The AFL Players’ Association is set to re-contact Adelaide Crows players who attended the infamous 2018 pre-season camp, amid fears they felt “pressured” into silence when it was first investigated.
It comes following former Crows star Eddie Betts’ explosive recount of the camp in his autobiography, The Boy from Boomerang Crescent, in which the 35-year-old revealed distressing new allegations regarding the pre-season camp.
Players’ Association CEO Paul Marsh said Betts’ recollection was “extremely concerning and difficult to read” in a statement on Wednesday evening.
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“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,” Marsh’s statement read, in part.
“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 [may have] 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.”
Adelaide football director and board member Mark Ricciuto said it was “sad” to read Betts’ explosive recount as he’s been “one of the greats” of the club.
Speaking on his Triple M Adelaide breakfast radio on Wednesday morning, Ricciuto said he was saddened to learn of the lasting effect on Betts who was a fan favourite during his time in South Australia.
“Player welfare is always number one [priority], no matter what’s going on,” he said.
“You always want everyone to be happy and all that, so it’s very sad that Eddie has written that.
“We all love Eddie and hopefully Eddie’s getting over that. That was four years ago, certainly the club’s moved on from that and looking towards the future and made a lot of ground since back then.”
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Ricciuto is the only senior off-field figure who remains at the club since the event with several players, including Betts, and officials departing the club in the coming years.
After initially playing down criticism of the camp, Ricciuto admitted “it had all good intentions but didn’t go perfectly”.
The AFL has also responded to the release of the book, explaining how an investigation cleared the Crows of any wrongdoing in 2018.
“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 statement read.
“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 preseason 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.”
Reacting to the first-hand account, AFL great Kane Cornes told SEN Breakfast the most harrowing part of the saga was how an icon of the club was left hurting.
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“The saddest thing for me, the two most popular players at Adelaide are Tony Modra and Eddie Betts. No one made the Adelaide Oval stand up when they went near the football in Crows history like Eddie Betts. No one has been more popular,” he said.
“That’s the echelon that Eddie Betts is held in. To read how he (says he) was treated by his own football club, of which he is an icon, that was the saddest part for me.”
Cornes also asked how previous defenders of the camp would respond.
“The question is, all of the people who have defended the camp and have said nothing went on, including the Crows fans, including Mark Ricciuto, including the club, what do they do now? he said.
“There’s a lot of egg on the face of Crows supporters, the footy club and a few players that were there.”
Addressing the media on Wednesday, Adelaide chief executive Tim Silvers apologised on behalf of the club to Betts and any other players that endured an unpleasant experience.
“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.”
A SafeWork SA investigation in 2021 cleared the club of breaching health and safety laws, while an AFL investigation in 2018 determined the Crows had not breached any rules.
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