Grant Birchall concedes the Swans were harder, bigger, better

Hawthorn's gun defender Grant Birchall has attributed the flag favourite's Friday evening defeat to the Swans being harder, bigger bodied and cleaner than the Hawks.

Birchall also said the Hawks were feeling the effects of three consecutive six-day breaks - they have had three six-day breaks since Easter Monday - but added that this was no excuse, as the Swans had been too polished, with their big forwards getting hold of the Hawk defenders.

Hawthorn, which is already without Sam Mitchell and Brian Lake for some weeks, will await the result of scans to Cyril Rioli, who left the ground in the first minutes of the third quarter on Friday night with another suspected hamstring strain, while Jarryd Roughead is widely tipped by commentators to be cited by the match review panel for his bump on Ben McGlynn.

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson said Josh Gibson, who hurt his shoulder, had suffered only a cork and was fine.

Birchall said that the Hawks had not discussed Lance Franklin at all prior to the game, in which Buddy proved damaging but wasteful, with five contested marks, 21 disposals and a haul of 2.7.

''It wasn't going to be easy,'' said Birchall, an All-Australian in 2012. ''They're a tough side to beat up here. Yeah, they just got the jump on us early and to our credit we fought our way back but at the end of the day they were just a bit too good, they were probably a bit harder and bigger bodied throughout the ground and bit cleaner than us. The big forwards sort of got hold of us a little bit towards the end.

''We've had three or four six-day breaks, which has been tough on the boys. But still that's no excuse. We tried to play our way, but yeah, there were just a bit too good and more polished.''

Birchall said the Hawthorn defenders - who were undersized against Kurt Tippett, Franklin and Sam Reid - had been isolated one-out by the Swans. ''They've got some big boys, so we just tried to get it to ground. Sometimes we got left isolated one on one, which is not ideal. But you just have to fight it and do your best.''

Echoing coach Alastair Clarkson, Birchall pointed to the contested possession domination by the Swans in the first quarter, when Sydney wasted the opportunity to build a lead of several goals. ''The start of that first quarter we were just off and they were just dominating contested possessions in the middle of the ground and they were just giving their forwards every opportunity, so we were good in patches but I guess it's a good learning experience for the younger guys to travel interstate and play against a quality side.

''We've got the bye so we'll have a few days off, get away from the club and refresh and try and get some players back and get ready for Port Adelaide.''

Birchall said the younger midfielders faced a challenge to show leadership in the absence of skipper Luke Hodge and Mitchell. ''That was a challenge for the group before the game: the younger ones needed to step up in that area. As I said, I thought we were really good in patches tonight, but I guess a quality side like Sydney you have to have that effort for four quarters.''

Birchall said Franklin had not been mentioned before the game, because ''they've got 22 players, not just Bud,'' but revealed there had been playful banter between the former Hawk great and his old teammates during the match.

''It was a little bit different. You know, he's been a great player for us for a number of years and he played really well tonight and yeah there was a little bit of banter out there, a bit of fun.

''He had a fair few shots, but yeah, he's such a dangerous player, we know what he's like, we wish him all the best.''

This story Grant Birchall concedes the Swans were harder, bigger, better first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.