Crows camp fallout continues: Former coach Don Pyke apologises

After the shocking Crows camp revelations this week, former coach Don Pyke has apologised to Eddie Betts, Josh Jenkins and all Adelaide players and staff.

Former Adelaide coach Don Pyke has apologised for the club’s 2018 pre-season camp on the back of scrutiny about his role overseeing it and startling revelations from two ex-Crows.

Pyke was at the helm when Adelaide attended the Gold Coast camp, run by Collective Mind, the events from which scarred Eddie Betts and Josh Jenkins.

Among Betts and Jenkins’ main claims this past week were that deeply personal information told beforehand to organisers was used against them as taunts during activities.

On Saturday, Pyke said he was sad to see how his former charges were feeling.

“To Josh and Eddie and the Adelaide players and staff who were involved, I apologise for the camp,” Pyke told Channel 7.

“I acknowledge the hurt and I’m sorry.

“The fact they feel personal information they provided was used against them, that’s disappointing and unacceptable.

“I’m saddened by that, sorry by that.”

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Brett Burton and Don Pyke in 2019. Picture: SARAH REED
Brett Burton and Don Pyke in 2019. Picture: SARAH REED

Pyke, who coached the Crows from 2016-19, including to the 2017 grand final, said he had contacted the duo but not yet spoken to them.

“Clearly it’s a sad time for us all,” he said.

“I’ll reach out to some other guys in the next couple of days.”

Adelaide went on the camp four months after losing the 2017 premiership decider to Richmond.

Pyke said the team used it to try to improve its performances.

“That space had some challenges and we got it wrong, that has to be acknowledged,” he said.

“Whether it was our planning, whether it was our assessment, the execution or the follow-up or the debriefing following the events of the camp, clearly it was an error and I’ve apologised to the playing group before and I apologise again.”

Betts opened up about the camp this week via the release of his memoir, the Boy from Boomerang Crescent.

Jenkins backed his version of events while sharing his experiences on SEN on Friday.

Now an assistant at Sydney, Pyke said he respected Betts and Jenkins for talking about how they felt.

Pyke has contacted Eddie Betts and Josh Jenkins. Picture: SARAH REED
Pyke has contacted Eddie Betts and Josh Jenkins. Picture: SARAH REED

“It’s important we have the discussion to try and deal with the issues that arise from that,” he said.

“If there’s still people with ongoing issues we support them and we try and actually move on from this.”

Pyke’s comments on Saturday were in stark contrast to those he used in June 2018 when he fronted a press conference alongside then-Crows football manager Brett Burton to discuss the camp.

Among the things he said that day were:

■ “I don’t believe we’ve offended our Indigenous players”.

■ “I wouldn’t have thought they felt betrayal (about players’ personal information being used during camp exercises)”.

■ “There was no intent to force people to share things they didn’t feel comfortable sharing”.

■ “I’m not going to apologise (to fans) for us trying to get better”.

On Saturday, Pyke said it was for others to decide if his involvement in the camp would affect his chances of getting another senior coaching job.

‘It just shouldn’t have happened’: Gibbs on camp of horrors

- Tim Michell

Former Crow Bryce Gibbs says he regrets not speaking up during Adelaide’s infamous pre-season camp, conceding “it just shouldn’t have happened”.

Gibbs was a member of the camp team given the title ‘Group 1’, which also included Eddie Betts and Josh Jenkins.

Betts and Jenkins have this week spoken out about how their personal pain and experiences were used against them during the 2018 camp.

Speaking on SEN SA, Gibbs said it was “hard to explain what we were witnessing” during parts of the camp.

The ex-Carlton and Adelaide midfielder said players were told to trust they would be OK and he actively took part in the camp to build relationships with his new teammates.

Gibbs said while aspects of the camp troubled him, seeing more experienced teammates “shut down” discouraged him from raising any issues.

“Watching guys stand up and say ‘this is not on, we need to address this, we need to tell people what happened’. They seemed to get shut down pretty quickly,” Gibbs said.

“For me to see these guys, as brave as it was to get up there and try and have their piece, and to get shut down, these guys have been at the club for a number of years, had a lot of respect within the group.

“I felt like if I was to get up and say something, how was I going to have much pull or much weight in it?”

Gibbs said some players had much tougher experiences than him and he felt he had got off lightly after being more reserved in a pre-camp interview.

