ESSENDON defender Michael Hurley believes the club's eight-day break between games and a refreshed outlook at the club will help the Bombers back-up their stirring round one performance when they meet Hawthorn on Sunday.
The Bombers led by 41 points late in the third term against the Sydney Swans at ANZ Stadium on Saturday, but were overrun in the final term when last year's grand finalists kicked seven goals to nothing and claimed a 12-point win.
Coach James Hird suggested the Bombers, who had 13 players who had not taken part in the pre-season NAB Challenge series, were always going to run out of steam due to their lack of match practice.
Hurley recognised the defeat as "a bit of a waste" after their dominance in the first three quarters, but said it was the Swans' work ethic that pushed them ahead.
"The game went in ebbs and flows and I felt like we were on top for a fair bit of the game," he said on Tuesday.
"But Sydney being the team they are fought back hard and I felt a couple of times late in the second quarter and obviously in the last quarter that they really got a run on and were very hard to stop.
"I don't know if we ran out of legs, I think our running form on the track and for the pre-season has been quite good. I think they wore us down [with] their physicality.
"That's what they got us with, their body use and the way they won the footy in close."
Hurley said the Swans' game style, the city's wet weather and a flight home had combined to make the Bombers "sore", but they were confident they would be able to reach the same intensity against the reigning premiers this week after a couple of days off after the contest.
"We have an eight-day break, which has come at a good time. Playing Sunday afternoon at the 'G against Hawthorn in a massive game is pretty exciting, so I think all the boys will get up, no worries," the 24-year-old said.
"They were pretty impressive, obviously playing a fantastic team in Geelong as well. We're going to have play some good footy to match them, and I think the game will be won or lost in the contest, so hopefully we can get that right."
After an interrupted preparation ahead of round one, the Bombers did their due diligence on Monday when a group of players went to the MCG to watch the Hawks demolish the Cats.
Senior players Brendon Goddard and Dyson Heppell were among the batch who saw first-hand the task ahead of them.
"One of the Essendonians [coterie members] has a nice box there (at the MCG) so I think BJ (Goddard) took a few of the young guys in, and a few of the older boys went in as well," Hurley said.
"They're very impressive, they won the ball in tight and then the way they spread and used the footy was second to none. It'll be a pretty tough game on the weekend."
Following a career-best season in 2014, when he was stationed in defence, Hurley started the new season with another strong game matched against Lance Franklin.
The Swans star has averaged five goals a game against the Bombers but was held to three by Hurley, although he did help turn the game in the last term.
Hurley doesn't expect to be thrown from one end of the ground to the other as much this season as he has been in the past.
"I think I'll stay down back. The form of [forwards] Jake Carlisle, Joe Daniher and Paddy Ambrose in the pre-season has been very exciting and I think the more they play together and jel I won't be needed down there," he said.
Last Tuesday, the AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal delivered its not guilty verdict to the 34 past and present Essendon players with infraction notices.
Hurley described the mood change within the club as "like apples and oranges" since the finding was revealed.
"It's completely different. Last week was obviously a stressful time for all of us, but coming in this morning, although it's after a loss, it's still nice," he said.