“Walla” relishing AFL opportunity


Essendon supporters are under no illusions about the challenges their club faces this season but its silver-lining will be its opportunity to unearth a couple of gems for the future.

As the cliché goes – persistence pays off – and that certainly resonates with Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti.

The Tiwi Islander went well out of his comfort zone and had to endure many setbacks throughout the journey since joining TAC Cup club Gippsland Power in 2010.

After adjusting to unfamiliar game-plans and a vastly different style of football, he was overlooked in four AFL drafts before finally given an opportunity as a rookie at the club he spent three seasons with in the VFL.

Even still there were no guarantees, but the strongly-built utility continued to work hard and put his best foot forward.

Circumstances at the Bombers changed dramatically after the WADA suspensions were announced and the new recruit grabbed his opportunities in the NAB Challenge with both hands.

After being rewarded with an AFL debut in Round 1, he showed yesterday in the win against Melbourne that he truly belonged at AFL level, attacking the contest with ferocity and leaving opponents in his wake with blistering runs.

McDonald-Tipungwuti does not need to get a lot of the football to make an impact on games.

I first noticed this playing alongside him in the National AFL U18 Championships where after a game in Geelong I walked off thinking he was one of the better players on the ground.

It was to my surprise that his stat sheet read that he did not get a single kick, but instead had 11 handballs and a handful of tackles.

From that point on I strongly believed he deserved an opportunity to show his potential at the highest level.

I feel McDonald-Tipungwuti was an unfair victim of the concerns AFL recruiters have that Indigenous footballers, especially those originally from remote areas, have a shorter life-span in the game due to homesickness and other cultural obligations.

Perhaps if recruiters did their due diligence, investigating his support-networks in Victoria and the commitment he had shown throughout his time in the TAC Cup, the man known as “Walla” would have found himself on a list earlier.

It is still only very early into his career and there will be plenty of hard work, challenges and obstacles ahead.

But McDonald-Tipungwuti serves as an example of what can be achieved by a young remote kids from humble beginnings if they are prepared to work hard.

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About Jackson Clark

Born and bred in Darwin, Northern Territory, I am a young, aspiring football writer that lives and breathes the game of Australian Football. I'm also a keen player and coach.

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