The AFL has been shamed for its lacklustre response to Eddie Betts’ damning revelations about the infamous Adelaide Crows 2018 pre-season training camp, which has been branded a “miserable failure”.
Betts thrust the controversial camp — which followed Adelaide’s 2017 grand final loss to Richmond — back into the spotlight on Tuesday night, detailing behind-the-scenes information on it in his upcoming autobiography The Boy from Boomerang Crescent.
The three-time All-Australian alleged confidential information shared in counselling sessions had been misused, writing that the camp misappropriated sensitive Aboriginal cultural rituals.
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Following the ordeal, Betts said he approached the Crows and voiced his concerns with the camp, only to be dropped from the leadership group three weeks later.
Six players requested a trade out of Adelaide between 2018 and 2020, while an additional four free agents left the club following the camp.
Speaking to Fox Footy’s AFL 360 on Wednesday, Betts claimed those running the camp told them not to say “anything to anybody”.
“We weren’t even allowed to tell teammates. To this day, our teammates still don’t even know what we did in our group … that’s how we feel very divided and the club kind of broke down from that point,” he explained.
“I could see that we were all hurting and we tried to make change at that point. But it felt like you couldn’t speak up and it felt like you couldn’t tell all.”
Initial investigations into the damning camp received the all-clear from the AFL’s integrity unit and SafeWork SA.
The AFL Players Association will now open a fresh investigation into the camp, set to contact all Adelaide players to seek a “better understanding” of what occurred during the trip. However, the AFL and SafeWork SA confirmed on Wednesday they would not re-open investigations into the camp.
Adelaide chief executive Tim Silvers apologised to Betts in a press conference on Wednesday.
“Anyone who leaves our club that doesn’t have a positive experience, we’re sorry,” he told reporters.
“I think we can move forward, but we’d like to say sorry to Eddie and anyone else that had a negative experience throughout the camp.”
Speaking on Channel 9’s Footy Classified, veteran reporter Caroline Wilson criticised the AFL and WorkSafe SA for not taking substantial action after their initial investigation.
“It required discipline and a punishment,” she said on Wednesday night.
“The AFL is saying to me today they broke no rules. What about bringing the game into disrepute, or conduct unbecoming?
“Surely what we’ve heard from Eddie Betts is bringing the game into disrepute?
“How could they not take action? I know they put measures in place, but that wasn’t good enough for me.
“They knew all of this and they did nothing.”
Adelaide board member Mark Ricciuto, who represented the club for 15 seasons, has also copped backlash for his response to Betts’ damning allegations on Wednesday morning.
“Player welfare is always number one, no matter what’s going on,” he told Adelaide’s Triple M Breakfast with Roo, Ditts and Loz.
“You always want everyone to be happy and all that. It’s very sad that Eddie’s written that, and I think the club’s been on record at times to say that they’ve acknowledged that it wasn’t handled perfectly.
“It had all good intentions, but it didn’t go perfectly. They’ve acknowledged that.”
Wilson blasted those comments on Footy Classified: “It’s obviously devastating, what Mark Ricciuto says is so inaccurate.
“(They say) ‘we’ve moved on from this as a club’, they’ve never moved from it. The AFL will tell you that’s part of the problem.
“How can you describe some of those revelations as not perfect? They’re horrifying.”
Meanwhile, SEN broadcaster Gerard Whateley called the AFL’s statement a “miserable failure”.
“It took 28 words to acknowledge the hurt Eddie Betts experienced. And 177 words of pathetic self-justification of all the good the league has done and no one put their name to it. No sorrow, no regret, no commitment to action,” he said.
“Reading between the lines you’d guess the AFL lives in fear of a class action from the players who were mistreated.”
Wilson also called out AFLPA chief executive Paul Marsh, claiming she had urged him to further investigate the Crows camp several times to no avail.
“I spoke to Paul Marsh on countless occasions … I repeatedly called him over an 18-month period,” she said.
“How he can say he wasn’t aware (of details Betts’ book reveals)? I’m shocked by that more than anything.
“Then I rang him with other allegations, terrible allegations from other players.
