Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti has marked his AFL comeback with a goal in emotional scenes as Essendon smashed Hawthorn at the MCG.
The 29-year-old started the game as a medical substitute before being brought on in the final quarter, prompting a massive ovation from the Bombers faithful in attendance.
He took just a few minutes to make an impact, kicking his first goal in 588 days before being mobbed by his teammates.
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The game against Hawthorn was the goal-sneak’s first since August 8, 2021 and came after he abruptly retired from the game midway through last year, following an extended period on the sidelines due to personal reasons.
McDonald-Tipungwuti briefly flirted with a move to Fremantle in the off-season before recommitting on a one-year deal to Essendon, where he is a much-loved figure.
The returning star’s goal capped off an afternoon to remember for the Bombers, who finished 19. 10. (124) to 9. 11. (65) winners over their arch-rivals in coach Brad Scott’s first game in charge.
Essendon skipper Zach Merrett described McDonald-Tipungwuti’s triumphant return as ”a special moment”.
“That roar when he ran onto the field gives you goosebumps,” AFL icon Eddie Betts added on Fox Footy’s coverage.
“It was unbelievable and a moment that people at the ground will never forget.
“Even for the young Aboriginal boys, to have someone to look up to, a leader, to have that person by your side is going to help them grow.”
McDonald-Tipungwuti revealed a bet he’d made with his mother when he’d taken time away from the game after his comeback.
“It was a great feeling. I was waiting to go on and the boys at the end gave me feedback saying that was the biggest crowd they’d heard for someone else,” he said.
“A big shout out to my mum, she’s believed me all the way. I made a bet to my mum and said if I made it back and played again, I’d buy her a caravan, so I got a caravan for my mum.”
Essendon will look to make it two from two next week when it hosts the Suns at Marvel Stadium, while the Hawks will face the Swans at the SCG.
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