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Munkara's footy journey takes a sharp turn south

Andrew Mathieson -

Delisted Essendon forward Anthony Munkara is hoping a stint with a traditional blue-collar club in a rough and tumble country Victorian league can iron out the talented Tiwi Islander's weaknesses on his way to reaching for an AFL lifeline.

The 19-year-old headed back to Darwin to play in Northern Territory Football League soon after coach Brad Scott discarded the first-year player at the end of last season.

But Munkara, who was considered a long-term project when the rookie was drafted, was prepared to sign up with the Warragul Industrials for another crack in the state.

The West Gippsland Football League club announced that Munkara will join the team on the rise this year in a media statement.

The Warragul Industrials also wrote an Instagram post on Wednesday entitled: "Introducing Anthony Munkara, the newest member of the Warragul Industrials for 2024".

"Anthony joins us from the Essendon Bombers, aiming to establish himself in Victoria with the goal of rejoining (an AFL) list again in the future," the statement said.

"Essendon's NGA product was selected in the 2022 rookie draft.

"With undeniable X-factor, he's a major win for the club, and is anticipated to dazzle fans, not only Dusties (fans), but footy enthusiasts across the board."

One of two clubs in the town, the Industrials were first established in 1948 for factory workers and alike, and haven't won a senior premiership since their fourth title 28 years ago.

The Dusties finished the most recent season's ladder in sixth place with a 10-8 win/loss record, but the Industrials still made the finals to only fall by the two points short of a place in the West Gippsland grand final.

Munkara's football journey began at the Tiwi Bombers that extended to time for NT Thunder in the short-lived NEAFL before landing at Tullamarine after impressing in Essendon's Next Generation Academy.

The goalsneak appeared to have made inroads in his time at the Hangar – Essendon's central training base – but he was a surprise delisting from the playing list at the end of his rookie season after just the one year at the Bombers.

He finished with 14 goals from 15 VFL games for Essendon after the final move to the AFL recruit from SANFL club West Adelaide.

Since returning to the NTFL's premier league, Munkara has stood out to kick 20 goals in his nine appearances for Waratahs.

Munkara still has opportunities of obtaining a spot on a 2024 AFL club list through the preseason supplemental selection period or later in the year via the midseason draft.

Bombers general manager of performance, Daniel McPherson, admitted between the two seasons of the AFL and the NTFL that Munkara was still leaving a better player.

"Anthony has learned a lot during his time at Essendon, and has shown good talent and capability at stages this year," McPherson said at the time of Munkara's axing.

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