Retired Essendon forward Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti faces a long path back to the AFL after Fremantle had discussions with the 29-year-old who is contemplating a return to the game.
McDonald-Tipungwuti did not play in 2022, announcing his retirement ahead of the Dreamtime at the ’G game in May. He took personal leave from the club near the end of 2021 and played VFL before making the decision, having battled to get back to the fitness required to showcase his talents.
Industry sources confirmed he met informally with a key Dockers official while in Perth recently where a potential return to the game was discussed. The prospect of him playing for Fremantle raised on AFL Trade Radio on Tuesday.
At this stage, the Dockers have not looked at obtaining McDonald-Tipungwuti through the trade period, however, industry sources said Fremantle may be open to potentially keeping a spot for McDonald-Tipungwuti to join the club during the pre-season supplemental selection period (SSP).
That would give the exciting forward a chance to prove that his desire to return was strong before a commitment was made from the club to bring him out of retirement.
Under the rules relating to retired players, the player needs to nominate for the draft and then becomes eligible to be selected as a delisted free agent during the SSP.
The AFL would have to make a ruling on the issue but is open to facilitating a return within the existing rules.
Former Carlton player Liam Jones was cleared to return to the Western Bulldogs as a delisted free agent after retiring last November and the Blues received compensation.
However, the AFL need to make a specific ruling in Jones’ case because his retirement and subsequent list management decisions made by Carlton were the result of an unprecedented AFL decision to make vaccinations mandatory for all AFL players and officials. Once the vaccination requirement was lifted Jones was able to return.
McDonald-Tipungwuti was one of the game’s most exciting talents, kicking 153 goals in 126 games with the Bombers and developing a cult following, having led Essendon’s goalkicking in 2020. The Bombers missed his tackling pressure and goalkicking last season when he failed to play.