Essendon forward Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti has rocketed into All-Australian contention
JAY CLARK, Herald Sun
May 18, 2017 8:00pm
JOEL Selwood thought five metres was comfortable breathing space as he gathered the ball in the back pocket late on Saturday night.
The Cats captain saw Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti motoring towards him, but turned and steadied.
Yet, with 12 lightning steps and a desperate lunge, the Essendon speedster caught his prey cold.
Bombers fans went nuts.
McDonald-Tipungwuti’s story is already a remarkable tale of persistence, making the challenging six-year journey from the Tiwi to Gippsland Power to the Bombers’ VFL side.
But Saturday night’s three-goal performance not only netted the livewire five coaches votes, it enhanced McDonald-Tipungwuti’s growing reputation as one of the competition’s most lethal small forwards.
And arguably the best rookie pick of the past three years, alongside Swans’ hard-nut Tom Papley.
Since McDonald Tipungwuti’s move into attack, the electrifying goal sneak is putting up numbers almost identical to Hawthorn superstar Cyril Rioli at the same stage of his career.
It’s a lofty comparison, but Champion Data now rates the former rookie an elite general forward based on his output over 29 senior games.
That means he is in the top 10 per cent of players for his position, putting the former Northern Territory junior firmly in the early All-Australian conversation.
The Bomber has averaged 14 disposals, 1.4 goals, six score involvements and four tackles a game. Every club in the competition would love the searing pressure he puts on in the most dangerous part of the ground.
But you can’t underestimate his ball use, either. The red and black wrecking ball has an above average kick rating of +4.9 per cent, taking into account position and difficulty. He is no one-trick pony, but a two-way weapon.
It is quite an achievement for a man who almost gave up on his AFL dream several times in recent years, with the goal kicker at one stage admitting he considered a career in rugby league.
Essendon coach John Worsfold and recruiting guru Adrian Dodoro must be rapt.
From the ashes of the supplements scandal, Dodoro has helped create one of footy’s most exhilarating forward line combinations, plucking McDonald-Tipungwuti with pick No.22 in the 2015 rookie draft and Orazio Fantasia at No. 55 in the 2013 national draft.
For value, that’s hard to beat.
The two speedsters have helped reinvigorate a club which was on its knees 18 months or so ago, bagging 30 goals between them already this season.
And they can jump up into the eight with a win over West Coast at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
Dreamtime comes true for Tipungwuti
ANTHONY McDonald-Tipungwuti grew up wanting to be a part of the AFL’s Indigenous Round.
Last year, he got his chance and will again in next Saturday’s traditional Dreamtime at the ‘G meeting with Richmond.
Essendon unveiled its 2017 Dreamtime guernsey and its new indigenous art installation and firepit — designed by Mandy Nicholson — that now welcomes visitors to its Tullamarine base.
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti unveils Essendon’s Dreamtime guernsey at the club’s Tullamarine base. Picture: Mark Wilson
The AFL also revealed the unique Sherrins that will be used next weekend, designed by former Bombers and Port Adelaide star Gavin Wanganeen.
“Last year, I was fortunate enough to play my first indigenous (round) game. It’s good to go out and represent your people and where you’re from and who you are,” McDonald-Tipungwuti, from Melville Island in the Tiwi Islands, said.
“It was a big moment for me and it will be every year. It’s good to go out and celebrate your heritage.”
The Bombers’ guernsey was designed by Kalkadoon woman Chern’ee Sutton, and depicts “boomerangs to represent the battle that will take place on the field with a kangaroo depicting the Bombers’ speed, strength and agility that will take them to victory”.