Collingwood defender Harry O'Brien says the death of former team-mate John McCarthy has galvanised the playing group ahead of Friday night's preliminary final against Sydney.
McCarthy, who spent four seasons at the Magpies before joining Port Adelaide at the end of 2011, died last week when he fell from a building while in Las Vegas with his Power team-mates.
Collingwood players and officials will attend the funeral service for McCarthy in his home town of Sorrento on Thursday before boarding a late afternoon flight to Sydney.
Several Magpies players were visibly emotional after Saturday night's semi-final win over West Coast and O'Brien said the group were still going through the grieving process.
"It has been really difficult and we've had to face our adversity," O'Brien told reporters at the Westpac Centre.
"I think when you come under moments of stress like we have, it galvanises the group together and that's the only thing that gets you through.
"Having that experience a few years back with the grieving process myself, I know for a fact that the only way you can get through is by sticking together and I think we've dealt with it as best as we can.
"One thing I do know and something that I learnt from the week just gone is that you still can function. The weight comes off you if you know the person next to you is feeling the same and will help you through.
"At times your mind might be off the game, certainly in the preparation, but that's OK. There's a time and a place to switch on and that's the balance I think we got right last week."
O'Brien has come under criticism from several media commentators for his ability to defend in one-on-one situations this season, but the 2010 premiership star remains unfazed by the analysis.
"I couldn't care less to be honest," O'Brien said.
"I don't read in at all to those outside opinions. Whether it's right or wrong in their eyes, that's up to them, that's what they get paid for.
"I'm part of a defensive unit, we go on to the field with a clear intent to get the job done as a collective and we were able to do that on the weekend."