Just as Round 10 was set to commence, Bomber's player Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (or Tippa for short), announced his immediate retirement. Tippa, 29, played 20 games in 2021 but took a leave of absence from the club in February for personal reasons. He played 126 games and kicked 153 goals. He recently played several games in the VFL, but decided to retire. Hailing from the Tiwi Islands, Tippa first moved to the Northern Territory, then relocated to Victoria to play in the Under-18 competition. He was originally a defender and his dash out of defense and long-kicking were eye-catching. However, he was overlooked in the drafts.
In 2015, Essendon was in the midst of the supplements controversy. This opened the door for Tippa who was brought into the club's VFL program. With many senior Bombers suspended for the 2016 season, Tippa was added to the rookie list. He began as a running defender but a four-goal haul late in the season saw him switched to the forward line. HIs style and ability to chase down opponents to apply gripping tackles made him an instant hit with teammates and fans alike.
He was Essendon's leading goalkicker in 2020 and provided a number of heroic plays for the Bombers across his career: a seven-goal haul against Brisbane early in 2019, a match-winning snap goal against North Melbourne later in the year, an Anzac Day chase and tackle on Magpie Will Hoskin-Elliott, a similar effort against Tiger star Dustin Martin in a "Dreamtime at the G" game and a huge hit against GWS Giant Lachie Whitfield. Tippa's sportsmanship was on show after the latter as he helped Whitfield up off the turf after the collision.
It was an emotional farewell to the club he had come to love. Tippa said, "The Bombers gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dream of playing [in the] AFL. 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.”
Essendon great Michael Long said on SEN Radio, “It’s a pretty sad day. A big loss for the Essendon Football Club because we know what he can do on the field. Obviously he’s got a bigger challenge off the field with what he needs to do, but it’s a big loss, even for the Tiwi Islands. He comes from such a big family. For him to leave like this, they’d be devastated." Long hopes McDonald-Tipungwuti can overcome his personal issues and stay involved in football in some capacity, “I said to the club, ‘Anything you need me to do, I’m happy to do it. He’s had support from the club, so you’ve got to tread lightly on how you approach these things because I’m no expert on mental health. It’s more challenging than what we think. I think the club will still support him in any way they possibly can because as life goes on you’ve got support here. I’m not sure what the future holds for Anthony. Hopefully he can get back to playing local footy or being involved with football, but first and foremost, he needs to keep working on his mental health ... It’s a really sad day. I was just as shocked as everyone else. We can only wish him the best."
So popular was Tippa that local band Picket Palace wrote a punk song about him. In part, the song praises his "hard-ball gets and pressure acts", his '"fall of the ball, front of the pack" talents and his broad appeal with the lyrics, "Take your mum, take your kids, take your nan to the footy/Cause Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti's playing footy/He's comin' to getcha!"
Source: sen.com.au, afl.com.au, AFL Record Season Guide
Article last changed on Sunday, May 22, 2022 - 5:43 PM EDT