SYDNEY coach John Longmire said his team was "obliterated in the contests" but he refused to blame complacency for a slow start in a shock 38-point loss to Hawthorn at the SCG on Friday night.
The Swans entered the game with an 8-4 record and would have moved into the top four if they beat the Hawks, who were 17th on the ladder and on a five-game losing streak.
But the Swans looked sluggish from the outset, conceding the first two goals in the opening five minutes and losing the contested ball count 47-35 in the first term.
The Hawks controlled more of the contests for the rest of the match, winning the count in every quarter and finishing with 165 contested possessions to 139.
"They outhunted us, they were harder than us from the first bounce, out-pressured us and we didn't push back like we'd normally do," Longmire said.
"To their credit they were really good, they were up for the fight in all parts of the game.
"We just lost too many contests, we were obliterated in the contests."
Ruckman Jonathon Ceglar was a late inclusion for youngster Ned Reeves and was one of the most influential Hawks with 19 contested disposals and 11 clearances.
The 30-year-old was sidelined after round four with an ankle injury and then had to wait for an opportunity while the Hawks turned to 22-year-old Reeves in recent weeks.
But Ceglar took his chance on Friday night, getting the better of in-form Swan Tom Hickey, who looked like he'll benefit from being able to rest his troublesome knee when the Swans have a bye in round 14.
SWANS v HAWKS Full match coverage and stats
"Hickey has been pivotal to Sydney's first half to the season, in terms of their clearance and first-use of the footy, and has provided that a lot as well as getting a lot of clearances himself. 'Cegs' was able to turn the tables on that tonight," Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson said.
"He was really, really strong in the contest for us. For as long as he plays like that he'll continue to play in the side.
"Tonight's performance and his contribution to the side was really, really strong and I thought he had the better of that duel and helped us win the game."
Clarkson said "a bit of soul searching" over the bye was crucial to the club's impressive win.
"We had an opportunity over our mid-season bye to have a bit of a reset and do a bit of soul searching to be fair," Clarkson said.
"Perhaps the fact that we were able to do that, get a rest, set ourselves for the restart and just try and find something out of the second half of the year - I think that reflected in why our intensity right from the get-go was really, really strong."
Star midfielder Tom Mitchell was prolific in the midfield, winning 34 disposals (16 contested), and Jai Newcombe had a major influence in his debut game.
Newcombe only joined the Hawks nine days ago in the NAB AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft, but quickly looked like he belonged at the level with 13 disposals and an incredible 14 tackles – the most recorded in VFL/AFL history for a debutant.
"He had more tackles than possessions but that was the sort of intensity that we needed to play with," Clarkson said.
"It just took a little bit of pressure off the other midfielders for us, in [Jaeger] O'Meara and Mitchell who have carried the load for some time for our footy club.
"We were really pleased with Newcombe's game and the strength of our players in the contest over the course of the night."
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