Essendon star Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti has retired.
The small forward, who has become one of the AFL’s most loved figures since making his debut for the Bombers in 2016, has stepped away from the game after 126 games and 153 goals.
McDonald-Tipungwuti has battled injury and personal issues throughout the season, taking a leave of absence earlier in the year. While he has returned to VFL level in recent weeks, he has made the decision to retire before an AFL comeback.
In a statement on Essendon’s club website, McDonald-Tipungwuti paid tribute to the Bombers for giving him a chance, and said he was ready to move on from the AFL.
“The Bombers gave me the opportunity to fulfil my dream of playing AFL,” he said.
“I have loved my time at the club and I am so proud of what I have been able to achieve in my AFL career. I am also proud of my education, coming to Victoria was to pursue my education and that has been really important for me too.
“The club and my teammates have been extremely supportive throughout my whole career but I feel really happy to be moving on to the next chapter of my life now. I’m ready for life beyond football.
”I wish all the boys the best for their future, I’ll be watching on from afar.”
McDonald-Tipungwuti will be farewelled, fittingly, during the Bombers’ annual Dreamtime at the ‘G match against Richmond this Saturday night.
Hailing from the Tiwi Islands, McDonald-Tipungwuti moved to Victoria at age 17 to try and make it in the AFL.
After six years playing with the Gippsland Power in the TAC Cup and then Essendon’s VFL team, the Bombers gave him a rookie lifeline at the end of 2015.
His presence would be a bright light in a dark 2016 season: with the club reeling from the infamous drugs saga, he would play all but one game in his debut year, impressing with his run and dash from the half-back line.
But more was to come with a shift forward in 2017; McDonald-Tipungwuti would kick an equal career-high 34 goals that season as the Bombers, buoyed by the return of a plethora of stars from their 12-month ban for the infamous drugs saga, surged from last place to make finals.
From there, the highlights came thick and fast, including a career-high seven goal haul against Brisbane in early 2019 and an incredible last-minute winning major to sink North Melbourne later that same year.
Off the field, his cult status was cemented by the release of a punk song named after him by Australian band Picket Palace in 2019.
“Anthony has been a truly wonderful person to have at the club for the past seven years and we are a better football club to have had him within our four walls,” Essendon general manager of football Josh Mahoney said in a statement on Friday morning.
“Anthony is an incredible role model and his contribution to this game has been profound.
“We’ve been working incredibly closely to support Anthony over nearly the past 12 months in dealing with his personal matters, and while we will miss his brilliance on the field, we accept and support his decision knowing his ultimate happiness is the utmost priority to all. This is the best decision for Anthony as a person.
“He will be missed around the club and by his teammates, but we sincerely wish Anthony, his partner and family all the very best in his next chapter of life.
“Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti will always be an Essendon person.”
The 2022 AFL grand final will begin at the traditional time of 2:30pm (AEST), ending months of speculation over a purported move to a twilight timeslot.
According to AFL.com.au‘s Damian Barrett, the AFL Commission informed clubs on Friday of the decision to keep the popular start time for this year’s big day at the MCG.
If things go to plan, it will be the first grand final to take place at the MCG since 2019, with COVID-19 forcing the last two to be moved to Brisbane and Perth respectively.
The success of those games, both in terms of television ratings and fan response, led to reports the AFL would make the timeslot change permanent moving forward.
However, league CEO Gillon McLachlan said fans’ overwhelming desire to keep the 2:30pm start time as is won the day.
“Prior to the start of this season, we emphasised that after two really challenging years, we all yearned to return to the footy rituals and routines that set the rhythms of our lives, to continue to focus on getting back to football and going to football as we know it,” McLachlan told AFL.com.au on Friday morning.
“That return-to-rituals principle underpinned our decision making in ratifying a traditional start time – the prestige, nostalgia and atmosphere of the day Grand Final is something we all know and love.”
The league and host broadcaster Channel 7 have reportedly been keen for years to move the grand final to a more traditional prime-time slot later in the day.