The AFL community has reacted with disgust after former Adelaide footballer Eddie Betts published a confronting recollection of his experience at a pre-season camp with the Crows in early 2018.
The leadership camp, following the Crows’ 2017 AFL Grand Final loss to Richmond, thrust the club into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
A number of players and officials left the club in the wake of the camp, and now Betts has detailed behind-the-scenes information in his upcoming autobiography The Boy from Boomerang Crescent.
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The four-day camp on the Gold Coast left Betts feeling “like a piece of me was brainwashed”, with excerpts being reported by Nine Newspapers.
Betts alleged that confidential information he shared in counseling sessions had been misused, writing that the camp misappropriated sensitive Aboriginal cultural rituals.
Following the ordeal, the three-time All-Australian Betts said he approached the Crows and voiced his concerns with the camp, only to be dropped from the leadership group three weeks later.
Betts said the camp had a major impact on his form and left the star forward questioning his place in the game. He left the Crows and returned to Carlton at the end of 2019 before retiring at the end of 2021.
Adelaide board member Mark Ricciuto, who represented the club for 15 seasons, responded to the damning allegations on Wednesday morning.
“He’s been one of the greats of the club,” Ricciuto told Adelaide’s Triple M Breakfast with Roo, Ditts and Loz.
“Player welfare is always number one no matter what’s going on, you always want everyone to be happy, so it’s very sad.
“I think the club has been on record at times to say that they acknowledge that it wasn’t handled perfectly. It had all good intentions but didn’t go perfectly.
“We all love Eddie and hopefully Eddie is getting over that… certainly the club moved on from that and are looking towards the future and have made a lot of ground since back then. It has come up in Eddie’s book and that is fair enough.”
Betts’ revelations have angered the footy community. Former Swans star Ryan Fitzgerald, who is a huge Crows fan, tweeted: “Really uncomfortable to read. Particularly the insensitivities around Eddie’s past of him. He is such an integral part of the AFC and their history, so rejected that he left feeling like that.”
Ex-Melbourne captain Garry Lyon also reacted. “When you read those words from Eddie, there is no debate about how it impacted on him,” he told SEN Breakfast.
“He talks about the Indigenous players, the cultural differences or sensitivities that weren’t adhered to. That’s Eddie … and that’s unequivocal, right? You can’t argue with any of that.
“Everyone’s own experiences have been caught up in this and from an Indigenous point of view, a lot of it since Eddie said that cultural sensitivities weren’t adhered to – and that is very, very real.
“In the end, it was untenable. We talk about the atmosphere and environment … take apart who you agree with and you don’t agree with, the fact of the matter is it split the club down the middle. When you get the (Rory) Sloanes and the (Taylor) Walkers, who have their recollection, and then you’ve got Eddie and others I would imagine… no wonder it destroyed that joint.
“You’ve got a section of the football club – and I’m not just putting this at the feet of Walker and Sloane, there may be others in the same boat – saying, ‘I got so much out of this, it was good’. And then on the other hand, right at the other end of the scale, you’ve got, ‘No, it ripped me apart, it ripped my relationship apart’.
“No wonder then from a footy club point of view and trying to stay together and on the same page, it ended up where it was.
“If you are told, whether you’re black or white or otherwise, ‘These camp people want to speak to you and they say to step aside from everyone else privately and we want you to have a conversation where you are open and vulnerable’ … And I go, ‘OK. In terms of building me as a better player and a leader, I’ll share and I’ll give you these really sensitive things that, to me, are important’. Then to have that thrown back in my face, that’s not cultural for me.
“How it affects me and someone else might be different based on culture, but that’s a betrayal for me.”
speaking on SEN SA Breakfastformer Port Adelaide star Kane Cornes questioned Adelaide’s leadership, calling out Crows star Rory Sloane for his public remarks after the camp when he said it made him a better husband and a better father.
“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? Details have come out, Eddie Betts was abused about his mother, ”Cornes said.
“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.
“That’s the echelon that Eddie Betts is held in. To read how he was treated by his own football club, of which he is an icon, that was the saddest part for me.
“We do now have a blow-by-blow account which is pretty harrowing that your most popular player in club history was treated like an animal on this camp.
“I think it’s embarrassing for Rory Sloane and Taylor Walker to now hear that that was a rehearsed line and that they were all told and indoctrinated into saying it had made them a better father and husband and child. And to see Eddie Betts relay that that was actually rehearsed, it does not paint Rory and his leadership of him in great light.
“There’s a lot of egg on the face of Crows supporters, the footy club and a few players that were there.”
The Crows were cleared of any work health and safety breaches after an independent investigation into the training camp by SafeWork SA.