DISAPPOINTED Essendon coach Ben Rutten has already led the Bombers to heights they didn't expect this season, but knows he has an even bigger battle on his hands if he wants to lead his young charges into the finals.
The Bombers missed the chance to cement their spot inside the top eight when they fell to a disappointing 13-point loss to the Giants on Sunday evening and now face the prospect of missing out on September football for the second year in succession.
BOMBERS v GIANTS Full match coverage and stats
But Rutten is not concerned by whether his team can regain eighth place and play finals this year and says his team must focus on finding a way to regain the form they have displayed throughout the majority of the season.
"We are not going to get too far in the finals if we play like we have during the last couple of weeks," Rutten said.
"Our priority at the moment is to get our game back to where it was for most part of the season."
Rutten's young team appeared one step closer to finals football when they led the Giants by 16 points at half-time on Sunday, but could manage just one goal after the main break to fall to their 10th loss of the campaign.
"It was a disappointing game from us," Rutten said.
"We are far from the finished product and have still got a lot of improvement and a lot of growth to go in our group.
"The last couple of weeks have been below where we have been throughout the season."
Giants coach Leon Cameron was thrilled with his team's resolve, labelling the victory a "character-building win" that his team badly needed.
"We wanted a real good arm wrestle tonight and we got it, so it was great to come out on top," Cameron said.
"We want to play finals footy every year and we sit in eighth spot at the moment.
"We know that to play finals you have got to earn the right and to earn the right you have got to win games."
The Giants catapulted in front of Essendon with Sunday's victory, but have a task holding on to a finals spot with matches against premiership fancies Port Adelaide and Geelong to come over the next fortnight.
Veteran Giants defender Phil Davis is no certainty to face Port Adelaide in round 20 after he headed to hospital after the game following a knock to his back just before half-time.
Davis was still in discomfort after the game and, given the kidney injury he suffered in 2014, the club opted to send to him to hospital as a precaution. He was given the all-clear late on Sunday night and headed back to the team hotel.
Update - Phil Davis has gone to hospital tonight as a precaution after a knock to the back before half-time. Davis played out the game but was still in discomfort post-match. Given his history with a kidney injury in 2014, the defender will be checked out at hospital. pic.twitter.com/OoPO4TZ7dz— GWS GIANTS (@GWSGIANTS) July 25, 2021
Cameron is hopeful experienced midfielder Stephen Coniglio (toe) will be fit to take on the Power next weekend, while he indicated skipper Toby Greene was itching to get out of his COVID quarantine this week and return to help his side.
"He (Greene) is like a bull at a gate," Cameron said.
"It was good seeing them on Facetime when we sung the song, as they were really rapt.
"We are looking forward to getting these lads out, as there is no doubt they will give us an enormous amount of energy midway through this week."