GIANTS star Josh Kelly has given a rare insight into what it's been like to have been the subject of intense media speculation over his contract status over the past few seasons.
Kelly, a Victorian and one of the game's elite onballers, has been the focus of constant talk about his footy future since 2017.
Despite the media frenzy that followed him throughout that season, Kelly starred for the GIANTS and he knocked back a multi-year, multi-million dollar offer from North Melbourne to re-sign with the GIANTS for two years on the eve of the finals.
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He was named in the Virgin Australia AFL All Australian side and won the best and fairest award a few weeks later.
But the speculation about Kelly leaving the GIANTS to return home to Melbourne never died away and the 24-year-old is once again out of contract at the end of this season, with no new deal locked away.
The GIANTS have carefully managed the media opportunities of Kelly – and fellow out-of-contract star Stephen Coniglio – preferring to let him concentrate on his footy, but it hasn't stopped the constant flow of stories, rumours and innuendo about where he'll continue his career beyond 2019.
He opened up his experiences with the media on the GIANTS' podcast The Footy Phil with co-captain Phil Davis.
"I really appreciate the media and love what they do for the game, but when I'm in the situation I'm in with my contract, I'm very wary about what I say," Kelly said.
"I enjoy speaking to the media and getting a story out there for people to read and hear the truth, but when you have to hang onto your every word (because of the potential) to have that be twisted (negatively), that's my only issue with it.
"I understand the media's place in the game but sometimes it's more about wanting to get an article (published) for the sake of having an article out there.
"That's when I have an issue with it and having been out of contract a couple of times now, that's when it sometimes leads down that road."
Kelly said players deserve to have more control about the way they're portrayed by the media, especially with the amount of footy coverage fans can devour these days.
"Over the last couple of years, we're starting to see players calling out articles or journalists that are potentially sensationalising things and missing the mark," he said.
"That's not to make the journalists look bad, but as players we're kept accountable every week for our performances and how we go about our lives day to day.
"I think that's important because journalists are writing about our lives and informing the people, and those people quite often believe what they read, and perception is reality sometimes."