GWS star Josh Kelly’s adamant teammates haven’t checked in after harsh criticism from coach

A scathing post-match rebuke from Greater Western Sydney caretaker manager Mark McVeigh led to major player meetings on Monday, but star player Josh Kelly is adamant none of his team-mates are ‘checked’ for the season.

That was McVeigh’s assessment after the horror of the 73-point loss to Sydney on Saturday as the Giants slumped to a 14th loss for the season amid growing expectations that more senior players come out at the end of the year.

Kelly conceded that the group of players were “embarrassed” in their efforts and had “drop” McVeigh, who entered the process to become a full-time manager in 2023, with former Hawthorn mentor Alastair Clarkson having also met with club officials on numerous occasions.

Amid reports that the players had texted to apologize to McVeigh following the loss, Kelly said he would “not speak in detail” about how individual players reacted.

But he said the weekend apology didn’t stop the players from looking each other ‘in the eye’ on Monday and having tough conversations that Kelly was adamant about had been the cornerstone of all their success and were more than ever needed.

“We feel like we let Mark down over the weekend, we feel like we let ourselves down,” he said.

“We are a tight football club and we expect more from each other, I expect more from myself and I owe it to my team-mates.

“If we are proud of the football club and respect our team-mates, we have to be better than we are now. We have always had honest conversations as a football club…we have to be passionate about what we want to defend.

“It started today, we had strong conversations, we looked into each other’s eyes.

“That’s what we’ve always been proud of as a football club, when things aren’t going well, being able to get together, discuss those things and then come out on the other side.

Kelly conceded that McVeigh’s “verified” benchmark applied more to game times than to players dropping out of the season with the Finals no longer part of the equation.

“We check at times in games, it’s not acceptable for each other,” Kelly said.

Since taking part in the 2019 Grand Final, GWS have won just 25 games out of 60, including only five this year and without a coach in place for 2023, they risk losing more players to rival clubs.

Kelly was one of only eight McVeighs to say “go to the wall” and fought until the end of the game, with some of those players being linked to other clubs in 20213, such as Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper, who weren’t on the interim coach’s list.

But Kelly, who himself has been the subject of intense trade debates in recent years, said the constant talk of trades had never been a distraction for the Giants and was no excuse for the type. football they are currently producing.

“Absolutely not. We have always faced trade rumors and players linked to certain clubs,” he said.

“Anytime there’s a connection it’s very hard to tell within the club. The boys are absolutely committed. I love these boys, they love the football club, it’s just something with which we deal with.

“I’m really confident that we are able to maintain the culture, despite some ups and downs this year, and we will come out of this stronger.

“We are going through a bit of a difficult time at the moment. Walking around the club, there is always a motivation and a thirst to be better.

Originally published as AFL 2022: GWS star Josh Kelly is adamant his teammates haven’t checked after harsh criticism from coach