Josh Kelly said he shares the scathing sentiment of his coach Mark McVeigh that the GIANTS "embarrassed" the club in the Sydney Derby on the weekend, but is adamant that players haven't "checked out" at the back end of the season.
The GIANTS' interim coach lambasted his side in the wake of their 73-point hammering at the hands of the Swans on Saturday in what was their fourth straight defeat, leaving them wallowing in 16th place on the ladder.
Amid the links of several players, namely Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper, with moves back to Victoria at season's end, McVeigh queried as to whether several players had "checked out" mentally.
Two-time best and fairest winner Kelly is steadfast that this is not the case.
"No absolutely not. We've always dealt with trade rumours. Every time there's a link it's hard to tell that within the club. The boys are absolutely committed. I love those boys, those boys love the footy club as well," Kelly said.
"I'm really confident that we’ll be able to maintain them at the football club, maintain that culture and maintain a really strong football club in particular this year.
"That started today. We had some strong conversations. We looked each other in the eye."
Kelly was listed by McVeigh along with Sam Taylor, Harry Perryman, Jesse Hogan, Toby Greene, Lachie Whitfield, Adam Kennedy and Callan Ward as the only players who "went to the wall" and produced a four-quarter display against the Swans.
The 27-year-old said that won't divide the group ahead of Sunday's clash with Essendon at GIANTS Stadium.
"I don’t think it will affect players at all. It was just a public honest conversation. We have those conversations weekly and we expect a lot of each other. It'll galvanise the club. We've got that opportunity to go out there this weekend and show the passion we have for the football club," Kelly said.
The GIANTS' response against the Bombers will be a fascinating watch on Sunday after Kelly conceded that the group had "let Mark down" and didn't deny reports that players had texted the coach in the aftermath of their Derby defeat to apologise.
"We're really embarrassed by the performance. We've had some honest conversations, some tough conversations," he said.
"Our effort for four quarters is not at the standard at the moment.
"It's not at the level we want to be. We're super flat about the weekend and we expect a strong response this weekend."
McVeigh was also clear in his convictions that the GIANTS needed a leadership overhaul, highlighting Taylor and Perryman as two players ready to assume more responsibility in that space but Kelly, who shares the captaincy with Greene and Stephen Coniglio, is confident they have the right mix.
"We're constantly addressing whether we've got the right leadership in the right places. We're just going through a tough patch at the moment, and we need to come through the other side," Kelly said.
"I think leadership is an incredibly important part of a football club and we need to improve that, but I think we've got the right people."
Kelly also reaffirmed McVeigh's credentials as a head coach in the making, despite the dramatic drop-off in performances over the past month.
"'Spike' has been outstanding. He's come into a role halfway through the year, implemented a new game plan. His relationship with the players is quite special. He's got the respect of everyone. It's disappointing that we're not repaying that on the weekend," Kelly said.