‘Dons hope extra rest will help in AFL

Essendon are banking on an extra two days’ break and the big occasion to give them a lift for Sunday’s imposing AFL test against arch-rivals Hawthorn.

But the admission from key defender Michael Hurley that they struggled with Sydney’s physicality is a bad sign, given the Hawks are peerless with the pressure they put on opponents.

Essendon opened the season by coughing up a 41-point lead and losing to the Swans by 12 points.

By contrast, the Hawks started their bid for a third-straight premiership with a 62-point belting of Geelong.

Thanks to the AFL anti-doping tribunal hearing, Hurley was among 13 members of their team who played no proper pre-season games and that showed at the end of the Swans match.

He said the `Dons were sore after the match, but they are looking forward to an eight-day break before taking on the Hawks.

Next weekend is symbolic for Essendon, with the club celebrating their 1984-85 grand final wins over Hawthorn.

“We have an eight-day break, which has come at a good time,” Hurley said.

“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.”

“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.”

Hurley said Sydney’s hardness, not their fitness, was pivotal on the weekend.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

While it was a disappointing start to the season, Hurley could still smile.

The loss came four days after the landmark tribunal hearing that cleared 34 current and past Essendon players of doping offences.

He said the feeling around the club now, compared to the lead-up to the verdicts, was like comparing apples with oranges.

“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.

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