get to the MCG and celebrate what’s been an incredible career.”
McDonald-Tipungwuti had to wait until he was 22 for his AFL shot, having represented Gippsland Power as a junior then the Bombers’ VFL team before Essendon finally selected him in the rookie draft in 2015.
He has kicked 157 career goals to date, including being the club’s leading goalkicker in 2020 and three times slotting 30 or more in a season.
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