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

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

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

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

In one example, Betts wrote of how personal information he had confidentially shared with a camp counselor was used to berate him in front of teammates during a physically and emotionally grueling “initiation.”

Among the insults shouted while he was “crawling through the dirt” was that the father-of-five would be a “sh** dad” as he was “raised only by his mother”.

Betts, who joined the Geelong coaching staff after retiring last year, described the incident as “traumatizing” and left him “crying”.

Eddie Betts returned to Carlton in 2020.(AAP: David Hunt)

The 350-game veteran said teammates were recruited to berate each other during the same practice session.

“I’m going to live with this shame for the rest of my life,” he said.

Betts said players at camp were prevented from showering, had to turn in their phones and were transported blindfolded on a bus that “smelt of food” while Richmond’s theme song played loudly on a loop.

Betts describes how First Nations rituals were misappropriated in what he found “extremely disrespectful” and references to sacred Aboriginal words “were carelessly tossed around”.

“As I started talking to people around me about my experiences, I realized that what we had been through was all just a little screwed up, and I got rightfully angry,” he said.

A man and a woman with five children gathered around them are standing 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 had raised his concerns with the club and asked that Aboriginal players be barred from further “mind training exercises” with the company behind the camp, which worked with the Crows until later that year. The club “agreed to divest themselves of the company in June”.

“Three weeks after I raised my concerns with the team, I was told I had not been re-elected to the leadership group. I was devastated,” he wrote.

Crows chief executive Tim Silvers, who joined the club just last year, said he will investigate Betts’ claims he was dropped from the management group for raising his concerns.

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

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

“It obviously hurt him in a lot of ways,” he said.

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

Acknowledging that camp “was probably not the right move at the time,” Silvers apologized to Betts and “every member of our playgroup who has had a negative experience.”

“It saddens me that someone like Eddie, who has now left our club, has to have a negative experience,” he said.

Silvers said the club has new leadership and is “moving in a positive direction”.

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

Eddie Betts books on the bookshelf, with his face on the cover
Eddie Betts’ biography, The Boy from Boomerang Crescent, reveals claims about the Crows’ pre-season training camp.(ABC News: Ben Pettitt)

In a 2018 statement, the Crows said SafeWork SA’s investigation “did not find that the club, nor any other person or entity, violated any 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 friends” and a “beloved figure” at the club.

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

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

Betts, who moved to Carlton in 2020, wrote of the enduring toll camp was taking, saying his “form on the field plummeted early in the following season” and described 2018 as “tough.”

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

The ABC has reached out to Collective Minds for comment.

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