Bombers buoyed by Tipungwuti’s progression

Oliver Caffrey |

Essendon are staring down the barrel of a 0-3 start but their AFL fortunes are looking up with dynamite forward Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti on the comeback trail.

The explosive star won’t feature in the Bombers’ Friday night clash with reigning premiers Melbourne but he will line-up in the VFL this weekend.

McDonald-Tipungwuti booted 34 goals for the Bombers last season, before stepping away from the club ahead of their finals campaign due to personal reasons and hasn’t played since.

The 28-year-old returned to Tullamarine earlier this month and has worked his way back to match fitness.

“We’re excited to have ‘Walla’ (McDonald-Tipungwuti) back available to play a VFL game this weekend,” Bombers football boss Josh Mahoney said.

“He’s been working hard and increasing his training loads over the past four to six weeks and this is another step in his progression towards returning to play in the AFL.”

A fit McDonald-Tipungwuti in a forward line with Jake Stringer, who struggled with a groin injury in the pre-season, would make the Bombers a far more threatening outfit.

After a 66-point capitulation to Geelong in round-one, Essendon improved last week against Brisbane but still came up short against a genuine finals contender.

The Bombers also lost Zach Merrett late in the contest with an ankle injury and the star midfielder will be out for up to eight weeks.

It does not get any easier for the Bombers at the MCG as they attempt to inflict the first defeat on the Demons since round 19 last year.

Round-one Rising Star nominee Nic Martin will come straight back into the team after missing last week’s 22-point loss against the Lions due to COVID-19 protocols.

The Bombers remain unsure about how they will tackle red-hot Melbourne superstar Christian Petracca, who is averaging 39 possessions in his last three games.

“We’ve got to work on and continue to evolve our game and the capacity of our guys to have stages where we might look at something like that,” Rutten said.

“We know he’s a quality player, (Clayton) Oliver’s a quality player. 

“They’ve got a really strong midfield so we’ll be looking at that (limiting them) closely as we do every week.”