Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti is set to play his first game in 588 days after being named as Essendon’s substitute to take on Hawthorn at the MCG.

McDonald-Tipungwuti took personal leave from Essendon early in February 2021 and never returned to the playing field before retiring mid-year.

However, a change of heart has seen the 29-year-old rewarded with a spot in Brad Scott’s 23 to start the season.

Essendon assistant coach Blake Caracella said McDonald-Tipunwuti’s return was in credit to hard work

“It’s a fantastic story for Walla. He walked away from the game last year and to get back and get himself fit enough to play is a real attribute to him as a person,” Caracella told AFL Nation.

“We know the players love him, the supporters love him and we can’t wait to see him get out there and play.”

Sunday’s clash will be McDonald-Tipungwuti’s 127th game and his first since Round 1, 2021.

Conor Nash will be the substitute for Hawthorn.