It’s been 588 days since Anthony McDonald-Tipunguti last played, and his return has been well worth the wait.
Playing as a hero in his first game since coming out of retirement, the Bombers’ cult hero was brought to a dominant MCG team’s 59-point win over Hawthorn in the fourth quarter to huge applause from the crowd including a standing ovation from the Essendon Chairsquad.
That in itself was special enough, but it ended up stealing the show with a goal that would become one of the moments of the season.
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The diminutive forward slotted the ball 40 meters from goal at a slight angle 13 minutes from the end of the fourth period as fans chanted “Tipa” as he was lined up on the big sticks.
Then McDonald Tibunguti really kicked it as his Bombers teammates from all over came to celebrate and their fans were sent into ecstasy.
Talking to foxfooty.com.au After the match, the club’s cult hero Sam Draper said it was a moment he will never forget.
“I definitely got goosebumps when he tagged that ball and the whole crowd was going crazy,” Draper said. foxfooty.com.au.
“Our fans are so good, they deserve more wins, and it was a really special moment to be there.”
McDonald Tibunguti, 29, is well accustomed to scoring goals, with 154 majors to his name from his 127 career games, but you get the feeling this game might have been more memorable.
It was the icing on the cake of a great day for the Essendon faithful after they had another moment to savor earlier when – at the opposite end of the spectrum – the son of gun debutant Alwyn Davey Jnr. He kicked his first career goal in the presence of his father.
Davey had missed two chances earlier, so when he finally put one up, fans and his teammates – and even Davey Snr – went crazy accordingly.
“He’s going to be a great player for us, his speed is just another thing,” Draper said of Davey Jnr.
“We’ll see him score a lot of goals. He could probably get four or five today if he finished his job.
“He’s had some good chances.”
A game most thought of either way turned out to be a smash as the Bombers tied the Hawks by 59 points to get off to a perfect start to life under new head coach Brad Scott.
Essendon bounced back after a slow start to the game to score 11 of their last 15 goals and put the Falcons to the sword in an all-out performance.
“I’m very proud of how we’ve gone about this,” Draper added.
“We didn’t start but we worked our way through it, especially that third quarter, we just got the foot on the throat there.
“It was so much fun and the fans are so good.”
Draper himself scored two touchdowns—one of 13 batters to hit the scoreboard that day—and celebrated like only a sensational Albury juggler.
The 24-year-old has admitted it is a part of his game that he is looking to build more consistency with.
“I definitely try to get on the scoreboard every game,” said Draper.
“Whether we’re playing two cards or not, I definitely feel like this is an area where I can make some real growth and help the team.
“I love kicking goals.”
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