Essendon cult figure Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti has thrilled the Bombers faithful in their 59-point win over arch-rivals Hawthorn.
In his first senior game since late 2021, McDonald-Tipungwuti generated the biggest cheers of the match when he was subbed into the game during the last quarter.
He kicked a goal moments later as Essendon started the regime of coach Brad Scott with the 19.10 (124) to 9.11 (65) victory.
McDonald-Tipungwuti, known as Walla, briefly retired from the AFL last year before he was talked into returning.
His goal capped an impressive Sunday afternoon for the Bombers at the MCG, with father-son recruit Alwyn Davey jnr also kicking a goal on debut.
Forward Archie Perkins starred with 20 disposals, seven marks and three goals, while on-baller Darcy Parish racked up a game-high 37 disposals.
In his 200th game, Essendon midfielder Dylan Shiel left the field in the last quarter with a sore shoulder but returned to the contest after attention on the bench, while Hawks veteran Chad Wingard (calf) also went off in the final term.
Hawthorn had won their last five round one matches and used this season opener to honour the 1983 premiership team, who mauled Essendon in that year's Grand Final.
However, the Bombers had the much better sense of occasion, producing a solid win to give their fans a badly needed morale boost following a tumultuous off-season.
After Essendon opened with two quick goals, Hawthorn steadied and kicked the next four - including an outstanding piece of play from Wingard when his baulk left the Bombers' defenders flat-footed.
A late goal from Essendon's Jye Menzie restricted the damage to 10 points at the first change.
The lead switched repeatedly in the second term and so did play, as a succession of turnovers meant ping-pong football.
Midway through the second quarter, Changkuoth Jiath rivalled Wingard for goal of the day with his polished finish on the run.
It gave Hawthorn the lead again and they were looking more likely to break the game open.
But it was to be the Hawks’ last goal of the half, as former Melbourne forward Sam Weideman kicked two and Davey thrilled the Bombers fans just before the main break.
After missing a couple of chances, Davey kicked accurately from his set shot and Essendon led by 16 at half-time.
Perkins kicked two goals in the third quarter and lit up the game as Essendon overpowered Hawthorn with six goals to two behinds, for a 53-point lead at the last break.
Hawthorn broke Essendon's run of nine goals when Luke Breust kicked his second, four minutes into the final term.
New Hawks captain James Sicily had 30 possessions in defence and on-baller James Worpel impressed with 14 contested possessions and seven clearances.
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti's playing footy ... again
It was an emotional affair late last season when Essendon favourite Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti announced his retirement. Bombers fans weren't getting much joy from gameday results as it was and now one of their few reasons for going to the footy was calling it quits. So when 'Tippa' ran onto the MCG as the activated sub in the final term the crowd went wild, but it was nothing compared to the eruption when he slotted a set shot just minutes later.
Dons line up their ducks ... and shoot them
A first goal is always worthy of full-team celebrations, and the Bombers had four of them. It started with Will Setterfield and Sam Weideman slotting their first at a new club. Then it was Alwyn Davey jnr who brought the Essendon crowd to their feet with a debut major in his debut game. Could it get any better? Well, yes. A club favourite for his tireless work in defence, Jordan Ridley had gone 68 games without troubling the scorers, but as the Bombers blitzed the 2020 best and fairest winner found himself with the ball and running inside 50. His first career goal was slotted with the cool aplomb of a 500-goal full forward - his teammates reacted like it was his 1000th.
HAWTHORN 4.5 5.7 5.9 9.11 (65)
ESSENDON 3.1 8.5 14.8 19.10 (124)
Hawthorn: Breust 3, Hardwick 2, Wingard, Jiath, Amon, Greene,
Essendon: Perkins 3, Weideman 2, Redman 2, Draper 2, Menzie 2, Setterfield, Ridley, Jones, Davey jnr, Caldwell, Durham, Heppell, McDonald-Tipungwuti
Hawthorn: Worpel, Ward, Sicily, Day, Hardwick
Essendon: Merrett, Parish, Perkins, Laverde, Setterfield, Redman
Hawthorn: Wingard (calf)
Hawthorn: Conor Nash (replaced Jacob Koschitzke in the third quarter)
Essendon: Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (replaced Jones in the fourth quarter)