Melbourne champion Garry Lyon says it’s no surprise an infamous pre-season camp “destroyed” Adelaide after reading Eddie Betts’ confronting recollection of his experience.
An excerpt from Betts’ upcoming autobiography, ‘The Boy from Boomerang Crescent’, was released on Monday night via The Age in which the triple All-Australian labeled the camp “weird” and “completely disrespectful”.
Several players, including Betts, and officials departed the club in the years following the pre-season leadership camp, which foxfooty.com.au revealed details of in March that year.
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In the most damning first-hand account of the 2018 camp yet, Betts claimed private details shared in a counseling session during the camp were misused, while sensitive Aboriginal cultural rituals were misappropriated.
“There was all sorts of weird shit that was disrespectful to many cultures, but particularly and extremely disrespectful to my culture,” he wrote.
Betts also wrote he was told he would “come back a better husband and father, a better teammate” after the camp – terms veteran players Taylor Walker and Rory Sloane used when defending the four-day event.
speaking on SEN Breakfast on Wednesday morning, Lyon said he was stunned by Betts’ account, but added it provided important context as to the turmoil that followed at the Crows.
“When you read those words from Eddie, there is no debate about how it impacted on him. He talks about the Indigenous players, the cultural differences or sensitivities that he were not adhered to. That’s Eddie … and that’s unequivocal, right? You can’t argue with any of that,” Lyon told SEN Breakfast.
“And then you read this from Taylor Walker: ‘The camp that we went on as a footy club, personally I found one of the most beneficial and rewarding camps I’ve ever been on as an individual. I encourage any of my mates, family members to do the same. Our footy club, like most other AFL clubs, are trying to get an edge over (other teams).’ Rory Sloane: ‘I can speak about what I got out of it personally. I absolutely 100 per cent came back from that camp feeling like a better husband, a better son and a much better teammate than when I was before. For me, the experience was unbelievable.’
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“Now, clearly, 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 Sloane’s and the Walker’s, 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.”
Essendon legend Tim Watson said he was shocked by the claims of cultural insensitivities during the camp.
“Given what they did at that camp you would think the planning that went into that – as part of that planning from a football club perspective – they would’ve said to these guys: ‘OK, what is it that you’re planning to do?’ And you would expect them to outline all the different areas that they were going to go, how they were going to go about it, what their objectives were – all those sorts of things,” Watson told SEN Breakfast.
“So you would think somewhere in there, there would be somebody representing the Adelaide Crows and there would be somebody there as part of the Adelaide Crows group who would understand the cultural sensitivities for some of those Indigenous players if they were to present the camp in the way that it was obviously presented. At that point, you would think somebody would say ‘no, you are going into territory now that we shouldn’t venture into’.”
Lyon said Betts’ belief his private details he shared were then misused during the camp was a “betrayal”.
“I’m just reading the excerpt, so I haven’t read the whole book. But 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,” Lyon said.
“How it affects me and someone else might be different based on culture, but that’s a betrayal for me.”
After kicking 310 goals across six seasons with Adelaide, Betts was traded back to Carlton at the end of 2019 to finish his career.
Four-time Power best and fairest winner Kane Cornes dubbed Betts one of the two most popular players to ever represent Adelaide alongside Tony Modra. So for Cornes, to “read how he was treated by his own football club – of which he is an icon of – that was the saddest part for me”.
Cornes said he would be fascinated by how the Crows, as well as South Australian media personalities, would respond to the Betts book.
“The question is, all of the people who have defended the camp and have said nothing went on… what do they do now?” I have asked on SEN SA Breakfast.
“How are they going to deal with that? Because we do now have a ‘blow-by-blow account’, which is pretty harrowing that your second or most popular player in the club’s history was treated like an animal, really, on this camp.”
Cornes added: “There’s a lot of egg on the face from Crows supporters, from the footy club and a few players that were there.”