AFL Players Association chief executive Paul Marsh has admitted his organisation “could have tried harder” when investigating the methods used at Adelaide’s damaging 2018 pre-season training camp, saying a lack of information was behind their failure to help the players in need.
AFL legend Eddie Betts shared the traumatic experiences he and several teammates endured at the camp on the Gold Coast in his new book, The Boy from Boomerang Crescent. The three-time All-Australian player recounted instances of private information being misused, as well as offensive use of Aboriginal cultural rituals.
Eddie Betts was traumatised by the club’s 2018 pre-season camp.Credit:Getty Images
“Whilst we tried – and I’m open to a view from some that we could have tried harder – I’m not saying that everything that could have been done was done, but I think we certainly tried to get to the bottom of what happened with the players and I don’t feel as though we did,” Marsh said on SEN on Thursday morning.
On Wednesday, the AFLPA said it believed players felt pressured to remain silent about what happened at the camp. Marsh said he had not been aware of the majority of the information revealed in Betts’ book, noting the challenge encountered when attempting to get the players involved to share their experiences.
A SafeWork SA investigation in 2021 made no findings of any wrongdoing, while an AFL probe in 2018 found while there were failings in the club’s implementation and management of the pre-season camp, there was no violation of industry rules. Both organisations said on Wednesday that they would not re-open their investigations.
“Players I think were silent on this issue for fear reasons, some of the players had good experiences, so we understand why that happened, but it’s made this issue quite a difficult one,” Marsh said.
AFLPA chief executive Paul Marsh.Credit:Getty Images
“Maybe with Eddie having now spoken about it, it’ll empower other players to speak about it and I think that’s our role, to see if players want to speak about their experiences.”
Marsh said he had been in contact with Betts and other Crows players multiple times since the camp, but was left with the impression that nothing was significantly awry, something he now admits was incorrect.
“We first became aware there may be an issue around this camp from the media and off the back of that, we started contacting players to see if there was anything to this and certainly the initial feedback we were getting from players was that there was nothing to it and in fact, a number of players had a view that it was a really good camp,” Marsh said.
The organisation has promised to recontact impacted players to discuss their experiences in 2018. The AFL and SafeWork SA confirmed on Wednesday they would not re-open an investigation into the Crows’ 2018 pre-season camp.
AFLPA president Patrick Dangerfield, who has been the association’s president since 2018, said the revelations were “sickening”, but defended the organisation’s handling of the situation.
“I don’t necessarily agree with the fact that we didn’t do anything,” Dangerfield said on 3AW on Wednesday.
“I think we exhausted a lot of our resources around how we could support the players. But at the same time, you need that open, free-flowing communication between two and that was a challenge.”
Dangerfield said he believed players at the camp were wary of sharing their experiences in detail due to their allegiance to the club, stressing that the AFLPA “pressed” several players on the issue and received little cause for concern from their responses.
“As much as we could, and as best we could, [we] got the information that was relevant. Had we known all the information from the outset, I think, clearly a more immediate reaction would have taken place. But that wasn’t the case.”
Although he believed the organisation acted accordingly at the time, Dangerfield conceded that Betts’ revelations acted as a “timely reminder” for bodies like the players association and AFL to review the processes set in place to safeguard players.
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