‘The biggest roar:’ McDonald-Tipungwuti the icing on the cake as Bombers dominate Hawks

Essendon supporters have had little to smile about for a while now.

Their summer did not exactly provide reassurance. There were simmering feuds, misguided appointments and outlandish statements from people who should know better.

Alwyn Davey junior’s first goal was an early highlight on a memorable day for the Bombers against Hawthorn.Credit:Getty Images

But all was forgotten in one hour of glorious celebratory football that ticked all the boxes from the moment Alwyn Davey junior kicked his first goal from just before half-time.

The high point arrived early in the last quarter when Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti ran on to the ground to a rapturous reception and then kicked a goal just minutes later.

The sense of timing from the new coach was brilliant, introducing the star attraction at the time when the performance needed a shot of energy. Scott later praised the popular forward for the work he had done to make that moment memorable.

“The journey for him at times seemed like it might be insurmountable, but he has worked extremely hard, and he deserves his spot in the team. I just thought it was a great moment for Essendon fans and for our club,” Scott said.

“While the perspective is important, and we’ve got a long way to go, we should celebrate the little wins too, and that was just a great moment when ‘Walla’ [McDonald-Tipungwuti] came on the ground.”

McDonald-Tipungwuti started as the medical sub, and Scott said it remained to be seen how long he would be in that role. “He knows better than anyone that to play 125 minutes of high-level, high-pressure AFL footy, which is the way he plays, he’s got a lot of work to do still,” Scott said.

McDonald-Tipungwuti told Channel 7 he was desperate to get on the ground in the final quarter.

“It was a great feeling. The boys at the end gave me feedback it was the biggest roar for someone (they had heard),” McDonald-Tipungwuti said.

By that stage the result was decided, with the Bombers nine goals up and the sight of Dyson Heppell slotting a late goal was as welcome as the four games played at the MCG in opening round.

The crowd was thrilled by the return of Anthony McDonald-TipungwutiCredit:Getty

After a slow start, the Bombers looked organised, confident and united, which was a massive improvement on how they appeared in round one 12 months earlier.

Sadly, that’s why any joy comes with a rider. Their opposition was almost non-existent after quarter time, putting up about as much resistance as balsa wood would provide to a sledgehammer.

That was not surprising as it only took a cursory examination of Hawthorn’s list, for most pundits to tip them to finish in the bottom four this season. But the reality was still startling.

Defender Mason Redman kicked two goals for Essendon and celebrated with vigour.Credit:Getty Images

On the evidence available in just one game, any team vying for the final eight that plays Hawthorn twice has won the fixture lottery.

Their coach Sam Mitchell hoped the performance in the middle quarters would prove to be more an aberration than a sign of what’s to come in the year ahead.

“Our performance today is certainly not what we expected as a group. We would have expected to be much better for much longer,” Mitchell said.

“We’re not going to get it right every week, but I expect we will be better than that.”

It wasn’t just that they were outclassed by an Essendon team, which itself has conceded it has a long path ahead of it to return to former glory, it’s that the Hawks had no avenue to attack after quarter time.

With Mitch Lewis out injured, they turned to Jacob Koschitzke as their marking target, but gave up on him midway through the third quarter when he had managed just four touches.

Chad Wingard tried hard before being injured and Luke Breust, who kicked three goals, can’t carry an attack. Blake Hardwick kicked two goals when he shifted forward in the last quarter.

But the forward line wasn’t Hawthorn’s only issue. Their defence was spooked and sat back looking for switch kicks rather than getting ahead of the ball to launch counter-attacks.

Hawthorn are going to battle all season.

By contrast, Essendon should be pleased with their start, having arrived at the game facing their own questions about who might kick their goals. With Peter Wright unfortunately injured on the eve of the season, recruit Sam Weideman got his chance inside 50 metres.

He showed promise in the first half with two goals as the ball began to enter with monotonous regularity when the Hawks’ tackle-pressure dropped. Mason Redman, Darcy Parish and Will Setterfield shared the ball around before looking for either Weideman or the mobile Harrison Jones.

Sam Draper also caused concern for the opposition when he went forward while Archie Perkins and Alwyn Davey junior, on debut, sniffed around at ground level as the Bombers ended with 13 goalkickers.

Davey junior provided a highlight before half-time when he kicked his first goal, while Jordan Ridley joined what had become a party midway through the third quarter as he kicked his first goal in his 69th game. It was in that patch that the Bombers slammed on nine unanswered goals.

McDonald-Tipungwuti playing footy

When Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti ran on to the ground six and a half minutes into the final quarter to replace Harrison Jones a celebratory roar resonated around the ground as the Bombers’ faithful welcomed back their goalscoring hero for his first senior game for 588 days. A chant of “Tippa” momentarily went up before skipper Zach Merrett found the 29-year-old in space just four minutes later. He kicked long and straight, raised his arms aloft and smiled wide. A minute later he took a beautiful mark but unfortunately missed the shot.

One bright spot for Hawthorn

Cam Mackenzie arrived at the Hawks via pick six in the national draft as the club tries to walk up a steeper hill than most other clubs have tried. The good news is that the club’s recruiters look to have got that selection right. He showed poise in the midfield early and was instrumental in the Hawks making a solid start to the game.

HAWTHORN: 4.5 5.7 5.9 9.11 (65)
ESSENDON: 3.1 7.3 14.8 19.10 (124)

GOALS – Hawthorn: Breust 3, Hardwick 2, Wingard, Amon, Greene, Jiath.
Essendon: Perkins 3, Weideman 2, Draper 2, Redman 2, Menzie 2, Davey, Setterfield, Jones, Caldwell, Ridley, Heppell, Durham.

BEST – Hawthorn: Breust, Worpel, Hardwick, Sicily.
Essendon: Redman, Parish, Merrett, Setterfield, Perkins, Zerk-Thatcher.

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