Former Adelaide Crows footballer Bryce Gibbs has admitted a controversial pre-season training camp fractured the playing group and says he regrets not speaking up about it.
- Bryce Gibbs joined the Adelaide Crows in 2017 shortly before the preseason training camp
- He says he regrets not speaking up and supporting his teammates
- Eddie Betts and Josh Jenkins this week shared their experience of the camp
Gibbs is the latest player to speak publicly about the camp, echoing concerns about the Gold Coast trip raised by former teammates Eddie Betts and Josh Jenkins.
The retired AFL player said the camp — which Betts wrote about in a book released this week – should not have happened.
“When I reflect, this is where I feel 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,” Gibbs told radio station SEN SA.
Gibbs was traded from Carlton at the end of 2017 and joined Adelaide weeks before the players went on the camp, where he was included in the more intensive “group one” version of the camp alongside nine other players and two coaches.
He said he was disappointed he did not support teammates who experienced a more difficult time during the camp than he did.
“Reflecting on those ongoing conversations when we were trying to flush it out, I do regret not speaking up when I probably should’ve been a more experienced and senior player of that group,” he said.
“It did fracture the playing group, it fractured relationships in the football department, players lost trust with members in that football department.”
In a statement made in 2021, the Crows said a SafeWork SA investigation “found neither the club nor any other person or organisation, breached any work-health-and-safety laws during or in relation to the camp.”
“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,” Gibbs said.
“If it was handled correctly and people had taken responsibility, put their hand up and knocked it on the head a lot earlier when it happened, it still would’ve been hard as people still went through what they went through – and people will still carry some emotional scars from it — but at least it would’ve been dealt with in the proper manner then and there.”
‘It shouldn’t have happened’
Gibbs said he took a call from a counsellor before the camp to discuss his childhood and past experiences, which he thought was “a bit of a red flag”. He said he was “pretty calculated” in what he disclosed.
He said by not divulging too much to the counsellor, his experience of the camp was different from what Betts and Jenkins spoke about this week.
“Reflecting on it all, it just shouldn’t have happened. It was easier for me to move on as I didn’t have that level of experience and trauma put to me, I found it easier to suppress it and squash it and just try and move on personally which I was able to do, which made it easier for me,” Gibbs said.
“That’s my experience of the camp, obviously very different to a lot of people.”
Jenkins recalled an exercise involving players being hoisted up in harnesses while having abuse hurled at them by facilitators and teammates, including “some of the barbs” being thrown at Betts.
Gibbs said he was told not to reveal details of the camp to players in the other groups of the camp.
“Getting spoken to and getting educated on what to say to family, friends and the other guys in the other groups, we were told not to go into detail about what happened and for whatever reason most of us stuck to that at the time,” he said.
‘Strange rules’ during camp
Gibbs said he experienced “unusual things” and “plenty of red flags” during the infamous training trip but convinced himself to keep an open mind and that the camp would help build stronger relationships with his teammates.
The 268-game veteran shared that on the trip to the campsite, Crows players were blindfolded and were not allowed to talk on the bus, which had blacked-out windows.
They played heavy metal music on the bus and talked about the 2017 Grand Final, in which Adelaide were heavily defeated by Richmond, and Gibbs’ departure from Carlton.
Gibbs said “strange rules” were enforced during the camp, including players being required to walk in a straight line and not being allowed to use their mobile phones or shower.
He said some of the rules imposed were “hard to justify” and players were doubting the benefits of the training.
“I felt like 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 sort of negotiated that we would continue on with what we were doing,” Gibbs said.
“I think Eddie used “brainwashed”, as he described it, but in the state of mind and in the moment we just continued doing what they’d set out to do.
“It probably wasn’t until later on when reflecting on it that it was probably an opportunity to speak up a bit more.”
The AFL and the Adelaide Football Club have both apologised to Betts for the trauma caused by the camp.
Prominent Adelaide lawyer Greg Griffin said he had spoken to at least seven players who were on the 2018 Crows’ list about a potential class action.
Source: AFL NEWS ABC