Essendon star Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti has hit a roadblock in his return to AFL level, entering the league’s health and safety protocols.
McDonald-Tipungwuti had been building a consistent block of football in the VFL after taking leave from the club over the off-season. It set the small forward back in his return to the game after missing the end of the 2021 season.
A stint in the VFL had McDonald-Tipungwuti building his fitness base, with runs through the midfield and bags of goals adding to his claims for a return to AFL level. He kicked two goals and collected 15 disposals against the Magpies’ VFL side on the weekend, and was pressing his case before entering health and safety protocols over the week.
Ben Rutten confirmed the news on Friday morning.
“[Walla’s] away on safety protocols, so unfortunately he’s going to be away for a week or so now.
“We’ll see him back as soon as possible, but we want to see him back for a long period of time to be successful when he returns.”
No one else at the club is currently affected by Covid protocols.
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It’s a blow for the Dons who have been crying out for increased forward pressure after a 1-5 start to the season. They didn’t lay a tackle inside 50 in the first half of their narrow loss to Collingwood on ANZAC Day, and its flow on effect is being felt further up the ground.
Essendon is struggling to stem the flow of goals from their forward 50, with their transition defence an area the club is actively trying to remedy.
Matt Guelfi has hit career best form as a small forward, but his help at ground level has been few and far between.
Devon Smith’s form slump has seen him unable to cement a spot in the side, while McDonald-Tipungwuti’s absence has been sorely missed.
Essendon takes on Grand Finalists the Western Bulldogs on Sunday, the team that ousted it from the finals series in 2021.
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