ESSENDON is hopeful Jake Stringer has avoided a serious hamstring strain after the forward was subbed out in the third term of the two-point loss to Greater Western Sydney on Saturday.
Stringer was seen clutching his leg in the first term, then spent most of the next two quarters lined up in the forward pocket with his movement clearly restricted.
The 27-year-old had little impact on the game after quarter-time, only adding one kick to his four first-quarter disposals, and was eventually replaced by medical substitute Matt Guelfi in the third term.
"He was kind of good enough, but not quite. We tried to persist with him a bit, but in the end we had the sub there," coach Ben Rutten said after the match.
"We'll need to wait and get some more information before we know the detail on Stringer. He was still functioning OK, so we're not sure the extent of it."
Despite the Bombers' loss, Zach Merrett was one of the best players on the ground with 37 disposals and 13 inside 50s in his 150th game.
The 2017 All-Australian midfielder was on the receiving end of some special attention from the Giants, none more so than when Jeremy Finlayson caught him late and high with a raised forearm in the first term.
GIANTS v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats
Rutten said that Merrett wasn't showing any ill-effects from the incident.
"He's a warrior for us, he's such a strong competitor, I can understand why other teams might be targeting him at times," he said.
"The way he persisted and persevered, in his 150th game, [showed] he's been a fantastic leader for us every game this season and tonight was no exception.
"[In] the last five minutes of the first quarter, when the momentum was against us, I thought a couple of tackles and a couple of efforts from Zach was what just started to shift that momentum."
Finlayson was important for the Giants up forward, kicking three goals and helping sett up a couple of other chances.
But he could be set for some time on the sidelines, or at least a hit to his hip pocket, after being reported for making high contact on Merrett.
"[Finlayson] plays with heart on his sleeve, he wants to do well for his footy team. I love that he brings out his emotion. Sometimes you've got to keep that in check," Giants coach Leon Cameron said.
"He's come a long, long way, a young Indigenous boy that we took at pick No.85 and out of our Academy, and every year he's put himself out there and been a really good contributor for our footy club.
"I'd like to look at the positive side, the positive side is that he was a target for us up forward, especially deep. We'll look at the incident and we'll deal with it in the next 24 hours."
Cameron was keen to point out that the Giants didn't enter the match with a plan to target Merrett, who has been in outstanding form this season and is averaging more than 30 touches a game.
The Giants coach instead put the many knocks Merrett received down to the Bombers' midfielder being around the contested balls and so involved in the action.
"He's just a really good player. He's a hard player to stop," Cameron said.
"When we got a chance to tackle we made sure we tackled him. Our guys were making sure our tackles stuck."