Bryce Gibbs pictured with Eddie Betts. Picture: AP Image.
Bryce Gibbs pictured with Eddie Betts. Picture: AP Image.

“I do regret not speaking up when I probably should have,” he said.

Gibbs said players involved in the camp were “educated” during the camp what to tell family members and teammates about what had occurred.

He said after the camp, players were discouraged from speaking up.

“It ended careers. The backlash it’s had for guys mentally, you can’t erase that from your memory,” he said.

“As I said before, I can talk on reflection now, I was disappointed with the way I handled it post the camp. I felt like I could have been a voice, I could have supported these guys more in a group environment in challenging some of the decisions that were made during this time. If I had my time again I would do things differently.”

Gibbs said the camp left Adelaide’s playing group fractured and contributed to the club’s dramatic slide after entering the 2017 Grand Final as premiership favourite. “I have no doubt that if the camp hadn’t have gone ahead 2018, 2019 would have looked a lot different,” he said.

Bryce Gibbs retired at the conclusion of the 2020 season. Picture: Getty Images
Bryce Gibbs retired at the conclusion of the 2020 season. Picture: Getty Images

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“We have obviously heard a couple of guys’ experiences in pretty raw detail and it has been hard to revisit that and listen to some of your mates express how they were feeling.

“Everyone experienced this camp differently. My experience which I’m going to touch on now was certainly different to the guys that have spoken our already.

“I’d just arrived at the club. I wanted to arrive and the biggest thing for me was to earn respect from your teammates and build relationships as quick as you can. I do remember sitting in that meeting with more senior players and the club expressed that the camp was going to go ahead and there was going to be a couple of different groups — group one, group two, group three. We sort of had to decide who was going into group one. For me, they explained that was going to be the most intensive group. I saw it as an opportunity to fast track relationships with these guys, these new teammates of mine.

Bryce Gibbs arrived at the Crows just weeks before the infamous camp. Picture: Ben Macmahon
Bryce Gibbs arrived at the Crows just weeks before the infamous camp. Picture: Ben Macmahon

“I jumped at the opportunity to be involved in the most intense group, to try and fast track these relationships with these guys.

“A couple of things were a little bit strange. We were told that we were going to be told no information about what we were going to do. That was a part of the program, a part of the camp. That’s how they wanted to go about it. Basically, you have got to trust us that you are going to be OK. It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be challenging, but you’ll be OK. Which I thought was a little unusual.

“I also took a call from a counsellor to talk about my childhood and past experiences. I actually thought this a bit of a red flag as well from my point of view. During this interview process, I actually didn’t really disclose too much. I was pretty lucky enough to have a pretty good upbringing, a really great childhood, which I am very grateful for. I didn’t have a lot of trauma, so to speak, growing up. But even still knowing that I was still pretty calculated in what I was telling this person. I didn’t trust them. I didn’t know them and I thought it was unusual to be doing that leading into a camp. I was very calculated in what I said and didn’t really give too much away.

“It actually started to cause a little bit of anxiety at times in terms of what’s going to happen, what are we going to get put through, how hard’s it going to be? And just trying to answer those questions. I think that probably built up leading into the camp for some of us. I still was determined to put my hand up and give it a go.

“We were blindfolded, heavy metal music was playing full ball, there was a guy on a microphone potting players, talking about the Grand Final, talking about me and leaving my old club. Which didn’t affect me too much, because I didn’t have the emotional baggage from the year before in terms of playing in the Grand Final and losing it. That didn’t really have an effect on me and I actually found it quite amusing at times knowing that they were trying to rattle us, trying to get under our skin.

Bryce Gibbs believes it was hard to justify what went on at the Crows camp. Picture: AAP Image/Julian Smith
Bryce Gibbs believes it was hard to justify what went on at the Crows camp. Picture: AAP Image/Julian Smith

“A couple of strange rules were put in place. When we were walking from place to place we had to walk in a straight line, we weren’t allowed to talk to each other, they wouldn’t let us shower. They’d taken our mobile phones off us. We weren’t allowed to speak to anyone from back home. Guys had kids and that was a bit of a touch point as well, ‘why can’t I ring back home and check in with my kids at night?’

“It was hard to justify why we needed to do some of these things.

