Eddie Betts has questioned Adelaide’s need for a brutal bonding camp, referencing the playing group’s solidarity forged by the murder of coach Phil Walsh in 2015.
Betts was on Fox Footy on Wednesday night ahead of the launch of his autobiography, The Boy from Boomerang Creek, where he details incidents from the camp.
Betts said the players had been sworn to secrecy, and the AFL Players Association has announced it is investigating his claims.
“We weren’t allowed to say anything to anybody,” Betts said. “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 felt very divided.
“You know, I could see that we were all hurting (after the camp) and tried to make change at that point. But yeah, it felt like you couldn’t speak up. And it felt like you couldn’t tell all and so, you know, I bared my soul and I was very vocal about it and there were a lot of the players that were very vocal within that organisation about it and most of us aren’t there anymore.”
The Crows were the minor premiers in 2017 but lost the Grand Final by 48, which apparently sparked the decision to send the players to camp.
But Betts questioned why the club felt the need to make the club “more resilient” by sending players to the infamous camp. “When you look back on it, it’s kind of thinking, what the hell are you doing? Why?
“To be honest, it was one game – the 2017 Grand Final. We lost that, we were the best team in the competition. We had a brain fade.
“They wanted to make us mentally strong, they want to make us resilient and a lot tougher in our mind and I said to the playing group, ‘Aren’t we not resilient enough? Our coach was murdered!’. We had to galvanise together, we had to become closer together. We stuck through this pain. We were resilient, we were strong, tough, we were mentally tough. We had to get back and play footy again. That’s resilient. That’s tough.
“We didn’t need to bring outside people to come in to make us mentally tough when we were already a strong, great environment and a team that really cared for one another.”
Adelaide chief executive Tim Silvers has publicly and privately apologised to Betts for the trauma the AFL great suffered. Silvers said he had texted Betts to apologise and expressed his hope the 350-game AFL legend and his family would one day feel comfortable enough to return to the club.
“We’ve got a leadership and a culture (now) that we’re driving that prioritises others and I think we can move forward, but we would like to say ‘Sorry’ to Eddie and anyone else who had a negative experience throughout the camp,” Silvers said.
“We’ve gone through an investigation through two different avenues, but we are sorry to anyone, any of our playing group, that had a negative experience because players’ welfare and well-being is paramount to our club.
“For someone like Eddie, who has left our club, to have a negative experience saddens me.”
Silvers, who addressed the playing group on the issue on Wednesday, hopes to speak with Betts on the phone later in the week.
An Indigenous icon and one of the AFL’s greatest small forwards, Betts claims the experience on the Gold Coast following the Crows’ shock 2017 grand-final loss was “weird” and “disrespectful”.
“There was all sorts of weird shit that was disrespectful to many cultures, but particularly and extremely disrespectful to my culture,” Betts wrote in his book, The Boy from Boomerang Crescent.
“I felt like I’d lost the drive to play footy, and to be honest, I’m not sure I ever had the same energy I did before that camp.”
Crows football director Mark Ricciuto addressed the issue on Triple M on Wednesday, with the club legend expressing his hope Betts would be able to move on from the distressing experience.
“It’s sad to hear Eddie write that because he’s been one of the greats of the football club,” Ricciuto said.
“I think the club’s been on record at times to say they acknowledge it wasn’t handled perfectly, it had all good intentions but it didn’t go perfectly.
“We all love Eddie and hopefully Eddie’s getting over that.
“That was four years ago, certainly the club has moved on from that and looking towards the future and have made a lot of ground since then.”
Ricciuto is one of the few remaining senior off-field leaders from the period in question still involved at the club, with coach Don Pyke, chief executive Andrew Fagan and chairman Rob Chapman having left.
Silvers was asked if it was appropriate for Ricciuto to resign given Betts’ shock revelations.
“I don’t think it’s my place to speak about a director of our board,” he replied.
“What I will say about Mark is that he’s a passionate person who has delivered both on and off the field.”
Betts claimed he was dropped from the on-field leadership group after voicing his concerns about the cultural insensitivities he and fellow Indigenous players experienced at the camp.
Silvers said the club would investigate those fresh claims about the leadership structure further in coming days.
Betts played for the Crows until the end of 2019, before requesting a trade back to his original club Carlton and retiring last year.
Calls continue to grow for the AFL to apologise to Eddie Betts and his former Adelaide teammates over the league’s bumbled investigation into the Crows’ ill-fated 2018 pre-season camp.
A SafeWork SA investigation last year cleared Adelaide of breaching health and safety laws and an AFL investigation in October 2018 cleared the Crows of any industry rule breach.
The AFL released a statement on Wednesday acknowledging the “hurt Eddie Betts, his family, his community, and by extension all Indigenous players experienced on the camp”. But the AFL’s refusal to reopen an investigation and lack of apology over its initial investigation sparked condemnation.
Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin, who played 275 games for the Crows, believes the AFL should apologise to Betts and the other Adelaide players who were at the camp.
“If Eddie feels that’s the case then sure, that’s certainly something that should happen,” Goodwin said. “This experience sits with him and he needs to heal and I think part of that process is everyone making sure they learn and grow and say sorry.”
Betts revealed the players were “brainwashed” at the camp and were told to stay silent.
The AFL Players Association were left shocked by the new revelations, and have decided to reopen an investigation.
“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,” AFLPA chief executive Paul Marsh said.
Geelong star and AFLPA president Patrick Dangerfield said it was “sickening” what Betts was forced to endure during the camp.