“How he can say this now … they (AFLPA) get paid a lot of money, surely their investigative resources are better than that.”
The Age’s Sam McClure continued on 3AW’s Sportsday: “The statement from Paul Marsh, to put it bluntly, is convenient.
“The AFL and the AFL Players’ Association had access to all the information that journalists reporting the stuff had access to. All they had to do was pick up the phone and have a private conversation.
“They’re now saying this is all new information and will go back and reinvestigate – I’m sorry that’s too little and too late for mine.”
Marsh confirmed the AFLPA first became aware of issues from the Crows camp following media reports, but emphasised that players initially told the union “there was nothing to it”.
“It’s not that we haven’t had conversations – and I’m certainly not saying we didn’t know there was a level of angst about this,” he told SEN Breakfast on Thursday morning.
“I’m open to a view from some maybe that we could’ve tried harder, so I’m not saying everything that could’ve been done was done. But we certainly tried to get to the bottom of what happened with players — and I don’t feel as though we did.
“Players I think were silent on this issue for fear reasons and some players had good experiences, so we understand some of the reasons as to why that happened. But it’s made this issue quite a difficult one.
“Maybe with Eddie now having spoke about it, it might empower other players to want to speak about it.”
Meanwhile, Geelong Cats champion Patrick Dangerfield, who currently serves as the AFLPA president, said it would have been difficult for the union to take immediate action due to the circumstances at the time.
“We’ve gone off the information we were given at the time. And quite clearly, it’s difficult to articulate that, I think, for the players that were there at the time when they’re still playing for Adelaide. So we, as much as we could and as best we could, got the information that was relevant,” Dangerfield told Sportsday.
“Had we known all the information from the outset, I think clearly a more immediate reaction would have taken place. But that wasn‘t the case.
“I don’t necessarily agree with the fact that we didn’t do anything. I think we exhausted a lot of our resources around how we could support the players, but at the same time, you need that open, free-flowing communication between two — and that was a challenge.”
“The details outlined by Eddie Betts in his new book about the 2018 Adelaide Crows training camp are extremely concerning and difficult to read. We commend Eddie on the courage he’s shown in telling this story and are troubled by the ongoing hurt caused to Eddie and his family.
Much of the information detailed in Eddie’s book about the camp is new information to the AFLPA and we are extremely concerned about this information on three levels. Firstly, the lack of psychological safety afforded to the entire playing group, secondly the cultural appropriation of Indigenous artefacts and, thirdly, the deliberate gathering of confidential information on players for the purpose of harmfully misusing the information.
At the time that some details of the camp started to emerge, the AFLPA spoke to a number of Adelaide players about the camp. What we now believe is clear from our discussions with those players and the information contained in Eddie’s book is that players felt pressured into remaining silent about the details of the camp.
On the back of the new information that has emerged, the AFLPA will be contacting all Adelaide players from 2018 to seek a better understanding of the details of the camp and any individual issues that may have arisen from it.”
“The AFL acknowledges the hurt Eddie Betts, his family, his community, and by extension all Indigenous players experienced as a result of Adelaide Crows’ pre-season camp in 2018.
The AFL investigation in 2018 into the Adelaide Crows camp concluded there were failings in the manner in which the football club identified, implemented and managed the pre-season program however it was ultimately determined there was no violation of industry rules. As a result of the investigation, the AFL made recommendations (which were adopted), on improved governance and compliance in relation to the protection of the players, officials and staff at the Club, including further investment into the Adelaide Crows’ integrity area. Further, the investigation led to the introduction of an agreed AFL approval process ahead of any club pre-season camp or activity that involves an external provider.
Additionally, over the last 15 months the AFL CEO has had regular conversations with a senior Indigenous players group which provides a sounding board for key industry and club decisions impacting our Indigenous players. One of the most important outcomes of the regular dialogue with the group has been the introduction of mandatory Indigenous Player Development Managers at all 18 clubs to provide cultural guidance and support for players.”
Originally published as ‘How can he say this?’: Caroline Wilson slams Ricciuto, AFL over Eddie Betts responses