Geelong coach Chris Scott believes the public perception of AFL players during ongoing pay negotiations with the league is unfair.
Players have been asked to take an 80 per cent pay cut while the competition is on hold to help it survive the financial destruction caused by the coronavirus crisis.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has offered to match whatever percentage the players eventually agree to.
Talks are reportedly edging closer to a resolution, however, no agreement had been reached as of late Thursday morning.
Players have come under fire in some quarters, with AFL legend Leigh Matthews saying he had lost respect for the collective playing group.
But those remarks drew a staunch defence from some players, including Richmond star Jack Riewoldt, who said Matthews had been "a bit irresponsible" with his criticism.
"Clearly they (players) are losing the PR battle in all of this and really now's not a time for PR, but the perception of them is not a good one," Scott told SEN on Thursday.
"In my opinion, especially with the players that I've dealt with, it doesn't reflect the reality of the situation.
"(AFL Players' Association president and Geelong star) Patrick Dangerfield, I think, is taking his leadership responsibility really seriously.
"The definition of leadership in some ways is taking responsibility for things even when it may not be your position or it may not be your fault.
"I might be betraying his privacy a little bit, but when I speak to him, I sense a resolve to get through this using whatever means are possible - not to try to push an agenda of any particular party."
Roughly 80 per cent of AFL and club staff have this week been stood down, with the competition on hold until at least May 31.
Clubs are likely to drastically scale back their operations in the coming months, leaving many people within the game jobless.
"I suspect it's going to get worse before it gets better and that doesn't give people much comfort," Scott said.
"Some of the leaders in society, our Premier (Daniel Andrews) for example, have talked about that.
"We've got to face up to the reality here even if it's not pleasant.
"It is going to be difficult and you've got to steel yourself to get through it as best as possible and with as much compassion as possible."
Melbourne defender Jake Lever said it was "difficult" to hear comments like Matthews' and accusations of players being greedy, saying they too are hurting.
"There are going to be people in the AFL world, especially players, who are going to have to put their houses up for sale because of this situation," Lever told SEN.
Australian Associated Press