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Former Adelaide and Carlton star Bryce Gibbs has expressed his regret at previous comments defending the Crows’ infamous camp, becoming the latest player to reveal what occurred in early 2018.
Gibbs famously claimed he had been to ‘a lot worse camps’ at the Blues in an interview with The Age in 2018.
However, speaking to SEN SA, the 33-year old, who played 268 games across the two clubs before retiring in 2020, has admitted to being ‘really disappointed’ in himself for not speaking up against the camp at the time.
“Probably the most disappointing thing for mine was the post-game in the wash-up, when we were reflecting on it and guys started to speak up who had issues with what had happened and talking about their experiences and that this wasn’t great,” Gibbs said.
“This is where when I reflect; I feel like I was really disappointed in myself, because this is when I started to take a back seat.
“Watching guys stand up and say ‘this is not on, we need to address this, we need to tell people what happened’, they seemed to get shut down pretty quickly. And for me to see these guys, as brave as it was to get up there and try and have their peace and to get shut down – these guys had been at the club for a number of years, had a lot of respect within the group.
“I felt like if I was to get up and say something, how was I going to have much pull or much weight in it as I‘d only been there for five minutes?
“On reflection, I’m disappointed I didn’t [speak up] because there was an opportunity there to support some of my mates as they went through a lot harder experiences emotionally than I did. So maybe it was easier for me just to sit back and not say anything.
“But reflecting on those comments or ongoing conversations, when we‘re trying to flush it out, I do regret not speaking up when I probably should have been a more experienced and senior player of that group.
“And it did fracture the playing group and fractured relationships in the football department, players lost trust with members in that football department.”
In the wake of Eddie Betts and Josh Jenkins‘ revelations during the week that the camp exploited their psychological trauma, Gibbs said his comparatively ‘great childhood’ gave him a completely different experience of the camp.
“Like others have stated during the week, I also took a call from a counsellor to talk about my childhood and past experiences. I actually thought this was a bit of a red flag as well from my point of view,” he said.
“During this interview process I actually didn‘t really disclose too much. I was pretty lucky enough to have a pretty good upbringing, a really great childhood, which I‘m very grateful for. So I didn’t have a lot of trauma, so to speak, growing up.
“Even still, knowing that, I was still pretty calculated in what I was telling this person – I didn’t trust them. I didn’t know them.
“I thought it was unusual to be doing that leading into a camp, so I was very calculated in what I said and didn’t really give too much away.
“I was disappointed with the way I handled it post the camp. I felt like I could have been a voice, I could have supported these guys more in a group environment in challenging some of the decisions that were made during this time.
“And if I had my time again, I would do things differently.”
Gibbs provided further detail into the infamous ‘harness ritual’, saying the level of abuse he received during the process was a world apart to others.
“I had my time on the harness and experienced what I experienced and it was completely different to what some of the other guys experienced on the harness,” he said.
“And it probably related back to me being pretty reserved in that counselors’ meeting. I didn‘t give too much away and I probably wasn‘t attacked with some of the stuff that other guys were attacked with.
“That made the experience for me probably a little bit easier on reflection. But there were certainly people in my face telling me that I left my old club and I was an average player and whatever, but I could cop that, I could get through that.
“But watching other players go through what they went through – that was pretty tough. I didn‘t really know what to do, I didn’t really know how to justify it, what to make of it.”
Gibbs also suggested that the Crows had pressured players into remaining silent about the camp at the time, reiterating Betts’ stance that the group were ‘brainwashed’ into keeping their mouths shut.
“We were educated by the camp people in terms of what to say to family and friends and other teammates. And then I think post the camp when players wanted to come out and speak, we were advised not to,” Gibbs said.
“Things were signed, documents were signed on their behalf by the club about confidentiality. And I think because there was the lack of governance around it, that people didn‘t act, people didn’t speak up – not knowing what would happen if they did.
“I think that’s why a lot of people probably played a straight bat in the media and tried to play it down, because if we’re not allowed to speak and if guys were worried about the ramifications of speaking and talking up, like, that plays a part in it as well.
“It made it extremely hard for guys to come out and actually say what had happened and that‘s why it’s lasted four years I suppose.”
Gibbs is in no doubt that the camp ‘fractured’ the playing group, reiterating Jenkins and Betts’ belief that a strong playing group that appeared in the previous season’s grand final was never the same.
He also said the camp and aftermath cut his career short.
“The way it fractured the group and the way the club declined, and our performance declined,” Gibbs said.
“Would I have played more games at the Adelaide Football Club if this camp didn‘t go ahead? Probably. Am I blaming the camp for my career ending the way it did? Absolutely not.
“Was it the start of things to come? Absolutely. It wasn‘t the be all and end all but I felt like the decisions made to do some of these things, it ended careers.
“The backlash it’s had for guys mentally, you can’t erase that from memory.”