Adelaide great Eddie Betts has opened up on the hurt he felt when “nothing was done” by the AFL after the Crows’ infamous 2018 pre-season camp.
And Betts has questioned why the club signed up for such a supposed bonding retreat when he says a “resilient” culture was already in place following the traumatic death of coach Phil Walsh in 2015.
Ahead of the release of his autobiography, The Boy from Boomerang Creek, Betts has become the first player to publicly divulge some of what went on inside the camp that left the 2017 grand finalists “divided” and a “broken” club.
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From psychological “betrayal”, where sensitive information Betts shared with “camp counsellors” was then used as verbal abuse toward him, to claims of cultural insensitivity, the camp has become a nightmare saga for the Adelaide Football Club.
But a SafeWork SA investigation has since cleared the camp, finding there was “no breach” for the Work, Health and Safety Act.
An AFL investigation also found “no violation of industry rules” – something Betts didn’t agree with.
When asked if he felt the AFL had enough information to take action, Betts replied: “Yeah I do”.
“I told them everything, the way that I was feeling and how I was feeling. I just felt like my voice wasn’t being heard. And I felt like I needed justice. And I guess you know, it did hurt at first when nothing was done,” he said on AFL360.
“I think that’s probably one of the easiest things to do is say sorry; (the AFL) acknowledged it today.
“(But) when they came out and they said that about the Aboriginal players, it wasn’t only just Aboriginal players. There was a lot of players hurting.
“We told them everything. I told them everything. And a lot of the other players told them everything, but it just didn’t feel like we were heard.”
Betts also touched on a cone-of-silence-type tactic employed by the camp; something the AFLPA is going back to investigate now Betts’ claims have been made public.
“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, after a brilliant 15-win season that ended with a grand final appearance against Richmond.
But Adelaide were embarrassed in that grand final, beaten by 48 points.
Betts questioned why the club then 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.”
Betts did say he accepts the apology of the Adelaide Football Club and has fond memories of his six seasons at West Lakes.
The AFL great said he even hoped his sons might one day represent the Crows, and hoped his book would shine a light on the difficulties he faced throughout his career.