“Then we witnessed what we were going to be put through in group one, it’s been described as a harness ritual...it was actually hard to explain what we were witnessing. It was a bit like, ‘what is going on here, this is strange’. I remember looking over to a couple of the boys an shaking our heads and going, ‘what are we in for, what are we going to get out of this?’

“(Once) one person had gone, I had to go through with it. I had my time on the harness and experienced what I experienced and it was completely different to what some of the other guys experienced on the harness. It probably related back to me being pretty reserved in that counsellors meeting. I didn’t give too much away. I probably wasn’t attacked with some of the stuff that other guys were attacked with. That made the experience for me, probably a little bit easier on reflection. There were certainly people in my face and telling me that I left my old club and that I was an average player, whatever, whatever. But I could cop that. I could get through that. Watching other players go through what they went through, that was pretty tough. And it was pretty, I didn’t really know what to do, didn’t know how to justify it, what to make of it.

“We were in a bit of a state of mind. This whole experience was happening around us and a couple of guys spoke up about their concerns. It was negotiated we would continue on with what we were doing and sort of, I think Eddie used brainwashed as he described it. I don’t know. A state of mind. In the moment, we just continued doing what they’d set out to do. And it probably wasn’t until later on, reflecting on it, that (there was) probably opportunity to speak up a bit more.

“Getting spoken to and getting educated on what to say to family and friends and even the other guys in the other groups — we were told not to go into detail about what happened. For whatever reason, most of us stuck to that, at the time. Post it all, obviously the details of what happened has come out during the week...probably the most disappointing thing for mine was the post-camp in the wash up when we were reflecting on it and guys started to speak up who had issues with what had happened. Talking about their experiences and that this wasn’t great. This is where, when I reflect I feel like I was really disappointed in myself. This is when I started to take a back seat. Watching guys stand up and say ‘this is not on, we need to address this, we need to tell people what happened’. They seemed to get shut down pretty quickly. For me to see these guys, as brave as it was to get up there and try and have their piece, and to get shut down, these guys have been at the club for a number of years, had a lot of respect within the group. I felt like if I was to get up and say something, how was I going to have much pull or much weight in it?”

“On reflection I am disappointed I didn’t (speak up) because there was an opportunity there to support some of my mates as they went through a lot harder experience emotionally than I did.

Bryce Gibbs has expressed his regret that he didn’t speak up at the time of the Crows camp. Picture: AAP Image/Sam Wundke
Bryce Gibbs has expressed his regret that he didn’t speak up at the time of the Crows camp. Picture: AAP Image/Sam Wundke

“It did fracture the playing group. It fractured relationships in the football department. Players lost trust with members in that football department. We tried to move on, where that was obviously the wrong thing to do and that’s probably why we’re speaking about it four years on. If it was handled correctly and people had taken responsibility and put their hand up and knocked it on the head a lot earlier when it happened, it still would have been hard, people still went what they went through. And still people will carry some emotional scars from it. But at least it would have been dealt with in the proper manner then and there.

“The two guys that have spoken about their experiences during the week, I didn’t experience that to that level. Whether I didn’t disclose information that would have opened me up to have that experience, but yeah, it was extremely hard to hear the guys speak this week and what they went through and reflecting on it all, it just shouldn’t have happened, really. It was easier for me move on because I didn’t have that level of experience and trauma put to me. I found it easier to suppress it and squash it and try and move on personally. Which I was able to do. Which made it easier for me. That’s experience of the camp. Obviously very different to a lot of people. Then I even start reflecting now. The group that went into the 2018 and 2019 season, not a lot of personnel had changed from that 2017 group who had an unbelievable year football-wise, made a Grand Final, fell short at the last hurdle. The way it fractured the group and the way the club declined and our performances declined, would I have played more games at the Adelaide Football Club if this camp didn’t go ahead? Probably. Am I blaming the camp for my career ending the way it did? Absolutely not. Was it the start of things to come? Absolutely.

“I feel like the decisions made to do some of these things, it ended careers. The backlash it has had for guys mentally, you can’t erase that from your memory. As I said before, I can talk on reflection now, I was disappointed with the way I handled it post the camp. I felt like I could have been a voice, I could have supported these guys more in a group environment in challenging some of the decisions that were made during this time. If I had my time again I would do things differently.

Originally published as Crows camp fallout continues: Former coach Don Pyke apologises

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