Adelaide Crows apologizes to former AFL star Eddie Betts after new book aired claims about pre-season training camp

Former AFL champion Eddie Betts says his form plummeted after he felt disrespected and traumatized on the Adelaide Crows pre-season training trip, accusing the camp of cultural insensitivity.

Betts’ biography, The Boy from Boomerang Crescent, released today, includes a chapter on the Adelaide Crows’ controversial 2018 preseason training camp following a devastating loss to Richmond in the 2017 grand final.

In it, Betts describes the anxiety and anger he felt after the camp and the aftermath.

In one example, Betts wrote how personal details he had confidentially shared with a camp counselor were used to verbally abuse him in front of his teammates during a physically and emotionally draining “initiation.”

Among the insults he yelled as he “crawled through the dirt” was that the father-of-five would be a “shitty father” as he “was raised only by his mother.”

Betts, who joined Geelong’s coaching staff after retiring last year, described the incident as “traumatising” and brought him “to tears”.

Eddie Betts holds out his hands and looks at an AFL yellow ball as a Suns player challenges him.
Eddie Betts returned to Carlton in 2020.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

The 350-game veteran said teammates were recruited to verbally abuse each other during the same drill.

“I will live with this shame for the rest of my life,” he said.

Betts said players at camp were prevented from showering, had to hand over their phones and were transported blindfolded on a bus that “reeked of junk food” with the Richmond theme song playing on a loop.

Betts details how First Nations rituals were misappropriated, which he felt was “grossly disrespectful”, and references to Aboriginal sacred words were “launched offhandedly”.

“When I started talking to people around me about my experience, I started to realize that everything we’d been through was kind of screwed up, and rightly so I got angry,” he said.

A man and a woman with five children gathered around them stand on a dirt road in front of a tree
Eddie Betts with his wife Anna and five children in Darwin in November 2021.(Instagram: Annascullie)

Betts said he raised his concerns with the club and asked to withdraw the Aboriginal players from further “mental training exercises” with the company behind the camp, which continued to work with the Crows until the end of that year. The club “mutually agreed to part ways” with the company in June.

“Three weeks after I approached the team about my concerns, they told me that I had not been reappointed to the leadership group. He was devastated,” he wrote.

Crows CEO Tim Silvers, who joined the club last year, said he would investigate Betts’ claims that he had been removed from the leadership group as a result of raising his concerns.

A man in a suit speaks into microphones in front of a blue and red banner.
Adelaide Crows CEO Tim Silvers apologized to Betts for his experience at the camp.(ABC News: Camron Slessor)

Silvers said he was “saddened” to read the impact camp had on Betts.

“Obviously he hurt him in a variety of ways,” he said.

Silvers described Betts as a “legend” who “lit up the Adelaide Oval for a long period of time”.

Silvers acknowledged that camp “was probably not the right move at the time” and apologized to Betts and “any member of our playing group who had a negative experience.”

“To have someone like Eddie, who has now left our club, have a negative experience, it makes me sad,” he said.

Silvers said the club had new leadership and was moving “in a positive direction”.

Betts acknowledged in the book that an investigation by SafeWork SA had cleared the club of violating any workplace safety laws, but wrote that “my opinion remains that the activities there were inappropriate, counterproductive and culturally unsafe.”

eddie betts books on shelf, with his face on the cover
Eddie Betts’ biography, The Boy from Boomerang Crescent, reveals claims about the Crows’ preseason training camp.(ABC News: Ben Pettit)

In a 2018 statement, the Crows said SafeWork SA’s investigation “did not find that the club or any other person or organization violated any occupational health and safety laws during or in connection with the camp.”

SafeWork SA did not provide any further information about the investigation.

Crows player Rory Laird, who also attended the camp, described Betts as one of his “close companions” and a “beloved figure” at the club.

“I think each individual had different experiences and I wasn’t really in that part of the camp I guess so I can’t really comment on the ins and outs,” he said.

“But obviously as a former teammate and friend, you don’t like to hear that.”

Betts, who moved to Carlton in 2020, wrote of the continuing toll that camp took, saying his “form on the field plummeted” at the start of the following season and describing 2018 as “tough.”

“Personally, I felt like I had lost the drive to play football and to be honest, I’m not sure I had the same energy that I had before that camp,” he wrote.

ABC has contacted Collective Minds for comment.

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