Essendon cult hero Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti's shock retirement from the AFL aged just 29 has been described as a sad day by Bombers legend Michael Long.
The dynamite Indigenous star has brought his 126-game, 153-goal career to an end ahead of Sir Doug Nicholls Round and the Bombers' Dreamtime clash with Richmond.
McDonald-Tipungwuti been dealing with personal issues and has not played for the Bombers' AFL team since round 21 last year.
He made an appearance for Essendon's VFL team as recently as two weeks ago but the electric small forward has elected to call time on his career.
Long, Essendon's most storied Indigenous player, hopes McDonald-Tipungwuti can stay on top of his mental health challenges.
"It's a pretty sad day," Long told SEN.
"A big loss for the Essendon football club because we know what he can do on the field, obviously he's got a bigger challenge off the field.
"A big loss for the Tiwi Islands because he comes from such a big family; for him to leave like this they'd be devastated.
"When he's on song he's fantastic to watch, and for me, he's up there with the best ... he could dominate in five minutes and turn a game."
McDonald-Tipungwuti's debut in 2016 was one of the few shining lights for the Bombers during a dark period for the club.
He burst onto the scene in a year when Essendon's list was decimated after 12 players still at the club were banned over the infamous supplements saga.
Even when the Bombers' established stars returned to the field in 2017, McDonald-Tipungwuti continued his meteoric rise and became of the most popular players in the AFL.
His cult status was cemented in 2019 when Australian band Picket Palace released a song in his honour.
"Take your mum, take your kids, take your nan to the footy, 'Cause Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti's playing footy," one of the lines in the song.
Via a statement on Friday, McDonald-Tipungwuti thanked the Bombers for giving him a chance at the highest level.
"I have loved my time at the club and I am so proud of what I have been able to achieve in my AFL career," he said.
"I am also proud of my education, coming to Victoria was to pursue my education and that has been really important for me too.
"The club and my teammates have been extremely supportive throughout my whole career but I feel really happy to be moving on to the next chapter of my life now.
"I'm ready for life beyond football. I wish all the boys the best for their future, I'll be watching on from afar."
McDonald-Tipungwuti was raised on the Tiwi Islands before moving to Victoria at the age of 17 in the pursuit of an AFL career.
"Anthony has been a truly wonderful person to have at the club for the past seven years and we are a better football club to have had him within our four walls," Bombers football manager Josh Mahoney said.
"Anthony is an incredible role model and his contribution to this game has been profound.
"We've been working incredibly closely to support Anthony over nearly the past 12 months in dealing with his personal matters, and while we will miss his brilliance on the field, we accept and support his decision."
Australian Associated Press
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